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Nebraska Weddings, Box Car Willie heirloom tomatoes

Gardening is full of surprising links to history. Take Nebraska, unusual as the only state in the union with a single house or unicameral legislature. Or that Nebraska has more miles of river than any other state. And while Nebraska evokes images of corn it also has given us indirectly two very great heirloom tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum).

Good old Midwestern neighborliness ties in with heirloom tomatoes, whose seeds have been handed down through generations and often shared with their neighbors and communities.

Mrs. Beiswenger of Crookston, Minnesota received some tomato seeds from Mrs. Englert of Sandpoint, Idaho in 1980, who said Nebraskan brides were given seeds of this tomato as a wedding gift and so were called Nebraska Wedding tomatoes. The original seeds probably came with the pioneers covered wagons in the late 1800s.

The Nebraska Wedding tomato is a dazzling 4 inch round beefsteak tomato with apricot-orange skin and flesh, often weighing up to a pound. Best of all, the tomatoes are free of cracks and blemishes. Slices of Nebraska Wedding tomato with its outstanding low acid sweet taste make colorful additions to sandwiches and salads.

Because Nebraska wedding is open pollinated non-hybrid you can save the seeds and keep tradition alive by giving seeds to bride and groom on their wedding day.

Another tomato with a Nebraska connection is Box Car Willie tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum). Lecil Travis Martin was an American country music singer, who sang in the hobo music style, complete with dirty face, overalls, and a floppy hat.

Once while at a rail crossing in Lincoln, Nebraska, Martin saw a man riding in an open box car who reminded him of his friend, Willie Wilson. Martin sat down and wrote a song entitled "Boxcar Willie," which became so linked to Martin that he was soon going by the nickname "Boxcar Willie."

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