Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Tomato crazy

I can't think of much to write about today, so I'll continue my garden description with the tomato varieties I planted. I have five 4x8 raised beds of tomatoes now, with a total of 40 plants in the ground. Most if not all of the varieties I have planted are heirlooms; that is, they are open-pollinated (not hybrid) varieties, ones from which seeds can be saved. Many of the varieties were introduced in the late 1800's or early 1900's, and were the preferred kinds until seed companies started ensuring future sales by introducing patented hybrids. I became interested in heirloom tomatoes back in 1993 or 1994 when I had my first garden at our house in a semi-rural housing development. My husband happened to hear about the company Seeds of Change on the radio, and we ordered their catalog. The idea of time-tested varieties, selected for superior flavor and suitability to local conditions and passed from generation to generation, appealed to me. When I tasted my first home grown Brandywine, I was forever hooked. I now refuse to buy out-of-season tasteless tomatoes from the grocery store.

This year was the first in five years that I've been able to start tomato plants and had a place to plant more than just a few of them. I had a few growing in containers last year but it was a half hearted effort that ended with a heavy frost on August 10th.

Here are the varieties, as I can remember them while sitting here at work. Ones that are tried and true include Brandywine, to which there is no equal; Rose, a variety from Johnny's that is advertised as "Some say it's just as good as Brandywine..."; Stupice, which may yield my first fruit of the season; Amish Paste, a great tasting productive variety that makes good salsa; Yellow Pear, which even my son, who won't touch red tomatoes in any form but ketchup, likes.

Others that I have not tried, or maybe tried but forgot or got mixed up with other varieties, include: Wisconsin 55, Black Cherry, Mother Russia, and Black from Tula, courtesy of Martin "Paquebot" Longseth of Wisconsin; Maskabec, Enterprize, Martino's Roma and Tiffen Mennonite, from Sand Hill Preservation; Siberia, Aker's Plum Pink, Green Zebra, Omar's Lebanese, Garden Peach, and Legend, from various sources; and some kind of Roma that grows nicely in containers, according to my neighbor Patty. So that's 20 varieties, and I'm sure I may have missed some.

Seedlings are starting to come up in the non-tomato beds: pickling cucumbers, winter squash, pole beans, rutabagas, cabbages, radishes, and second plantings of lettuce and beet greens. I'm enjoying fresh mixed lettuce salads every day, with some orach, arugula, spinach, and mizuna mixed in. The tatsoi is starting to bolt already; I don't know if I have much use for this green. And the spinach is getting out of control huge! I steamed some in the microwave last night and the kids even liked it.


Erich said...

Fresh tomatoes! My mouth is watering.

the dharma bum said...

erich... you stole the words right out of my mouth. (not my first pun of the day)

honestly, I read this post and all I could think to say was that I was literally salivating after reading the description of juicy, organic summer tomatoes.