Of our four best selling tomatoes (Stupice, Early Girl, Sun Gold and Sweet 100's), the fans of Early Girl are the most devoted and reluctant to accept an alternate variety. I was taken aback by that level of loyalty until I grew it myself. First of all, the Early Girl tomato tolerates sweeping temperature shifts; from 40 degrees at night to 80 degrees during the day. It delivers a nice round red medium sized tomato that is packed with a balanced flavor that works well in salads and on sandwiches. Its thick wall makes it a good candidate for canning. It seems like the perfect tomato for short season and coastal growers. It is a hybrid, though, so you have to buy new seed each year - or a nice healthy little seedling from Cole Canyon Farm.
A couple of years ago the seed became a little hard to find in commercial quantities. I wondered why and was told there had been a seed crop failure. What? There can't be just one seed crop for such a hugely popular tomato, can there? Since Early Girl is a hybrid someone must hold a patent on it. I wondered who. What I found was that the plant was originally developed in France as a short season market tomato but was considered a failure because it didn't transport well. Ahha! Then it must be a good garden variety. According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, the seed was 'copied' here in the US and sold through Burpee Seed Company as a companion plant to Better Boy. That was back in the 1970's. Since the, the patent to the seed has moved around to various 'owners'. Wikipedia says that that patent is currently owned by Monsanto. I looked that up on the Monsanto website but didn't find Early Girl mentioned specifically. There are many hybrid tomato varieties sold through Seminis, which is now wholly owned by Monsanto.
Enough of this. To think that anyone owns a seed boggles the mind. And that is why we love our heirlooms - they are un-ownable.
One last thing about Early Girl tomatoes. If you have a chance to try a dry-farmed Early Girl, take advantage. This is a tomato growing technique that uses little, if any,water to produce fruit with intense flavor. If you Google 'dry-farmed tomatoes', you should arrive at either Dirty Girl or Molino Creek Farms; both well known for their great dry-farmed tomatoes. And if you have deep, rich soils, a little rain or fog, then you might be able to dry-farm your Early Girls, too. Check it out.