Saturday, August 20, 2011

How the Mortgage Lifter Tomato came to be

I haven't grown any Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes but I have heard of it over the years. Here's a transcript on how it came to be.  Apparently the true name is Radiator Charlie's Mortage Lifter Tomatoes. Radiator Charlie was a fellow who invented his own way of creating new strains of tomatoes; he did this without the benefit of a formal education.
BYLES: What I did I took ten plants and put them in a circle and put one in the center.

YOUNG: McCormack has studied this part of the tape carefully and says Byles invented an unorthodox but elegant system.

McCORMACK: Well, he started with four varieties of tomatoes and he placed a tomato called German Johnson in the center of a ring of 10 tomatoes. All these tomatoes were the largest seeds he could find in the country at the time. So, he would go around to the other tomatoes, collect pollen in the baby’s ear syringe, then squirt it on the flowers of the German Johnson. Then he would save seed. After seven years, he felt he had a stable tomato with all qualities he was looking for, and once he was satisfied with that he never worked with any other tomato plants, did any other plant breeding. But he really ran with it after he developed it.

YOUNG: Ran all the way to the bank. Turns out Radiator Charlie Byles had quite a knack for marketing, and sold tomato seedlings for a buck apiece—a lot of money for a little plant in those days. He sold enough of them to pay off the mortgage on his house.

BYLES: I didn’t pay but six thousand dollars for my home, and paid most of it off with tomato plants.
I don't know if they would work in our location, one block from the beach. But I found the story fascinating.

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