Field Trip: Keith Mueller’s Test Plots

Ever since we experienced the wonders of Keith Mueller’s legendary heirloom hybrids, we hoped to have a chance to see him in action. So when Keith told us that he would be pollinating his tomatoes last weekend, we leapt at the chance.

Over the years, Keith has created a number of exceptional tomato varieties including: Dora, Liz Birt, and Gary O’Sena.  Last August, we were introduced to our current Keith Mueller favorite when we tasted Purple Haze. Combining Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, and Black Cherry, three of our favorite heirlooms, Keith created a unique tomato with an amazing taste. It is a small tomato that packs a powerful flavor punch.

We found Keith hard at work in his test plots crossing a variety he has been patiently attempting to stabilize. Combining Lucky Cross, Sungold, Purple Haze, and Little Lucky, Keith has created a new variety, as yet unnamed. To make the cross, Keith collects the pollen on a microscope slide and then brushes the pollen onto the stigma.  It is a complicated process that takes some time to master.  Keith has a step-by-step guide on his website.

Crossing a tomato line is just the beginning of an arduous process of selection that involves multiple growing seasons. Once you’ve created the tomato you desire, it may take several years to stabilize the variety so it will eventually produce a consistent fruit year after year.

Keith Mueller in his backyard laboratory

Keith Mueller in his backyard laboratory

Tomatoes in full blossom

Tomatoes in full blossom

Pollinating the stigma

Pollinating the stigma

An unnamed purple shouldered variety

An unnamed purple-shouldered variety

The illustrious Purple Haze

The illustrious Purple Haze from the 2011 Tomato Tasting (TomatoTown file photo)

A work in progress from the 2010 Tomato Tasting

A work in progress from the 2010 Tomato Tasting (TomatoTown file photo)


One Response to “Field Trip: Keith Mueller’s Test Plots”

  1. Glenn Teves says:

    Would like to get in touch with Kevin Mueller. Have him contact me. Met him at the OSA Conference 2014 in Corvallis.

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