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Historical background information for varieties handed down from bygone days.

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Old February 28, 2011   #1
puttgirl
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Default Bonny Best

I remember seeing and reading about Bonny best and John Baer being sometimes referred to as the same tomato. I was fairly certain that they were two different varieties, and that has been pretty much confimed by others more knowledgeable than myself. I also read that it was named after the Bonnie plant farm in Alabama. I just got a book from the library, The Total Tomato, by Fred DuBose (1985), that also mentions the (false) association with John Baer, but states that "Bonny Best was the find of one George W. Middleton, of Jeffersonville, PA, who saved seed from a superior plant he found growing in a field of Chalk's Early Jewel, a variety common around the turn of the century". That was one thing that I never heard of. It goes on to tell how a seed co. introduced his seed in 1908.
Mr. DuBose also states that it averages 4oz. and has a disappointing yield, with not particularly good disease resistance. It's been a few years since I've grown it, but I remember it being a bit bigger and not nearly as bad as he described it. In fact, his description of a variety just named "Bonnie" sounds more like the Bonny best that I grew.
Wondering what some of you pros thought, am I wrong, is he wrong or something in between?

Last edited by puttgirl; February 28, 2011 at 11:49 PM.
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Old March 1, 2011   #2
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My understanding is that Bonnie Best ( aka Bonny Best)and John Baer are both op selections of Chalk's Early Jewel. So what I am saying is that they share Chalk's Early Jewel as a parent and are similar and some say indistinguishable from each other. (pretty sure they were released by two different seed companies and or breeders) I have only grown out Bonnie Best which was a very well producing tomato for me and flavor wise it was tomatoey (lol) not sweet but tasted fine sliced though it is more of a canning type and it did well for me in that regard, canned them and also made salsa with them and also used them with my paste in sauces. So I guess really it is a great all purpose tomato. Self life was semi long on the counter and I guess as a negative they are smallish 6oz or so and the peelings are fairly thick but again if you are canning them or using them in sauces the thick skin makes them easy to remove.
Also they are 80 DTM so I guess that could be a negative. ( though mine were earlier than the 80 DTM from transplant)

Disclaimer: I am not an expert so just giving you the best answer I can as a laymen and sharing my experience from what I grew.
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Old March 1, 2011   #3
carolyn137
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Luckily I have the Michigan State Bulletin of 1939 which details the history and traits of a huge number of early varieties and has been a great resource for me.

The original name was Bonny Best, not Bonnie, and this variety has nothing to do with the Bonnie plant farm.

Middleton did make that selection and it was introduced by Walter P. Stokes in 1908.

There are many synonyms for this variety b'c back then the seed competition was fierce and seed companies changed the names of varieties to indicate they had something new. I just counted 14 synonyms for Bonny Best.

And here's a wee paragraph that may make the situation clearer and pertains to Bonny Best and John Baer as we even know them today. Remember this is from 1939.

"The identification of Bonny Best. John Baer and Chalks Early Jewel is complicated by the fact that the names Bonny Best and John Baer are used interchangeably. Some of the most critical seedsmen use seed of John Baer for Bonny Best because both names are equally popular although the varieties are practicaly identical. Some seedsmen supply seed of Chalk's Early Jewel regularly for John Baer and Bonny Best."

Given that background and knowing that both Bonny Best and John Baer are both with us today there's perhaps no reason at all to know what is being grown between those two varieties.

The specific traits of Bonny Best are given and it's a very long section so I'll just make a few comments from that section.

slightly flattened globe shape

Usually weighs 5-6 oz

about 2 3/4 to 3 " transverse diameter and 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 polar diameter

radial cracks are common but circular growth cracks are rare.

Borne in clusters of of 4-7 fruits

Interior medium scarlet with 6-7 medium cells ( we call them locules now)

Finally, no one really knows, me talking now, what the selection was done for from Bonny Best that gave us John Baer and the MI State bulletin considers them to be identical.

Ah yes, the above from 1939, the year I was born, so ASAP I know the data is 72 yo but the earlier the data is for any specific tomato variety the more accurate it usually is with respect to everything having to do with that variety. Subtle mutations, slightly crossed seed, etc, can all have an influence on a specific variety known 100 years ago or more as opposed to today. A good example are the Livingston varieties that are featured at Victory Seed with backgrounds and seeds for many of them. And many of those varieties are as they should be b'c Livingston wrote a book and described them in detail.
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Old March 1, 2011   #4
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Solution: Grow 10 or 12 plants each of Chalk's Early Jewel, John Baer, and Bonny Best. Select the best couple of plants from each "variety" for saving seeds, and mix the seeds all together for future plantings. When and if sharing the resulting seeds, designate them not by name but simply by "good old standard red all purpose tomato seed mix #4" or some other similar designation.
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Old March 1, 2011   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travis View Post
Solution: Grow 10 or 12 plants each of Chalk's Early Jewel, John Baer, and Bonny Best. Select the best couple of plants from each "variety" for saving seeds, and mix the seeds all together for future plantings. When and if sharing the resulting seeds, designate them not by name but simply by "good old standard red all purpose tomato seed mix #4" or some other similar designation.
Why not?

I knew that someone, it had to be you, and wasn't that a song, would recognize that the seeds of all three were interchanged and mixed up long ago and since those have been brought forward to the present and no current seed Co knows exactly where any Bonny Best or John Baer or Chalks Early Jewel came from , it seem to me it's a toss up.

You can do it Travis, I don't have the room to do it and to be honest, I don't want to do it either.

I can see it now. Get your mix of varieties of old here, at least 3 of them, and they're probably all the same, and that's just for the #4 seed mix. My mind boggles at the opportunity that exists for some other closely related varieties as well to be sold as seed mixes.
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Old March 1, 2011   #6
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Indeed! LOL! How about a Brandywine/Earl's Faux/Marianna's Peace mix? Or a Cherokee Purple/Indian Stripe, oops, better not go there, mix.

Herrrrrump
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Old March 1, 2011   #7
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Indeed! LOL! How about a Brandywine/Earl's Faux/Marianna's Peace mix? Or a Cherokee Purple/Indian Stripe, oops, better not go there, mix.

Herrrrrump
For sure.

Here's what we're going to do. You're going to set up a website selling redundant seed mixes and you and I can devise some deceptive dandies.

We'll work out the pricing and what my cut will be and what you're going to pay me for consulting services.

Oh heck, I might even let you do the CP/Indian Stripe/Indian Zebra mix, but it will cost you my friend, and cost you dearly but what an inspired suggestion.
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Old March 1, 2011   #8
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I'll include that Philippino tomato in the CP/IS/IZ mix, if it's okay
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Old March 1, 2011   #9
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I'll include that Philippino tomato in the CP/IS/IZ mix, if it's okay
I'll think about it and let you know.

Do you plan to do the gf allele determinations or do you want me to or should we subcontract them out, per your current suggestion?
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Old March 1, 2011   #10
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Let's not and say we did. Or we can just make something up and see how far we can get with it
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Old March 1, 2011   #11
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Let's not and say we did. Or we can just make something up and see how far we can get with it
Agreed, and I think we can get a loooong way with this new project.
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Old March 1, 2011   #12
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So Fred DuBose was right on-Middleton did select it. I did figure after all this time there's no guarantee what you may get. Carolyn, the descriptions given in your bulletin for Bonny best are accurate for what I grew, too. Like I stated, Fred had them a bit smaller and didn't think the production and taste were that great, but maybe HE just didn't care for them. I suppose the changes could be natural variations (mutations) over the years.
What was so striking about the book was the fact that the book was published in 1985 (not that long ago for this ole gal), and so many of tomatoes in the book are already very hard to find.
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Old March 1, 2011   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by puttgirl View Post
So Fred DuBose was right on-Middleton did select it. I did figure after all this time there's no guarantee what you may get. Carolyn, the descriptions given in your bulletin for Bonny best are accurate for what I grew, too. Like I stated, Fred had them a bit smaller and didn't think the production and taste were that great, but maybe HE just didn't care for them. I suppose the changes could be natural variations (mutations) over the years.
What was so striking about the book was the fact that the book was published in 1985 (not that long ago for this ole gal), and so many of tomatoes in the book are already very hard to find.
Yes, the information he gave as to Middleton was correct and had been known for decades before his 1985 book.

I know the book only through nctomatoman, my best tomato friend, who also has had a copy for many years.

Rather than natural mutations I think it's far more likely that as I quoted from the MI Bulletin, that those three varieties were mixed up even pre-1939, so that today it would be difficult to know if someone was actually growing Bonny Best or just what were they growing.

Subtle mutations can and do happen, but they aren't that frequent and most of the time I think when folks refer to such mutations, it's just poor seed saving/seed production. Just my opinion.

One of the synonyms for BB is The Landreth, seeds from the USDA PC GRIN when it was still possible to request varieties which is a variety I've also grown and I swear you couldn't tell it from BB, which I've also grown.
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Old March 1, 2011   #14
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Thanks for the info, the only thing I could find before was the (mis)information that it came from Bonnie plant farm. I guess I should have asked you in the first place!
So perhaps the Bonny best my grandma grew in the mid thirties could've already been something else entirely.
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Old March 23, 2011   #15
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Default Great Info

Great info on Bonny Best, thanks so much for posting this.
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