Your Reading List

Singing Gardener: Fruits of the vine — heirloom tomato and heirloom melon

Don’t forget to enter Ted’s tomato seed draws

This traditional Ukrainian heirloom tomato was renamed to Cosmonaut Volkov in honour of a deceased Russian cosmonaut. Ted tells a whole lot more.

If you’ve ever attended live theatre, you may have experienced a curtain raiser. It’s a short, dramatic piece performed before the main play or event of the evening. That’s not to say there’s no such thing as live theatre in the afternoon as there certainly is. Now just imagine yours truly standing at the mike with guitar in hand and singing these lyrics from a self-written song:

I like carrots and potatoes, but how I love my tomatoes,

In the garden in the row, my tomatoes where they grow.

Yes — the focus on today’s word journey is on fruits of the vine with emphasis placed on a traditional heritage and historic tomato. Speaking of vines, am also eager to tell you about an heirloom melon that originates from central India and where gardeners can buy seeds for both aforesaid. Are your gardening tools in shape? I have mine ready to go. Matter of fact right now I’m singing:

Got my hoe and rake in hand, I don’t need a backup band,

I’m the Singing Gardener (yodel) rudl dee doo yi ho.

Toni, my yodelling teacher from Bavaria, was the best. I often recall what she told me. Ted — someday you’ll get it (yodelling, that is) and you’ll know when you’ve got it. She was right!

Here’s my welcome y’all tip o’ the hat. There’s always room for one more, or two or three at the Grainews reading table.

Cosmonaut Volkov tomato

Look at the picture on this page and just imagine yourself filling a plate with homegrown Cosmonaut Volkov tomato slices until they’re overflowing and brimming with juice. Tanya Stefanec, who commands the work team at Heritage Harvest Seed says, “We take the growing and preserving of heirloom plants and saving of seed very seriously. When you purchase from us, you can be sure that our seed is viable and true to type and that you are supporting an extremely worthwhile preservation effort.”

When Tanya told me that “Cosmonaut Volkov tomato is one of the best” among their catalogue’s listing of dozens, I said to myself, “Ted, you’ve got to let your readers know about this variety.” First, some background history. Cosmonaut Volkov is an old Ukrainian heirloom that was renamed in honour of a Russian cosmonaut who died coming back from a space mission. Tanya describes this heirloom tomato as “the most productive variety that I have ever grown. It produced all summer long right up ’til a killer frost. The medium- to large-size red fruit has a complex delicious tangy flavour that many gardeners search for.” This indeterminate (vining) variety has regular leaf foliage with ripe fruits showing up between 65 to 70 days after hardened-off transplants are placed outdoors in a well-prepared sunny location. Cosmonaut Volkov gets extra marks for my support as a tomato not to be overlooked for “producing well, even in cool conditions.”

So gardeners — even if you’re located in the near north and high north at places such as Timmins, Geraldton, Red Lake, The Pas, Flin Flon, Thompson, Prince Albert, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Prince George, Dawson Creek, Yellowknife, Dawson City, Whitehorse and beyond — take note of this variety! You may want to try growing Cosmonaut Volkov tomato in your region. What with weather patterns changing the way they do, we never know if the forthcoming growing season shall be a long one, a scorcher, a cool one or with variables somewhere in between. Two of the best days this month, according to the moon, for starting tomato and pepper seedlings and other annuals indoors are February 15 and 16 with February 17, 18 and 19 as secondary option dates.

Kajari melon

This could also be one of the highlights of your planting season. Kajari is an amazing early and beautiful melon originating from central India, producing fruits that are a brilliant copper red, striped in green and cream. The end result is extremely unusual and beautiful melons. It’s like growing pieces of art in your garden. Pale-green flesh similar to honeydew is sweet and aromatic with a slight musky taste. The fruits are absolutely gorgeous in appearance and average about 1.5 kilos (three pounds) each in weight. Individual vines produce six to nine fruits, even during a short Prairie season of 60 to 70 days from seed to fruit. Colourful Kajari melons look like small beach balls and will attract visual and vocal attention, resulting in a sure hit for conversation at farmers’ markets and among fruit and vegetable growers. If desired, start seedlings indoors for later transplant outside. Otherwise, direct sow two to three seeds outdoors in raised garden mounds once open soil is consistently warm and temperature remains above 20 C. Seeds emerge in five to 10 days and can be soaked in water for an hour beforehand if desired. Keep vines consistently and evenly watered, otherwise some cracking of matured fruits may be noticed. Harvest begins once the distinct melon fragrance is detected and the stem end easily slips away from the vine. These unique melons can be picked even after a first light frost and will continue to ripen in storage making them a reasonable keeper.

Kajari is a superb, colourful melon that originally came from central India and is sometimes referred to as the rare and beautiful Indian Rock melon. photo: Courtesy Heritage Harvest Seed

Inquiries and seeds of Cosmonaut Volkov tomato and Kajari melon for planting are available for purchase from:

Heritage Harvest Seed
Box 279
Carman, Man. R0G 0J0
Phone 204-745-6489

Ted’s tomato seed draws

There are a lot of strange names for tomatoes ranging from Bear Claw, Green Giant and Honey to Marianna’s Peace, Pink Peach and Watermelon Beefsteak — none of which are included in the draws. A dozen entries shall be picked from the draw box in March from those received by mail with winners’ names and tomato variety to be eventually revealed. To enter, mail your name and full address to:

Singing Gardener tomato seed draws
c/o Grainews, 1666 Dublin Ave.
Winnipeg, Man. R3H 0H1

Bh the way

Received feedback from readers who enjoyed my January 8, 2019 Grainews column in connection with water witching and I hope to incorporate more of their comments in a future article about said subject. One suggestion from Jim in Alberta that I, Ted, support is: “I wish there was a directory of water well witchers across the country, because they tend to be quiet about their skills, and hard to find. It is a surefire way to generate a conversation!!”

If you are such an individual and wish to be included — I can compile a directory of witchers, diviners and dowsers. But basic information is needed such as your name, address, contact info, preferred witching tools used, experience, fee expected and expenses, plus distance that you are willing to travel. Include anything else you wish to add or feel is pertinent.

About the author


Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.



Stories from our other publications