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Tomato seed - 'Mortgage Lifter' (R.C.)

79 days. (Indeterminate) [Developed by M.C. Byles in the 1930's in Logan, West Virginia.] This is the original 'Mortgage Lifter' tomato.

The following history is based on Jeff McCormack's transcript of the 1985 taped interview with M.C. Byles and his grandson. M.C. Byles was affectionately known as "Radiator Charlie." He earned that nickname during his ownership of the radiator-repair business that he opened at the foot of a mountain where trucks climbing the steep mountain grade would often overheat. Radiator Charlie had no formal education, or plant breeding experience, yet he created his now legendary tomato by cross-breeding 4 of the largest-fruited tomatoes he could find: German Johnson, Beefsteak, an Italian variety, and an English variety. After Charlie developed this large tasty tomato he sold plants for $1.00 each (in the 1940's) and paid off the $6,000 mortgage on his house in 6 years. largely through the sale of his tomato plants.

The fruits of the 'Mortgage Lifter' can reach 4 pounds when well grown. The vines are very productive, disease-tolerant, and continue to bear until frost. The plants produce their best quality fruits where the summers are not excessively hot. These large, slightly flattened, pink-red tomatoes are meaty, and flavorful with few seeds. Some of the details of the 'Mortgage Lifter Tomato" story can be heard on NPR's. Living on Earth program archives (

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