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Seed Saving Blog

What Happens When You Cross a Domesticated Tomato with a Wild Tomato? Joseph Lofthouse is Determined to Find Out.

May 20, 2021 | Kari

Joseph Lofthouse is as unique an individual as the seeds he stewards. He is especially a fan of “promiscuous pollinators.” Using the word promiscuous may sound provocative (perhaps to entice you to read on.)  The truth is it’s an actual word used in botany. It means parts, elements or individuals of different kinds brought together without order. Or in this case, pollen that transfers via bees, insects and wind.

Joseph is working on a promiscuous tomato-breeding project to coax interesting and diverse characteristics out of our usual domesticated strain of tomatoes by crossing them with wild varieties. He is doing this through hand pollination and a natural process of placing his tomatoes in the right environment to attract the right kind of species interaction. You can learn more about his breeding project and processes in the new book by Joseph Lofthouse, called Landrace Gardening: Food Security through Biodiversity and Promiscuous Pollination.

Joseph gardens outside the box. And if you asked him about this idiom, I am sure he would say, what box? Joseph grows with all his heart and soul and finds great wisdom and solace in the plants he tends. He has a line of landrace seeds he nurtures that have a long history on a 6th generation family farm. The term landrace describes a variety that has inherent traits of success in its genetic make-up that keep it strong and healthy and able to withstand a series of challenges such as disease, insect infestation and drought.

Joseph Lofthouse shows off his tomatoes in various colors and sizes.
Joseph shows off his colorful tomato crop

Says Joseph in the Northeast Organic Farming Association recent newsletter: By growing genetically-diverse landrace varieties I am able to get out of the way and let the intelligence of the plants solve problems that other farmers might be trying to solve using labor or materials.

Joseph isn’t interested in breeding vegetable varieties “true to type.” He is more interested in what works, why it works and the FLAVOR profile of any vegetable he grows, the most important trait.

On Seed Up Saturday, we will be talking with Joseph about his groundbreaking new book, his philosophy and his practices. Hear from Joseph and other exciting seed innovators this Saturday between 9:30 am and 12:30 pm MST. Join in to the conversation by clicking here.