The Montana Tomato Project and community networking


A tomato doesn’t need much to keep it going. One person saving seed can keep a tomato variety alive for a lifetime. A few packets going from person to person can keep a tomato alive indefinitely. So today I started a Facebook group to try to find people near me to share my tomatoes with at early stages to try to develop a local tomato project. My tomatoes are probably also useful in other nearby states and possibly some very far off places, but it has really been the local space that has been hardest. I’ve given them away to friends and colleagues. I’ve shared some with a small regional seed company Snake River Seeds in Idaho. I’ve also shared some at the local seed library. However, I am not sure how many have made their way into the hands of fellow seed savers yet. So am trying to branch out a little in my local networking.
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I’m not sure if this attempt at local networking is working. Got two comments on permies and added a number of posts to the Facebook group I created. It may be slow. I would consider it a great success to find something originally of mine at the local seed library. Even better if it had outcrossed to some unknown. Or been deliberately crossed to something known!

So, one of my favorite ways of doing tomato breeding is to use potato leaf tomatoes with a stigma (female part) of the flower that sticks out a bit. These are more likely to naturally be outcrossed, and I made my first cross this way back in 2017 using a potato leaf mother I got from a tomato mixture that Joseph Lofthouse made. Of the potato leaf tomatoes it had the stigma sticking out a bit more than any of the others in 2017. Though potato leaf tomatoes are famous for sometimes doing this. In 2021 I used the potato leaf descendant of the 2017 cross now named Mission Mountain Sunrise to make a new cross with Big Hill or HX-9 an Open-Source Seed Initiative pledged regular leaf tomato bred by Joseph Lofthouse. I grew that cross out over the winter and got some F2 seed which I planted in the spring and from which I sorted out all the potato leaf plants. I then used those F2 plants which I began calling Mission Mountain Morning to make up the mother portion of some crossing blocks. I didn’t have quite enough, and it turned out that Mission Mountain Sunrise had worked well as mothers in 2021 so I substituted in some of them as well especially on crossing blocks where the other parent was of OSSI descent as well. Though it does turn out that Mission Mountain Sunrise is more dependent on hot weather for the stigma to stick out of the anther cone than is Big Hill. Hopefully Mission Mountain Morning will be less weather dependent.

I made a larger than normal number of deliberate hand crosses in 2022 but what I want to talk about here is the crossing block crosses! The crossing block crosses aren’t emasculated, and they may or may not have happened. Though they are likely to generate several Mission Mountain Sunrise F6 and Mission Mountain Morning F3 seedlings as well. In fact- it will be the only way to get such seedlings! The regular leaf seedlings will be F1 hybrids, and the potato leaf seedlings will be selfed.

11? MMS x Dwarf Mocha’s Cherry
This cross number 11 if it indeed happened is between Mission Mountain Sunrise and Dwarf Mocha’s Cherry an OSSI registered anthocyanin skinned dwarf. Any offspring of this cross would-be regular leaf with any selfed seedlings being potato leaved and therefore easy to pick out (and hopefully those will find a good home). This would be a great way to get dwarfism and anthocyanin better fixed into a dwarf tomato.

12? MMS x OSSI Dwarfs
A similar cross to number 11 but with any of several OSSI dwarf varieties though I think the seeds I picked were from a plant right next to Dwarf Kelley’s Green which was one of my absolute favorite flavors. No anthocyanin on the dwarf side though.

13? MMM x The One (Fruity promiscuous)
The One is a fruity promiscuous project strain. Its heritage is something like 12.5% Solanum habrochaites, 12.5% Solanum penellii, and 75% domestic. Its 2021 parent was a dwarf resulting from the wild cross with truly amazing fruity flavor. In 2022 I didn’t taste a bad one, but they varied from almost as good as the 2021 parent to normal tomato taste. Any regular leaf plant from this crossing block is a cross with it. So, it could be a truly amazing tomato- or normal. Still getting 12.5% wild genetics is probably a good deal for tomato diversity.

14? MMM x Unknown (Diversity Garden)
This is a wild card. The Mission Mountain Morning mother had some of the longest stigmas of the entire F2 population. So bound to have picked up some pollen. The mother was in a tightly woven row with lots and lots of tomato varieties. So, it’s possible that every regular leaf seedling from this tomato could have a different father. Or they could mostly be from whatever was closest!

15? MMM x LA1410 Galapagense
I really wanted to cross MMM and LA1410 Solanum galapagense in 2022. I did manage to make a deliberate cross with a hybrid that turned up. However, I think the 50:50 parentage F1 might just be in this seed lot waiting for us to recognize the regular leaf seedling! Should be interesting to find out. I can’t wait.



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Any chance you’re going to keep track of % of discernable crosses when you plant out seed from the crossing blocks? I’m so curious about all of this, and look forward to seeing what comes out of these.

Is “by golly it was quite a little back in 2022 when I did it with the 21 grown seed” an acceptable accounting system?

Because I wanted to and I didn’t get it done. It went something like this: I grew way too many tomatoes. I noticed that the hybrids were much more vigorous than the non-hybrid potato leaf mothers. I transplanted them over several weeks. I never got a count.

I do have one hope for this: I am wondering if the local group “seedlings for solidarity” whom some of my colleagues volunteer for might be willing to help me with this stage in exchange for some locally bred seedlings especially of the mothers Mission Mountain Morning and Mission Mountain Sunrise. If so, maybe they could help me count em?

If we could count them we could determine if MMM is an improvement in outcrossing rate as hoped over MMS?!! At least under 2022 growing conditions.

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:rofl: Acceptable in the summer when it allows us to grow more tomatoes, unacceptable in the winter when we want to think about it more. Same as it ever was, right?

That seems like an excellent plan, whether it works or not it’s no loss, right?

I need to drink through some of my 2014 meads this year, I’m calendaring “data collection with a notebook and a glass of wine” for at least a full day every two weeks. I wonder if that plan work any better than yours?

On a more serious note do you do any seed swap/farmer’s market outreach for the project, or is there anything like that there?

“Mark your calendar: FVSL Seed Swap is March 25, 2023 from 11-2 at Missoula Public Library - more info coming.” -Five Valley Seed Library

Here is my outreach! On the facebook version of the project I just shared their post about it with the word “Yep”

I also have posted it on the local Missoula section. So far no new Missoula friends from that.

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2023 Tomatoes to Plant
Amethyst Cream
Anmore Dewdrop 2018 from BC
Payette from Idaho
Golden Bison North Dakota
Cheesemanii Hybrid from Terrior Seeds original packet from Andrew
exserted orange stock seed
Exserted red tiger (my work) with best blue for stock seed 2020
Forest Fire 2017
Subartic plenty original packet from Alberta
Yellow Tiger (my work)
Black Cherry
Wagner Muddy Waters
Dwarf Eagle Smiley
Mission Mountain Morning F3
MMM X LA2329
MMM X galapagense x Unknown
Galapagense x Unknown
MMM X galapagense
BH X LA2329
Promiscuous x LA2329
MMM X(Promiscuous X LA2329)
Mission Mountain Rising F2!
MMS X Dwarf Mix if worked
MMS x Dwarf Mocha’s if worked
MMM X The one! If worked
MMM X Sweet Cherriette = Mission Mountain Early F2!
MMM X Unknowns
MMM X Brad’s Atomic Grape
MMM x Brown Rugose tolerant current
MMM x Late blight resistant current PH5
MMM X Purple Zebra
Dwarf Gloria’s Treat x currents
Farthest North which is Bison X current from North Dakota
Dwarf Moby’s Cherry
Uluru Ochre
Utah Heart
Child of Utah Heart
Small Fruit Mix
Mr. Stripy
Hoosier Rose
Fisher’s Earliest Paste a Montanan (Not yet)
McClintock a Montanan
Wilford from Wyoming
Mandarin Mini Cherry a Montanan

2023 Crossing Blocks

  1. Arthropod Resistance New Fenced Garden
    LA2329 and LA1410 and descendants
    MMM x The One if it worked
  2. Disease Resistance Ronan House again
    a. Brown Rugose Virus MMM x Pimp
    b. Late Blight MMM x Pimp, MMM x Purple Zebra F1
    c. Galahad F1
    d. Reed’s five tomatoes
    e. MMM F3
  3. New Domestic Crosses MMS and MMM X domestics including Aztek, Brad’s Atomic Grape, Sweet Cherriette, OSSI Dwarfs Old Fenced Garden
  4. MMM F3 x Fruity Missoula Deck
  5. MMM F3 x Fuzzy West Central garden
  6. MMM F3 x Exserted Orange NW Garden
  7. MMM F3 x Yellow Tiger NE garden
  8. MMM F3 x Payette SW garden

Found a Montana original today on the Triple Divide Seed rack. Mandarin Mini Cherry Tomato. Supposed to date back 25 years to Garden City Seeds. That is about when John Navazio was there briefly as a breeder. He bred the Bitterroot buttercup while there.

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I have a small result. I planted 10 cells with a Mission Mountain Morning so F3 generation. The F2 grew in the diversity garden with many varieties and had perhaps the best stigma exsertion of the generation. Of 13 seedlings one is an obvious regular leaf F1 hybrid with an unknown father. Twelve are MMM F3. So 1/13 outcross rate.

I can’t wait to plant seed from more deliberate crossing blocks where the father will be known.

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Did a second planting of MMR in January and have 3 regular leave dwarfs. Found the first flower on one of them yesterday and buzzed it.

Thank you @WilliamGrowsTomatoes for all these lovely seeds. We will see what survives all the blight attacks! Glad to be getting in on this community project and hopefully blight trials will be fruitful… I will keep track of varieties, and do you want me to separate anything?

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You are welcome. Separation is not necessary. If any of those do well for you, it should give us ideas on what F2’s to send your way this fall and perhaps what crosses to make in the future for blight resistance.

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Planted some LA2329 cross seeds this evening.

  1. MMM F2 x (Promiscuous x LA2329) F1
  2. Promiscuous x LA2329 F1
  3. MMM F2 x LA2329 F1
  4. Big Hill HX-9 x LA2329 F1
  5. Promiscuous x LA2329 F2;attach=4396;image

Link to image of me bleaching tomato seeds from LA2329 crosses per TGRC protocols.

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Have one Big Hill HX-9 x LA2329 F1 from my last attempt at planting some.

Link to image of Big Hill HX-9 x LA2329

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It turned out to be 2/13 regular leaf. Then I gave away that flat.

Ken Fisher in Belgrade Montana used to sell three tomatoes that I just got today from a seed saver. Prairie Fire, Fisher’s Earliest Paste, and Mountain Boy.

Trying to find more info.

I did find this on Prairie Fire. Attributes it to Montana and says it is a cross with subarctic- an Alberta tomato!

I made a cross last year Dwarf Mocha’s Cherry x Mission Mountain Sunrise F5. It took but when I finally harvested the tomato the seeds didn’t seem properly developed. I thought maybe one was viable. While on Sunday I planted them and 16 are germinating so far. So I was wrong and I am very happy I was! The only real important thing about the cross is that Dwarf Mocha’s Cherry is the only stable OSSI dwarf tomato project anthocyanin skinned tomato so this gives me a very good chance of having the anthocyanin trait quite stable in the F2 where I can reselect a potato leafed bicolor dwarf.


I planted my tomatoes for this year in the cold frame a few days ago. I included two pots of “the one” with 15 seeds each.

Just so I’m clear, 'in 2021 “the one” was 25% wild and it was crossed with a dwarf domestic resulting in the seeds now being 12.5% wild?

At this point it is a potato leaf, unless by chance it crossed again in 2022 in which case normal leaf plants will show up? Basically, potato leaf, means selfed in 2022, normal leaf means crossed?

How about its promiscuity? Is the anther cone open for bees to take pollen so it might cross both ways or is just the stigma exposed?

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