Skip to content

Heirloom Tomatoes 2008

September 9, 2008

I simply adore heirloom tomatoes. There’s just no better tomato taste, in my book, than a fresh, ripe, juicy Brandywine or a Black Cherry, plucked right off the vine.

That's a 7-1/2 foot fence those tomatoes are draping over.  Yeowza.

That's a 7-1/2 foot fence those tomato plants are draping over the top of. Yeowza.

This year was devoted to experimentation. After a January cabin-fever-fueled seed shopping spree [say that three times fast] at TomatoFest.com, I ended up with 18 different varieties of tomatoes. It must have been fever-fueled, because I purchased all those seeds knowing full well that they were to be planted in a plot that could hold 8 max. (Turns out, it could really hold only 5, but, that’s a different story. See photo at right—thanks to good Spring weather, all of my tomatoes got a wicked strong start, and they just kept going and going and going.)

After I had the seeds in hand in February, when my impatience to begin Spring planting was in overdrive, I did a little research, and narrowed my selection down to 8. It was just a little research, mind you; otherwise, I probably would’ve made different choices (particularly in regard to the rejection of the Black Krim, which my friend Tom has raved over this summer from his own crop). Oh well. For 2009’s crop, I found an awesome book on heirlooms that gives a more balanced critique of the various varieties—plus some really beautiful photography—than what I encountered last winter. I’m already excited about Spring sowing 2009!

So, without further ado, here are some notes about my tomato selections this year.

Aunt Ginny's Purple

Aunt Ginny's Purple

Aunt Ginny’s Purple
Rating: Two green thumbs up
Last year, I got hooked on heirloom cherry tomatoes, so, I was hesitant about “wasting” space on a large tomato. I’m glad I took the chance. Although I’m not sure where the Purple in the name comes from, these lovely dark pink tomatoes are pretty on the vine, prettier in a salad, and super tasty to boot. The tomato in this photograph is smoothly round, but most of them are attractively lobed. There was some minor cracking in the early bloomers, but once I got their watering scheduling under control, cracking disappeared. This one’s a winner—it’s going in the 2009 garden, too.

Perfect size (and height) for bedtime snacking.

Black cherries: Perfect size (and height) for bedtime snacking.

Black Cherry
Rating: Two green thumbs up
I love da Black Cherries, no two ways about it. They have the richest, most complex tomato flavor I’ve ever encountered. They’re terrific off the vine as a snack while you’re busy harvesting, and even better chilled in a tomato salad. Their color is beautiful and somehow sophisticated—not black at all, but rather mahogony with dark green shoulders. The plant itself grew crazy tall this year—it reached the roof (in fact, my very tall brother had to get out a ladder and anchor one stalk to the gutter for me). The photo at left shows the main stalk on its way up past my bedroom window (along with a stray roma tomato that wound its way up the Black Cherry’s cage).

Almost ready for picking ... scrumptious Black Cherries

Almost ready for picking ... scrumptious Black Cherries

The photo to the right shows a few Black Cherries on the branch, still ripening (just before I lost my grip on the camera I had stuck way out my window to capture the shot.
First of the season Black Cherries

First of the season Black Cherries

It fell aaalll the way to the ground, bumping off the tomato cages as it went. The protruding lens was tweaked out of place, but, I got it snapped back in and all seems to be working. Gotta love Canon). Anyway, Black Cherries are part of my permanent tomato garden repertoire—they never disappoint.

Black Ethiopian

Black Ethiopian

Black Ethiopian
Rating: Two brown thumbs down
This plant was a problem right from the start, as it developed some kind of localized wilt very early on. I immediately, and brutely, cut out everything in proximity to the wilt, and the plant did survive. It has an attractive branching habit and produces heart-shaped fruit in sweet little clumps of two’s or three’s, but that’s where the attraction ends. There’s a very small window when the tomatoes are ripe and viable; they quickly rot and collapse on the vine. The same is true when picked. They just don’t last. And, for the death knell: they have a mealy texture and bland taste that just shouldn’t exist in a tomato. (This was the tomato I picked over the Black Krim. D’oh!)

Blondköpfchen

Blondköpfchen

Blondköpfchen
Rating: Two green thumbs up
German for “little blond girl,” this yellow cherry variety was a wonderful surprise. Robust is the word to describe the plant’s habit, and “be fruitful and multiply” doesn’t begin to cover this plant’s production. While the Black Cherry goes easily vertical, Blondköpfchen goes, well, everywhere. Up, out, then down. I admit inadequacy in keeping this thing properly staked. I noticed only yesterday that the weight of the top of the plant had pulled the uppermost cage down and perpendicular to the rest of the cages on which it is stacked. The plant is so bushy, however, that nothing looks wrong—basically, it grew to the height of the fence in the photo at the top of this post, and then bent back over. It’s now brushing the ground, so, I figure that’s about 14 feet of vine. It’s so full of big branches of fruit that I can’t keep up with the harvest. They have good staying power, though, both on and off the vine. The fruit is a little fragile, so you have to develop a flair for plucking them from their stems without causing a split. All of this effort is easily worth it, however, as the tomatoes themselves are a delight. Slightly fruity, just the right amount of tomato flavor. And they’re just beautiful in a mixed tomato salad.

Fargo

Fargo


Fargo
Rating: undecided
A variety of Yellow Pear, this tomato is attractive to grow, and because of its determinate nature, it remains compact and easy to control. As a novelty tomato, I give it high marks, as it looks fantastic on a tray of crudités or sliced vertically in half for dramatic display in a salad. The flavor, however, is nothing to write home about. Not offensive by a long shot, but, not, you know, anything that makes you go “Mmmmm!” I may grow it again next year in another location, as the yellow, pear-shaped fruit on the vine is a very cheery sight in the garden.

Garden Peach

Garden Peach

Garden Peach
Rating: Two green thumbs up
Billed strictly as a novelty tomato, this variety looks just like a slightly underripe peach, complete with a light fuzz. I enjoy this tomato probably more than I should. I just love the pale lemon yellow coloring with the light rose blush. The flavor is mild and sweet, slightly citrusy, and perfectly complements other more strongly flavored tomatoes. Me likey.

It's back there.  You just gotta look rreeeeal hard.

It's back there. You just gotta look rreeeeal hard.

Isis Candy
Poor Isis Candy. It just didn’t have a chance this year. It got off to a slower start than the rest of its tomato compadres, which normally wouldn’t be a problem because it was still a good start. But, I planted it in a corner, in too close proximity to the Garden Peach and Black Ethiopian and it was quickly overwhelmed, not getting anywhere near the sunlight it needed. I did get to taste the few that managed to ripen, and they were okay, but, I don’t feel it’s fair to give it a definitive evaluation without a larger sampling. I’ll probably be tearing out the Black Ethiopian soon, so, it might still have a chance to push out late-season fruit.

Update Sept. 21: Isis Candy is finally coming into its own and has pushed out a good bit of fruit. It should be ripe in a few days, and I’ll report my findings then.

Long Tom Roma

Long Tom Roma

Long Tom Roma
Rating: Two green thumbs up
I really looked forward this year to the production of this tomato. I’m trying my hand at canning, and I’m on a mission to create the perfect tomato puree (for one of my soups, of course). The Long Tom has not disappointed. It’s flavor is superb, and not just for making sauce. It’s wonderful in more traditional lettuce based salads (especially with some arugula), and I’m betting it will be a fabulous salsa tomato because of its meaty, low-seed content (I’ll let you know this weekend). Plus, they’re just so darn cute on the vine, sprouting bright fire engine red in all sorts of shapes and sizes, both lobed and smooth. It’s a keeper. I only wish I had grown more plants.

Sweet Pea Currant

Sweet Pea Currant

Sweet Pea Currant
Rating: Two green thumbs up
Ahhh. The season’s surprise winner. How do I love thee, Sweet Pea? Let me count the ways. This is the smallest tomato I’ve ever seen (literally pea-sized), and has the most intriguing and beautiful growing habit. Dozens of tomatoes sprout on long grape-like trusses, ripening over time from stem to tip, producing a gorgeous cascade of red-orange-yellow-green tomatoes, all on the same truss.

Two trusses of Sweet Pea Currants

Two trusses of Sweet Pea Currants

I wish my little point-and-shoot could replicate on screen what I see when I stand before this plant. Tiny little jewels all over, top to bottom, like a big round Christmas tree. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve read that growing this plant in a controlled greenhouse environment can produce trusses with as many as 120 tomatoes each. If only I had a greenhouse….

Now, it’s true that I don’t particularly enjoy slicing these babies for a salad (you have to slice them so your fork has a rough surface to poke), but they’re perfect for snacking, so I pack them up, truss and all, in a plastic bag, and eat them like potato chips throughout the day at work. The amazing part is their flavor. Ounce for ounce, this tiny gem packs a huge tomato punch and cheers me in my dreary little cube world. Absolutely delicious.

Heirloom tomato salad with fresh sweet basil

Heirloom tomato salad with fresh sweet basil

Look at this yummy salad, the start of my very favorite summer lunch: mixed heirloom tomatoes, sliced Sugar Crunch cucumbers, fresh basil (sweet and dark opal), and fresh mozzarella cheese, all topped with my special balsamic vinegar dressing. Mm mmm goooooood.

Advertisements
One Comment

Trackbacks

  1. Heirloom tomato - an update « Soupaddict’s Weblog

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: