Walk into the produce section of the grocery store and you’ll see big, beautiful heads of broccoli. Grow it at home, and the plants make small stems that taste as good or better but are a fraction of the size. Bite into a homegrown tomato and you’ll experience flavor and juiciness far superior to what you find in the store. What’s going on here? Why are store bought and home grown fruits and vegetable so different?
It starts with the seed.
In this episode, we discover the world of vegetables seeds, starting with breeding. We learn about the four different target markets for vegetable breeders: commercial farmers, home growers, farmer’s market farmers, and the growers who grow the seedlings that we buy in the nursery.
Each of these markets demands a different kind of tomato or a different kind of eggplant or a different kind of squash. Some focus on flavor, others are concerned about production or uniformity of the fruit, or how fast the plants grow, their disease resistance and so on.
We’ll travel the state to visit with vegetable breeders. We’ll go to the fields north of Sacramento where the summer’s bounty is on display for commercial seed dealers, farmers, and for the companies that sell seeds to home gardeners.
That same farm grows seeds 1600 acres of produce to harvest for seeds, rather than for eating. We’ll see how those seeds are harvested and processed for sale.
We visit a retail store in Grass Valley that supplies farmers and home gardeners. We stop at Renee’s Garden Seed test gardens near Santa Cruz where owner Renee Shepherd tests grows gourmet vegetables and flowers before she offers them to home gardeners.
We visit a tomato breeder who is passionate about breeding tomatoes of all different colors and his specialty – amazingly – seedless tomatoes.