23 April 2024

Old Utah Tomato Varieties

Utah tomato varieties are my current historic interest!

Image from Stokes Seeds 112 Superb Varieties 1926
In prehistoric times, the tomato originated in South America and made its way north to the area that is now Mexico. Thus far, there is no evidence that the tomato made its way to North America until after the arrival of Euro-American settlers. Despite its once-feared reputation by Euro-Americans, by 1850 the tomato had made its way into most urban markets in North America.

The early Mormon pioneers also cultivated tomatoes in the Salt Lake Valley. In 1857, horticulturalist Edward Sayers was selling tomato seeds from varieties that he grew. And in 1859 he announced the creation of an experimental garden to determine what fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc would grow best in the Salt Lake Valley (I’ll need to investigate this further, fascinating!).

However, it is unclear what specific varieties were cultivated in these early days (as far as I can find, to date), beyond just a description of red and orange varieties. Tomatoes were primarily grown for home use.

A 1927 report titled Tomato Culture in Utah by A.L. Wilson, recounts a brief history of the tomato in Utah. The report emphasizes the Utah tomato canning industry, which started in Ogden in 1888 and continued to grow, primarily in northern Utah.

The 1927 report also mentions popular varieties being grown at that time, with notes about each variety:
  1. Stone: best for canning. Dark red in color with firm flesh. Long to mature.
  2. Norton: wilt-resistant. Good for shipping and canning. Not as productive as other varieties.
  3. Greater Baltimore: Most popular variety in Utah for canning. Ripens earlier and larger yields. Not so well colored as the Stone.
  4. Landreth: Increased in popularity, especially among Japanese growers. Larger yields with more frequent pickings. Inferior in color and firmness.
  5. Other varieties: Ignotum, Red Head, Red Rock. New “potato-leaf” varieties are noted. A hybrid named “Utah Valley”

Image from Stokes Seeds 112 Superb Varieties 1926

Image from The Canning Trade 1917

Other varieties were developed after 1927, especially by Utah State University, such as the Hamson DX -52-12 which was developed by Dr. Alvin Hamson (1924-2009) for the Campbell Soup Company.

I've also seen reference to Utah tomato varieties such as Pink Pioneer, Big Hill, and Moscow.

More to come.