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Nebraska Weddings, Box Car Willie heirloom tomatoes

The Box Car Willie tomato named in his honor bears huge 10 to 16-ounce red fruits with traces of deep orange undertones. Box Car Willie is known for its old fashioned well balanced taste that combines sweetness with just enough acidity to it a true tomato flavor. Box Car Willie is a vigorous, up to eight-foot tall tomato. The tall, disease resistant indeterminate tomato plants produce right up until hard frost.

Many heirloom tomatoes are available from Seed Savers Exchange (online at seedsavers.org and over the phone at 563-382-5990) or Totally Tomatoes (online at totallytomatoes.com and by mail at 334 W Stroud Street, Randolph, WI 53956).

Heirloom tomatoes do best in full sun, with a soil pH 5.5 to 7.0. You can start the seeds indoors a few weeks before setting out in the garden, after the last frost. Before setting indoor grown plants into the garden, gradually harden them off. Do this by taking the plants outdoors for a few hours every day.

Tomatoes like a rich soil so work in lots of compost. Plant tomatoes deeply so additional roots can grow from the buried stems. Though Nebraska Wedding plants are often short, whereas Box Car Willie plants can be as tall as sunflowers, both varieties benefit from staking or growing in tomato cages for support.

Once you've feasted on your heirloom tomatoes you may want to save and share the seeds. Scoop out the seeds into a cup and add enough water to completely cover the seeds. Place the cup and seeds in a warm place such as the top of the refrigerator. Let the seed and water mix ferment for about three days.

This fermentation destroys many seed born diseases. Rinse the seeds completely in a fine sieve and dry them in a single layer on waxed paper.

Stir the seeds every day so that they dry completely. After a week your tomato seeds will be ready to store in a paper envelope. Share your Box Car Willie or Nebraska Wedding tomato seeds with family, friends or wrapped into a wedding gift that keeps on giving.

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