Thursday, January 26

Last Summer's Tomatoes

This past summer I harvested many pounds of tomatoes. My neighbors and my husbands co-workers were very pleased and I learned a few new things.

I wanted to try a whole bunch of new varieties this past season as a type of experiment. I wanted to see what else would grow, in addition to my every-year varieties. I wanted more colors and sizes and shapes and many an hour was spent agonizing over the pages of the Baker Creek seed catalog.

The Selections:

White Tomesol
Gelbe von Thun
Cherry Roma
Mexico Midget
Red Cherry
Sweet Pea Currant
Yellow Cherry (Sungold)
Black Cherry
Blue Gold

Black Cherry 

Blue Gold, not yet ripe

As always, I planted many more plants than I needed and they took over the space allotted in the garden for tomatoes. The chickens were also beneficiaries of the excess, especially damaged fruit. On an interesting side note, later in the summer I had very hardy tomato plants growing in the chickens area which I take as a testimony as to the power of natural seed.

In short, most types of tomatoes will grow well in good soil. I enjoyed the colors and learning the quirks and benefits of each new variety. The blue golds are my neighbors new favorite. They grow fast and the plants produce a very large number of cherry-size tomatoes. They do take a bit longer to ripen and it was hard to tell at first if they were, in fact, ripe. I had my husband out in the garden with  me, handing him samples to test. We reached a point where they are ripe when the tomato is basically half black, half bright yellow. Also, they are a little difficult to pick. Normally, I would just pick a cherry tomato and it would come right off the green, leaving no stem on the tomato. With the blue golds, if you try to pick like that, the top of the tomato will split and it ends up as a big sticky mess in your picking basket. It is a little more work, but I found the best way to pick these is to leave the stem intact and use a small pair of garden sheers to snip the stem off right above the pointed leaves. It leaves the tomato intact and does not cause the juice get all over the other tomatoes in your basket.

Ripe Blue Gold tomatoes

I also tried a new trellising method for the blue golds. Nothing high-tech, just some wooden stakes with twine woven back and forth between them, and crossed in the middle. The tomatoes seemed to grow very well this way, there was no hard metal edges for the branches to bend against and it kept the plants upright and off the dirt. It might not have been the prettiest tomato trellis system, but it worked and I will be using it again.

Simple wooden stake and twine trellis system.

This works well with more of a non-climbing tomato plant.

This seasons winners were mostly in the 'cherry' category. Sungold, Black Cherry, Red Cherry, Cherry Roma and Blue Gold were all favorites. Most of the others did well, but the cherry varieties won out. I was not a fan of the White Tomesol - they split easily and the plants had a hard time staying upright, even with a lot of support.

The other variety that I am not going to grow again, at least for a few more years, is the Sweet Pea Current. Although it grew very well and produced a lot of fruit, it was difficult to pick in that they are very small. They resemble the growing pattern of the cherry in that the top fruit is red and ready to be picked, then the next is orange, then yellow, and then on to green - not ripe. It was hard to not knock off the unripe ones when picking the ripe.

Sweet Pea Currant tomato

Also, this tomato greatly resembles the nightshade plant which grows in abundance in our area. They are in fact, in the same plant family along with eggplant. I have been teaching the kids about nightshade and to stay away from it even though it has berries. The Sweet Pea Current tomato fruits closely resemble the growing pattern of the nightshade with the colors and size of fruit and at this time they are still too young to totally grasp the concept when the plants are so alike. I am going to err on the side of caution and not plant this variety again for a while.

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