Wisconsin 55 Tomato
72 days. Refreshing taste of summer in a gorgeous, scarlet-red, round, mid-size slicing tomato. Juicy but never mushy, the Wisconsin 55 is great for salads and sandwiches. Impressively vigorous, blemish-free, crack-resistant, uniform, high-yielding and stores well. Good disease resistance to early blight, so it keeps producing until frost. A workhorse variety with exceptional flavor – we just can’t seem to stop talking about how much we love it! Bred in 1947 by renowned plant pathologist John Charles Walker of the University of Wisconsin, Madison back when our public universities bred high-quality seeds for public good. It was bred for disease and crack resistance in the humid upper Midwest. If you have trouble growing tomatoes, try Wisconsin 55! Plants are indeterminate. NN[[end tab]] [[start tab]]
Growing Instructions (for USDA Zone 5b):
Start tomato seeds inside at least 6 weeks before last frost (around 4/1). Ideal temperature for germination is 85° (use a heating mat). Days to germination: 5-14. Once leaves appear, grow plants at 72°. Plant seedlings outside late May into fertile garden soil (with lots of compost or decomposed manure) at a spacing of 18” apart. Stake tomato plants. Tomatoes are susceptible to several fungal diseases (including Early and Late Blight and Verticillium Wilt). To prevent blight, keep foliage dry by 1) Pruning tomato plants to allow for good air circulation 2) Water with drip irrigation/soaker hoses. Crop rotation is also key to preventing tomato diseases. Ideally, plant tomato plants in a spot that has not had any Solanaceae crops (tomato, peppers, eggplant, potatoes) growing there for 4 years. Frequent watering will help to minimize cracking of tomatoes.
Harvest when tomatoes turn red and fruit is somewhat soft when squeezed.
Seed Saving Instructions (for gardeners):
Tomatoes are relatively easy seed-saving crops. They are primarily self-pollinated but may be crossed pollinated by insects when different tomatoes varieties are planted next to one another. You can just save seed and see what you get! Isolation distance of 10ft will minimize crossing while 150’ is necessary to eliminate it. Always harvest seed from the best plants. It is best, but not totally necessary, to collect seeds from a minimum of 6 plants. Collect ripe tomatoes, let them ripen for a week in a paper bag, then cut and squeeze out seeds. See instructions for fermenting seeds. Rinse and dry seeds on a screen.[[end tab]] [[start tab]]
Contrary to popular belief, tomatoes originated in the Andean mountains of South America where they were domesticated by indigenous people. Cultivated, transported, and traded they became an integral part of cuisine as far north as southern Mexico. Tomatoes were not introduced to the eastern hemisphere until seeds were brought from the America’s by Cortez in the 1500s. What was Italian food like before tomatoes???
The Wisconsin 55 tomato was created over many years of dedicated breeding work carried out by John Charles Walker of University of Wisconsin, Madison. Field trials were conducted in Kenosha county, southeast Wisconsin. He began with planting and observing over 700 different tomato plants, making many crosses and selecting from those crosses. This was the golden age of plant breeding when public universities bred high quality, non-hybrid seeds for the public good. The project’s goals were to breed a tomato with early blight disease resistance, high yields and crack resistance in the environment in which they would be grown – the humid upper Midwest. These methods bred a workhorse tomato variety. It is a shame that these methods have all but been abandoned for evolutionary dead-end hybrid seeds that cannot be adapted to specific growing environments. This tomato is called Wisconsin “55” because it was from breeding line 55 whose parents included John Baer, Del Monte, Early Baltimore, and Redskin tomatoes many of which are now threatened or extinct.[[end tab]]