Onkruidenier projects

Indigenous/outlandish, exotic/adventitious, cultivar/hybrid or crossbreed

Along the river Dommel

During increasingly hot summers, lush vine tomato plants shoot up among the grass along the river. The seeds of chest tomatoes enter the rivers through the open sewers and, with the warm temperatures, can easily germinate and produce full-grown tomatoes. A hyper-cultivated chestnut is about to establish itself in a new landscape – a feral chestnut in a biotope of the Dutch landscape.

Seeds of the chestnut tomato have escaped through our digestive tract into open water systems and have found growing sites along canals, river floodplains and increasingly between paving stones. At the genetic level, the chestnut tomato no longer resembles the tomato from the Andes mountains. It has become a different kind of plant, also mentioned in the Flora of the Netherlands, but its status has been classified as ‘non-native’ since its first mention in the flora. Should we consider this tomato that can reach lengths of up to 150 metres an invasive exotic? How should we deal with this? Is it not obvious that this species, escaping from a human-dominated system, should be given its own form of classification? With the advent of a new sense of nature, wouldn’t it be desirable to renew our ideas of classification and not rely on terms like native and non-native, exotic or adventitious, cultivar, hybrid and hybrid?

In more and more places in the Netherlands, the feral chestnut tomato manages to produce offspring. De Onkruidenier came across specimens along the Dommel in Eindhoven. Partly due to the warm and sunny summer of 2018, the tomatoes managed to ripen and reproduce without human help. Originating in the Andes Mountains and originally small as a marble and yellow in colour, this tomato made its appearance in Europe in the 15th century. Only after World War II did we in the Netherlands become addicted to this berry. Meanwhile, the tomato is the most widely eaten vegetable in the world, fully adapted to growing in the greenhouse at a constant temperature of 18 degrees Celsius, a dosed amount of water and some nutrients.

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