Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Survivor Tatsoi

When we moved in here there were no vegetables, only empty vegetable beds, which was great.  Before we moved in there was a decent flood.  After we moved in we had another rather large flood.  A year or two passed, then a vegetable seedling grew in amongst the grass and weeds in the vegetable garden path.  It was from a vegetable that I have never planted, a seed that was here before we were.  I noticed it one day as I was mowing the weeds/grass in the vegetable garden.  I decided to mow around it as I liked its style.

This is one of the descendants of the mystery vegetable
That one determined little seed sat dormant through at least two floods, waiting patiently through several extreme summers, sat quietly through some cold winters, germinated in amongst tall grass and established weeds in a path that was trodden on several times a day by myself as well as my kids.  It then evaded being eaten by snails/slugs/poultry/birds/rodents and grew into an amazing little plant without a great deal of help from anyone.  This plant had earned my respect.

I wasn't terribly certain what it was to begin with, I knew it was some type of brassica.  I thought it was some form of Asian green, but having very little experience with them I did not know which one.  I gave it some water to keep it alive but generally forgot to water it.  I tried to gently pull some weeds near it but was scared of pulling it out too so left it to struggle against them.  The kids stepped on it a few times because it was growing in a rather inconvenient place.

More of my survivor tatsoi plants
I eventually figured it was most likely tatsoi.  I like the determination of this plant, it is a true survivor that beat the odds.  We ate some leaves but I let that single plant mature and flower, then I carefully collected the seed.

Brassicas tend to need other plants for cross pollination but I got a small amount of seed.  Many of the seed pods had no seeds, many of the seeds were too small to germinate, being so hot and dry the aphids covered the flowers at times, even with all this stacked against it the survivor tatsoi set a decent number of viable seed.  Quite often brassicas will have low or no germination if the population is too small, I had one individual and no other brassicas.  Things did not look good.  I planted a lot of the seed in the hope of enough germinating to get this strain going again and almost all of them germinated!

Tatsoi in a vegetable bed, they no longer grow amongst grass
Brassicas also tend to suffer from inbreeding depression with small populations, so I did a large grow out from the seed collected from that single parent in the hopes of overcoming this.  So far the results appear to be pretty strong and healthy, I have not been able to see any lack of fitness and have a decent number of plants from here on.  I will be allowing all of these plants to flower and cross pollinate one another then I plan to collect seed from them all to maintain some small amount of genetic diversity.

What I have now is a strain of tatsoi that has overcome extreme hardship on pretty much every level.  I call it "survivor tatsoi" as I do not have any way to tell what cultivar it would have originally come from.  I hope to keep this strain going indefinitely from here on if I can.

I will probably be able to sell seeds of this tatsoi after the current batch flower/set seed and I test the seeds for germination rates.  I do not sell seeds if the germination rates fall to 85%.  When I do collect seed and test them they will be listed on my for sale page.

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