|From the tiniest tomato to the largest|
I have been growing an array of heritage tomatoes for the last couple years. Each year I test out new varieties to see what works best in our growing conditions, and what tastes best on our tongues. This post is the result of this year's trials.
Let's start with the smallest contender. I grew Mexico Midget for the first time last year and loved it.
It's a tiny tomato approximately the size of a large blueberry. You can just see it in the foreground of the above photo. I didn't have great germination rates last year and this year was much worse. I replanted seed three times over without a single seed taking hold. I tried again one last time, soaking the seeds in willow water before planting and was finally granted a single plant. I babied that little plant along and then began the long process of hardening it off to bring out of doors. At which time I promptly broke the plant in two.
Thank goodness these are tough customers. The stem and a couple leaves remained and by August that little broken plant had taken over a four foot square garden plot. This plant is extremely prolific once it gets going and baskets upon baskets of little tomatoes are to be had. We, and everyone we know, love this tomato so it gets another pass for next year. I made sure the seeds I collected got some extra fermenting this year to wear off the seed coat so hopefully next year's germination will go a little more smoothly.
The next size up was the Principe Borghese tomato. These are a cherry sized tomato and one of the first to begin producing. Jody, aka the head taste tester, decided very quickly these were poor tasting and was not impressed. I had read this variety was good for drying so we decided we would give sun dried tomatoes a try.
Luckily we grew A LOT of tomatoes this year - I mentioned that right? Instead of being dissuaded we then attempted drying tomatoes in the kiln. Now, the kiln was originally built to dry wood for Jody's workshop but has since devolved into a fruit dryer. A couple years ago we successfully dried apple slices so why not tomatoes?
A variety of tomato slices were placed on large plastic screens and then popped into the dryer overnight. It worked!
|Successfully dried tomatoes!|
Going up a size we have another favourite from last year. Black Plum has reigned supreme two years in a row for ease of germination, good plant growth, fantastic taste and multiple uses.
|Black Plum are easily recognized by their green and purple colour tones|
Martino's Roma tomatoes are pictured on the far right hand side of the above photo. We grew these last year as well and this tomato has been a consistent performer for us, growing reliably well and producing copious amounts of fruit for such small plants. While they are prolific they are rather bland. Jody keeps asking why I bother with these and the answer is I like having surplus tomatoes on hand for making large batches of soup......or burning in the oven.... whichever.
A newcomer this year was Debarao. While the seeds germinated well I had some pretty weak looking seedlings which had to be culled. In the end I grew only one plant. It was the tallest tomato this year but it was also the last plant to flower and set fruit.
Late set was only one issue, it also produced very few tomatoes and caught early blight. For the trouble I don't know I would bother with this one again but Jody feels the taste was worth it so perhaps another year we will give this one a try.
Unfortunately early blight made a real mess of things this year. Two varieties, Ace 55 and Nepal, didn't stand a chance with this disease. I gathered a few tomatoes from each variety but generally the whole crop was a loss. Unfortunately I wasn't very good about keeping things organized when picking and the couple tomatoes I harvested got mixed up with other varieties so I can't even verify what these tomatoes looked or tasted like. I know they both had about 50% germination rate and were mid-season producers. Both are mid-size perfectly round tomatoes but whether they were something to grow again remains a mystery.
Another mid-season producer with a mid-size tomato was Starfire. I was able to recognize these because the majority of the tomatoes turned to sludge once the early blight got hold of them. While the disease affected the plants by killing the leaves and stems much of the fruit from other varieties was still able to be picked. However, early blight made Starfire completely unusable. They developed yellow spots that turned to goo and we threw out more tomatoes than I care to remember. These will not be making a return to the garden.
The final category are the biggies. Woodle Orange is an indeterminate tomato that took its sweet time developing flowers and fruit. I don't like a late plant but I have to admit these were a nice tomato.
Big perfectly round yellow fruit, very little seed and lots of meat. They were a joy to cut into. I love yellow tomatoes for a variety of soups and chili. There's a particular flavour that is a great accent in certain recipes. This was a healthy plant producing plenty of nice fruit and my only complaint is how long it took to grow. Encroaching cold temperatures is always a concern so I think I'll continue my hunt for an early producing yellow. But I won't forget about these.
Yet another tomato recycled from last year was the Rosella Purple.
These short sturdy plants always germinate well and produce a reasonable amount of very large smokey flavoured tomatoes. If there is a single negative it is that the uneven rippled shape of these tomatoes makes slicing a bit tricky. A fairly minor defect I think.
That leaves only one. The final variety was the classic heritage Mortgage Lifter tomato. This is possibly the largest beefsteak tomato you can grow.
|In comparison to the tiny Mexico Midget|
Despite the early blight this was a pretty fantastic year for tomatoes and we still have bags and bags of vacuum sealed tomatoes in the freezer, along with soup and sauce to carry us through winter. Now I'm off to ponder what varieties I'll be growing in the next garden season...