BFRP wins Biodiversity award

Suzanne receiving award2nd February 2011

BFRP Suzanne Arregger has won an award for Biodiversity from the Italian Government Horticultural Research Station on the Adriatic Coast at Monsampolo del Tronto. The award recognises her work as an an amateur plant breeder - and in particular work she has done with tomatoes.

English by birth and a botanist by training, Suzanne has lived in Italy for 40 years. Her interest in tomatoes took off in 1994, when one plant in her small organic kitchen garden produced seven bright yellow fruits of varying shapes and sizes, instead of the expected red-ribbed fruit.

"I decided I ought to try to reproduce this plant that had landed up in my garden so unexpectedly," explains Suzanne.

The seeds for the tomato plants in Suzanne's garden had been given to her in January 1992 in Sacramento, California by a member of the USA Seed Savers Exchange - another Suzanne, Suzanne Ashworth. Ms Ashworth had also passed on a copy of her book Seed to Seed, which explains the best way to save the seed of heirloom vegetable varieties.

"Was it just fortuitous that this unusual tomato plant came up in my garden? I had never grown vegetables before 1992 – but when I needed to know how to reproduce these yellow tomatoes, I had the instructions clearly written out as to how to save the seed."

TomatoesSince then Suzanne has been growing and selecting the seed of the progeny of this first plant. She has also crossed several of her yellow tomatoes with an orange tomato variety that is rich in B-carotene, a potent antioxidant that her yellow varieties don’t contain. An Italian professor of tomato genetics she had the good fortune to meet in 1996 taught her how to cross-pollinate tomatoes.

Other friends and colleagues have helped her along the way. Through an old friend at University College London she made contact with the Duchy College in Camborne, and with the Eden Project at St Austell, both of whom have taken a keen interest in her work.

"The County Head of Horticulture for Cornwall at the Duchy College agreed to get his students to grow my seed, which they have done now for three years with interesting results. Another UCL student friend of mine suggested, in 2007, I contact the Henry Doubleday Research Station and my tomato seed is now also being grown in trials at the Heritage Seed Library near Coventry."

For more on Suzanne Arregger's work (in Italian) go to Google and type in Suzanne Arregger pomodori.