Month: August 2011 (Page 5 of 6)

Seed of the Week: Tomatoes

Katherine correctly identified our mystery seeds last week as tomato seeds. Good job!

You may not have identified them easily because fresh seeds are surrounded by a jelly-like goo. More about that in a minute.

The tomato above is Solanum lycopersicum (used to be called Lycopersicon lycopersicon). It is the common garden tomato, readily available in stores.

A few months ago a friend gave us some tomato plants she said were “honey pearls.” They plants produced these lovely yellow/orange cherry tomato-sized fruit.

The plants continued to flower on and on through our excessively hot summer. Other varieties of tomatoes had always quit flowering during the summer.

In fact the plants are still producing tomatoes, even though we had always heard that tomatoes couldn’t produce fruit if nighttime temperatures are too high. We wanted to learn more about them.

It turns out that these particular plants are a different species, Solanum pimpinellifolium, sometimes commonly called currant tomatoes.

Tomatoes were originally from South America. Currant tomatoes are one of the wild-type tomatoes that are edible. They are able to cross with garden tomatoes and some hybrid varieties exist. Isn’t that amazing?

Now about the gel around the tomato seeds.

Evidence suggests that the gel around the tomato seeds (while they are in the fruit) prevents germination. Once the tomato fruit falls to the ground and rots, the gel breaks down and the tomato seed sprouts.

The CSIRO has a fun experiment with tomato seeds to test this.

I’m not completely convinced this is true for all tomato seeds. I have germinated seeds from fruit without fermenting them, although it is possible that the gel had broken down already for other reasons.You can be sure I’m going to be examining the question further.

Have you ever grown tomatoes from seeds? Were the seeds from seed packets or from seeds you saved?

Citizen Science Project About Ants

My School of Ants kit came in the mail today and I realized I hadn’t told you about it yet.

This citizen-science project involves gathering samples of ants from near homes or schoolyards throughout the United States.

To participate you simply need to visit the website School of Ants, sign up, and order an ant sampling kit (the kits are free). Everyone is welcome to give it a try.

The kit will contain three types of vials. The blue-capped vials (they come with cookie bait) are to sample in a yard or other green space. The red-capped vials are for sampling a sidewalk location. If you have any other ants or even other insects, that you would like identified, send them along in the orange-capped vial.

You will need to leave the baited vials on the ground for one hour, open to let the ants crawl in. Then you cap the samples and place the ones with ants in the freezer for at least an hour (I recommend overnight).

You will need to purchase an envelope and postage to mail the samples back, so there will be some cost to you.

The ants you send in will be identified and recorded on a map. It’s that simple!

I would love to hear from you if you decide to participate. Let me know what you find.

And if you’d like to find more citizen science projects, try the Citizen Science Network. There is a project finder feature that let’s you search by keyword and whether it is family-friendly.

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