Our 2023 EFN seed catalogue is now online! 100+ new varieties. Over 40 different growers and foragers from across the country. A million thanks to all who make this possible, especially our amazing seed-house crew!
These seeds are the result of about a decade of selection for cold tolerance, late blight resistance, and dry-farming conditions in both Oregon and Washington by our dear friend Chris Homanics of Head, Hands, Heart Nursery and Seed in Washington. We'll let him tell its story:
‘Florida Wild Everglades’ is one of the few ironclad varieties amongst nearly one thousand cultivars and selections I've grown over the years here in the Pacific Northwest. It is also one of the few tomatoes to thrive in the heavy disease pressure of tropical climates like Florida, where it was first discovered. At first, you might think Florida and the Pacific Northwest have nothing in common, and while it is true that climatically they are quite opposite, fungal and other disease pressures are severe in both places — here long stretches of cool wet conditions foster disease, while in the tropics it is the humid heat. Like the seeming contradiction of the climatic dichotomy of Florida and the Pacific NW, superior cold resistance in tomatoes seems to go hand-in-hand with superior drought tolerance as well, even during this year’s four-month drought. ‘Florida Wild Everglades’ has been a top performer under dry-farming conditions. True-to-form, this seed has been produced in dry-farm conditions with no supplemental irrigation.
‘Florida Wild Everglades’ has always been one of a small handful of varieties that not only survive past the annual autumn late-blight outbreak and continue on unphased until the killing frost. Most seasons, it’s the very last variety to be frosted down as well! Here in the Pacific Northwest we have multiple races of late blight which interbreed every year, breaking down resistance in many cultivars of tomatoes, but for over a decade ‘Florida Wild Everglades’ has shown superior resistance on both its foliage and fruits. I have been told by tropical growers that it also possesses nematode resistance and some viral resistance as well. It is also one of the few varieties that maintain edible tomatoes as cold sets in the autumn, while most varieties instead develop bitter or otherwise off-putting flavors.
The narrative for this variety is interesting. ‘Florida Wild Everglades’ was originally found growing naturalized on a low-lying island deep in the Everglades. The island was uninhabited and had no signs of human activity, either recent or historical. There is speculation that the population was the remnant of long-ago trade amongst native peoples or that the island may have been an early site of Spanish settlement. Or perhaps it became naturalized from migratory bird populations from regions further south?
‘Florida Wild Everglades’ produces fully indeterminate plants which are massive and sprawling and can climb several feet with support, making it among the strongest plants I’ve personally witnessed. While almost all tomatoes are perennial when given the correct conditions, this variety is well adapted to naturalizing and persisting for years in tropical or indoor environments. I have kept potted plants of these alive for years on end, bringing them indoors as the weather turns cold each season. Fruits are small cherry-sized, only about the size of a dime, and born on small trusses. They have a slightly translucent red to pinkish-red color. Each fruit bursts in your mouth with a rich sweet flavor. While this variety is often listed as a pure currant tomato (Solanum pimpinellifolium), the leaf shape and several traits of the fruit including those slightly translucent pinkish red fruits are indicative of introgression with true tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) genetics.
PHOTO CREDITS: 1. Scott Peacock, C.M. Rick Tomato Genetics Resource Center, UC Davis (close-up image with ruler); 2. Harry Klee, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.