Monday, September 7, 2020

Oak leaf papaya, Vasconcellea quercifolia

In the fall of 2016 I adopted four tiny seedlings of oak leaf papaya. They were started by Brian, a fellow gardener from the Golden Gate chapter of CRFG. The tiny plants spent their first winter indoors, and I planted them outside in the spring of 2017 but the Southern wall of a building in Vacaville.  They took off right away, and three of them already bloomed by the end of their first season. I planted them in bottomless one gallon pots for a better drainage when young.

The first season in ground, summer of 2017

Male flowers

Female flowers

By the end of 2017 I already harvested the very first fruits from my only female plant.  The other three turned out to be males. The first winter in ground was a real test if they are going to make it here. The plants lost the foliage right with the first frosts, but the stems were not affected by the frosts down to 23F.   Here is how they looked on December 14, 2017

They budded up just fine in the following spring. The picture below is from February 15, 2018.

In the summer of 2018 I got the first real crop of sweet fruity papaya berries.  If you don't bite into the seeds, they are sweet. If you do bite into the seeds, you'll get the spicy flavor too.  They can be used in salads or simply eaten off the hand. 
August 31, 2018 

In the spring of 2019 I grafted a scion from the female plant onto one of the males, and it took fine. Here is a picture from May 9, 2019.

The female branch started fruiting right away. I need to do more of these grafts. The graft joint (in the lower left corner) and immature fruits on the female graft on August 25, 2019

Now, in the summer of 2020 the plants are very tall, with some are standing over the building roof, with the trunks of at least 5-6 inches, and the females produce plenty of berries in late summer.

This species deserves a better placement in the zone 9B gardens.  My plants tolerated well the temperatures between 23F and 110F. As the species is dioecious, a few seedlings should be grown to make sure that both sexes are present. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Tomato selection by my family, cv. Optimal

Back in 2012, I was regularly buying (U-picking) tomatoes from Brad Gates at his stand and fields in Solano county. He also had a field with F2 progenies from his crosses, and he allowed me to pick some tomatoes from there too.  After tasting the fruits from the F2 field together with my friend Harvey, I ended up with few fruits that I wanted to stabilize. Over the next 8 years, every summer my family chose the best tasting fruits/plants from each hybrid line. Every year I planted 12 progenies from the best tasting plant of the previous year.  In 2019 we ended up selecting just one stable cultivar out of the three hybrid lines we started from.  Presented here is Optimal: a beautiful, productive, and tasty tomato. It is sweeter than Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye, but has about the same amount of salt. It has less acid than Pork Chop, but still some acidity is present, and it has its own flavors that are not present in either Pork Chop and Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye.  It does not have any smoky flavor that can be tasted in many darker and some green tomatoes from Brad Gates.  It is a beautiful yellow-red tomato that is best tasting when it becomes more red than yellow.

 Here is the final selection, the fruits are from 2020

Some tasting plates from 2018

Collected fruits and one of the plants from 2016

For anyone who wants to try growing this tomato cultivar, I will make the seeds available for purchase at

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