Tag Archives: heirloom gardening

TJ (Thomas Jefferson) and the Tomatoes


Tomatoes. How we love them. How we need them.

Need them?

Sure. I’ll prove it.

Imagine a plate of spaghetti and meatballs without a  delicious, red spaghetti sauce. Envision always ordering white pizzas with an Alfredo or cheese sauce base.

Red sauce = tomatoes.

Salsa = tomatoes.

Ketchup = tomatoes.

Must I go on?

Yes. Because nothing but tomatoes can make our salads both juicy AND pretty.


Since we admit we need them, what about the tire-tread taste of the tomatoes we buy at the store?

First of all, don’t blame the tomatoes. They’re innocent. Tomatoes grown for commercial purposes can’t luxuriate at the Riviera in the sunshine until they are red and ready. They are harvested from the vine while still green, gassed with ethylene – which turns them pukey pink inside – and shipped off to stores to wind up in your sauces, soups, and salads. That’s why they look sick and have no taste.

Thomas_Jefferson_revDid Thomas Jefferson (TJ) have to tolerate crappy tasteless tomatoes?

What does Thomas Jefferson have to do with tomatoes? Well, he indisputably was the most enthusiastic gardener-president we’ve ever had in office. He kept a garden calendar from 1767 to 1824, and he never failed to plant tomatoes. They appeared often in the Jefferson family recipes.

Naturally, Jefferson loved tomatoes.  And he should have. They were delicious, different “creatures” in those days. Even most home-garden grown tomatoes and organic crops aren’t as good as the ones Thomas Jefferson produced. Why? Because TJ grew them before genetic modification. Genetic modification makes generic seeds and grocery-store vegetables:

1)      more resistant to pesticides and weed killers,

2)      easier to ship,

3)      slower to rot,

4)      tasteless . . . and of dubious nutritional value.

Furtunately, we aren’t stuck with these cardboard versions of formerly delicious vegetables.

I found out about heirloom gardening  from my mother, who found out about heirloom seeds from her sister. They had a farmer dad, you know, and it’s in their blood to care about things growing out of dirt.

What are Heirloom Vegetables?

Heirloom seeds are carefully harvested from strains going back thousands of years. Some descend from seeds sewn into clothes by immigrants coming to America, or from Thomas

Monticello Vegetable Garden

Jefferson’s own garden.

According to Jack Penman in Getting Back to America’s Roots, since these seeds evolved before the age of industrial agriculture, they often grow better under eco-friendly practices.

Did you get that? They’re naturally hardy and disease resistant without chemicals.

Jere Gettle, owner of Baker Creed Heirloom Seeds, sends out two million heirloom seed packets a year and says that number is rising at about thirty percent annually. Who knew? Added bonus: You can buy enough seeds to grow a crop for three years for less than ten dollars. Plus, you won’t have to reorder if you save your seeds. (P.S. You have to click on the Baker Creed link…it’s so cool. And you’ll see vegetables that look surreal!)

So now you know. Choosing pasty, yucky tomatoes or full-bodied delicious ones right out of Thomas Jefferson’s garden is now a matter of choice…and a little sweat o’ the brow!

Want to know more?

The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit






Heirloom Gardens to see  

What about you?  Do you ever worry about the gases they use to “ripen” our fruits and vegetables? What about hybrids and genetic modification . . . scary or not scary? I’ll say this, I’ve learned that none of us is getting out of this world alive. Therefore, our quality of life while we’re here should be pretty important. Upping the quality of the food we eat may be part of seeking that higher ground.




Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.