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- Margaret Bourke-White
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Design by
Allison Prindiville

Rosabec Tomato

Jim Ternier
Prairie Garden Seeds
Box 118 Cochin, SK S0M 0L0 Canada

In the 1960ís and 1970ís Roger Doucet was in charge of a tomato breeding program at Station Provinciale de Recherches Agricole, St. Hyacinthe, Quebec. The aim of th eprogram was to develop cultivars for fresh eating that grew well in the Quebec climate and especially tolerated cold nights in June. He released a total of 12 cultivars whose names all end in "bec" (for Quebec) from 1967 to 1976. I was given a complete set of these cultivars by Raymond Tratt, a Quebec tomato collector who obtained them from St. Hyacinthe. Mr. Doucet also deposited them all at the Gene Bank (PGRC) in Saskatoon. In 1972 he began a program to breed "firm" tomatoes for mechanical harvesting for processing tomatoes and released several cultivars. In 1980 he began to work on disease resistance for greenhouse tomatoes.

Quebec consumers are fond of pink tomatoes so two of Doucetís cultivars are Rosabec (1975) and Canabec Rose (1976). Slightly earlier, in 1973, MacDonald Agricultural College (McGill University) released MacPink.

I am never sure if I should call a tomato red or pink so I was happy to find some information on this subject in 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden by Carolyn Male. The colour of the fruit I sdetermined by the colour of the flesh and the colour of the skin. Most tomatoes have yellow (or yellowish orange) skins but some cultivars have clear (colourless) skins. It is easy to pull a bit of skin off of a very ripe tomato. If any pulp adheres to the skin this can be scraped off. Then hold the skin up to a fairly bright white light and the skin colour shows clearly. Red tomatoes have red flesh and yellow skin, and pink tomatoes have red flesh and clear skin.

In 2004 one of the tomatoes I grew was Rosabec. We had good moisture all summer but the summer was unusually cool and none of my tomatoes ripened on the vine except for a few early, small-fruited varieties. I started my bedding plants April 27 and set out a dozen Rosabec seedlings on June 25. I harvested the plants in the last week of September, and got a good yield of medium-sized uniform-green fruits. They ripened well indoors an dwe ate them into November. The largest fruits were flattened (beefsteak-like) and some had too large a "scar" at the blossom end. There was no problem with disease, cracking or blossom end rot. The fruits were smooth with some of the larger ones having a few wrinkles. The flesh colour was ared and the skin clear. The plants were fairly large with normal leaves.

Here is what Doucet says about this cultivar:

Rosabec is a determinate cultivar bearing fruits without dark green shoulders and ripening pink. Named in 1975, it was the first determinate Quebec cultivar with pink fruits. The fruits are big (210g), a bit variable, from round to slightly flattened, from smooth to less mooth, and less subject to blossom end rot and growth cracks than other pink cultivars. It is early and well adapted to cold nights in spring. The plant is vigourous and reaches 80 cm in diameter; the foliage is dark green and covers the fruits well, expecially when planted close together (45 cm apart in a row). Sometimes this cultivar gives late harvests. Rosabec comes from a cross between Canabec and a pink breeding line selected from a cross between PI263726 (from the US Department of Agriculture, Geneva, NY) and an unknown pink Japanese hybrid.

Thanks to Raymond Tratt for the information about Roger Doucetís tomato breeding.

Reference: 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden by Carolyn Male, Workman Publishing, New York, 1999.