The story begins in 1958 when OSU breeder Tex Frasier sent a few trial seeds to the Hanley Farm Research Station. The seeds were a cross between a Campbell Soup and a Oxheart varieties resulting in the Medford tomato. On a summer day in the 1960s, Clarence Holdridge, a Bagley Cannery fieldman while inspecting a crop of Medford tomatoes found one plant that stood out from the rest as more vigorous with larger fruit. The resulting plants grew true to type and become known as the Talent tomato.
The popularity of this new tomato grew rapidly among local growers looking for increased yields. The rise of the ‘Talent’ tomato was a short one, however, because the cannery shut down not long afterward. With no place to sell their crop, tomato growers moved on.
The Southern Oregon Research Station continued to propagate and distribute ‘Medford’ tomato seed because it was an OSU release. But the ‘Talent’ tomato was forgotten, and over time it became just a memory to a select few.
After 18 years, 40 shriveled up seeds were found in an envelope in local garden writer David James’ desk with a note, “Dave, here’s the Talent tomato seed I was telling you about. Good luck, Shorty 1992.” David was surprised to find that after all those years the seed still yielded a 60% germination rate. He began the process of growing the tomatoes and saving the seed.
Hope Mountain Nurseries was able to purchase seed for ‘Talent’ this winter and are excited to be a part in bringing back this local forgotten gem! Make sure to leave some room in your garden to try a few this year.