Rouge d’Irak: Hanna’s Tomato Tastings 2007

Part of Hanna’s Tomato Tastings 2007

Rouge d'Irak tomatoWell, there is no denying why I bought these tomato seeds. We are at war with… no… in… no… around… Aw hell, I don’t know. Some kind of badness is going on in Iraq and it has a cousin and a few friends wrapped up in it. Not to mention a whole darn country that has not seen a good period of peace since shortly after the times when it’s capital was the mecca of learning and trade. I do feel for the Iraqis. Most of them just want to live their lives and the every day fact of war works against the whole living part of that equation. And no matter how you slice it, for good or bad, we Americans are contributing to it. It may sound silly, but since there is nothing I can do to help those people, I thought the least I could do was try their tomatoes.

The seller claimed that these tomatoes were endangered due to the fact that Iraqi farmers are not allowed to buy any seeds but the seeds sold by American companies. So maybe that is the way it is and maybe it is not. I honestly don’t know if tat is true. It could be either way. But what ever it is, the story makes for something intriguing to tell.

The description from the company I bought it from reads:

Medium-sized fruit are finely flavored; good yields, too. This variety is endangered even in its own country, where saving seeds was made illegal under the “Colonial Powers” of the United States. Under the new law, Iraqi farmers must only plant seeds from “protected varieties” from international corporations. Is this our unique way of making democracy?

Just a side note, but this seed is no longer sold at this company.

The Beauty Pageant:

Size: Medium size. A bit smaller than a baseball. (forgot to put the quarter in the pic)

Shape: Round but not store bought round. Just a little too squat to be perfect. You will also notice in the picture that they are cracked. The had started to crack even before the torrential rain we got this past week. These do not resist cracking at all.

The inside: This is a sloppy tomato. Juicy and runny gel. The seeds are on the large side. The walls are of a medium thickness and literally fall away from the gel and seeds when cut.

Texture: Just a tad mealy. Not terrible, but not as smooth as it could be. The large seeds do get lodged in my back teeth.


Off the Vine Tasting: This is not a stand out tomato but having said that, it is not a bad tomato. The meat is a little on the sweet side and the gel is a bit on the tangy side and then you just have tomato flavor. Definitely better than store bought but this tomato will not win any awards.

Sliced and Salted Tasting: Much sweeter with salt. Not much changes except for that.

Cooking Thoughts: This would be dead easy to deseed and the sweet flavor is nice for a sauce. This is not a sandwich tomato or a side dish tomato. It just falls apart too easy.

Growing Notes:
As mentioned, this tomato seems highly susceptible to cracking. This is not surprising since Iraq is mostly hot and dry and this would not be a concern in that environment. Pretty healthy plant. Medium size. Not overly prolific yet but it has produced a decent amount of tomatoes.

Will Hanna grow this one again:
Probably not. Cool back story, I will give it that but if I didn’t know this was an Iraqi tomato, I would not be impressed.

Bonus Note:
Patrick over at Bifurcated Carrots wrote a rather moving piece on Iraq, heirloom vegetable and modern governement. If you have a moment, you really should take the time to read it.

9 thoughts on “Rouge d’Irak: Hanna’s Tomato Tastings 2007
  1. Hi,
    I just found your blog today, and although I have almost no sun in my shady Connecticut garden (and could only look longingly at the gorgeous tomatoes) I enjoyed reading your posts. I also couldn’t resist the flower quiz. When I got the answer, You’re a daisy! I nearly jumped out of my seat. I have just written a mystery called Pushing Up Daisies, and daisies are much on my mind! I did put the quiz on my myspace page, and if I can figure out how to do it, will put on blog and website. Cheers, Rosemary


  2. That’s interesting about the new seed laws in Iraq. Apparently they are allowed to save their ‘traditional’ seeds but not seeds from new varieties. And it seems like a pretty silly rule considering that only the traditional varieties will produce the same product the next year. The seeds from the new varieties won’t produce anything like what they came from. Silly bureaucrats.


  3. Janet on

    Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, right? Interesting catalog. Lots of variety but no mention of what zones the seeds do well in. I appreciate your tomato taste reviews! Here in WA, it’s been so cloudy and drizzly that my tomatoes are just now starting to turn colors. I envy your garden, and when I finish studying organic horticulture, I will have my own. I like your blog so much, I may have one of those too.


  4. Hanna on

    rosemary harris – Hey, thank you for stopping by! It sounds like your book will be very interesting to read!

    Robin (Bumblebee) – Tired of tomatoes!?! Never!

    Robinson – I actually don’t understand why there needs to be a law at all. It seems just stupid to make laws resricting what people can grow.

    Janet – Thank you for stopping by! Wow, organic horticulture. I have often thought that someday I would like to go back to school to get a degree in horticulture. I hope you get your garden soon. :)


  5. Very interesting site. After reading just a few sections I am very curious about your bio. Do you have a picture and any background info online? Why do you like tomatoes so much? How many varieties have you grown? What is your favorite variety? Do you have a greenhouse? Why not get a summer home in Florida and grow in the winter there?


  6. Wow. I was just googling for an image of a Rouge d’Irak tomato and got sucked into the mire of tomato propoganda. I’m a year late but I’m certainly glad that I followed the link to this post (from this link).

    I bought the Iraqi tomato seeds from Rareseeds this past February, for the exact same reasons that you stated. It was odd to see it written here that they were no longer available. Of course a year has passed since you posted this so perhaps they (Rareseeds) decided to make them available again.

    Thanks for such an informative post!


  7. I spent a year in Tikrit, Iraq (100 mi N of Baghdad) and was able to sample some of the local produce. In those circumstances I felt like the rouge d’ irak tomatoes were the sweetest and juiciest tomatoes I’ve ever eaten.It has crossed my mind that being half starved to death and a lack of available fresh fruits and vegetables may have influenced my opinion but I’m going to grow some to see how they turn out in my garden. Other cultural enthusiasts might enjoy the Ali Baba variety of watermelon (also found in Iraq).


  8. Harvey on

    Interesting story! I grow a balcony garden (mostly tomatoes, peppers and herbs) in Kuwait… I have been to Basra and while I cannot confirm the seed story, the, shall we say ‘high handed’ attitudes of some corporations has consequently made local opinion angry with my (I’m British) allies.

    Enough of politics… I will seek this variety out. Before the invasion a great deal of produce came from Iraq quite naturally. Many locals and expats doing buying trips most weekends. Partly excellent food… partly for a drink…

    I had my first taste of a Cherokee Purple (home grown) half an hour ago…. SWEET!!! I found and saved some seeds, having started off with only one seed! It was heaven!

    Thanks for the tasting notes… they are very interesting!


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