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We're Digging It

  • June plant swap is Saturday
    “June Plant Swap” is 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, 1100 S. Calhoun St. Reservations are required by Thursday; 427-6000 or go to www.
  • Workshops focus on preserving produce
    FORT WAYNE – The Purdue Extension Service in Allen County is offering Preserving Nature’s Bounty workshops on safe home food preservation procedures and to answer frequently asked questions on canning, freezing
  • Master Gardener helpline available
    A free Master Gardener Volunteers Helpline is available through The Ohio State University Extension Office in Paulding, Ohio.

Brandywine nostalgia

As some of you already know, I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania, with my grandmother’s generation (on my mother’s side) being a family of florists and growers of some acclaim.

My florist nana (for whom I was named), knew all the best flower and vegetable people in our area, including the original “Mr. Burpee” — W. Atlee Burpee, founder of the Burpee Seed Co. — and his son, David. I remember being taken to the Burpee farm outside Doylestown once as a little girl by my mother, also a florist, who was looking for something special for a customer. I remember there being marigolds everywhere, and I still like them.

Which is a long way around saying that when my fellow blogger Cathie Rowand presented me with a Brandywine tomato plant awhile back, I was both grateful and sent off into a flight of nostalgia.

Brandywines — now considered a trendy heirloom tomato — were simply one of the varieties we always grew at home. Burpee was one of the companies that sold the seeds and helped popularize the variety.

The real history of Brandywines, however, is hard to determine — see for one try.

I always thought the tomato was named for the Brandywine Valley area of nearby Chester County (painter Andrew Wyeth’s land), where some of the seeds came from. So stories now circulating about the variety originating with someone from Ohio just seem a bit spurious to me

The Brandywines I remember were intensely meaty, sweetish and tomatoey with a tongue tinge of spice and were often ripe before they were totally red. The best fruit was unbelievably big when you were child-size.

I put the Brandywine in with the rest of my brood, which this year includes Early Girl, Marglobe, Rutgers and Mortgage Lifter varieties and a yellow tomato whose name I can’t remember.

I’m planning on mulching the Brandywine this weekend because I’ve read these tomatoes like their roots cool. I’m not expecting a big yield, but I certainly hope I get enough tomatoes to at least save some seed for next year.

Journey through gardening season with Rosa Salter Rodriguez (feature writer), Anne Gregory (Web editor and writer), Frank Noonan (copy editor) and Cathie Rowand (photographer)