Monday, October 06, 2008

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

No, I'm not dead. I've just been a lazy slob all summer and dealing with some family issues that drew my attention away from both gardening and this blog. But I'm getting back into the swing of things, just in time for the end of the tomato harvest.

Even if I lived in a tiny apartment with nothing but a balcony for gardening, I'd grow tomatoes. Those perfectly round, red impostors in the supermarket are unworthy to be called tomatoes--picked green, gassed with ethylene, and shipped in cold storage. Yuck. Why bother? I tend to go overboard with the tomatoes (I have about 25 plants this year), so by this time of year my kitchen resembles a scene from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. I swear they multiply and are plotting the overthrow of the neighborhood. In future posts I'll talk about what to do with mass quantities of tomatoes, but tonight I'll give you a quick rundown on how some varieties performed in my garden.

It was a weird year here on the rainy side of the Pacific Northwest. We didn't really get warm weather till late summer, and it didn't last long. I usually have ripe tomatoes by early August, but I didn't get my first ones this year till almost September. I don't know how these varieties would have performed in a more normal summer, so don't read too much into this report. I grew about 10 or 12 different varieties of tomatoes, but some of the labels faded, so I can't identify all of them. Here's the scoop on the ones I can identify. Note: All links go to either Territorial Seed or Totally Tomatoes unless otherwise noted. With the exception of the Brandywine, I don't say much about taste, because to me all home-grown tomatoes taste great.

Willamette: Determinate variety bred for early ripening in the Northwest. For me, it produced a modest amount of medium-sized tomatoes, some of which split in the rain. They didn't last long on the vine, rotting quickly if not picked, and some had odd blemishes. Even though Willamette is a determinate variety, the vines were too heavy for standard tomato cages.

Roma: Determinate, great tomato for sauces. My Romas did really well this year! They were my heaviest producers, the fruits last well on the vine, and I had almost no trouble with blossom end rot.

Oregon Spring: Another determinate variety bred for early ripening in the Northwest. Mine produced moderately, kept well on the vine, and produced nice medium-sized fruits with good shape and color and few blemishes.

Early Girl: Well-known indeterminate hybrid. Mine produced modestly, kept well on the vine, with good shape and color and few blemishes.

Black Plum: Indeterminate. Mine produced fairly well and kept fairly well on the vine, though some had blemishes.

Brandywine: An heirloom variety famous for its taste, Brandywines are a staple of my tomato garden every year. They're huge, heavy, take forever to ripen, rot quickly, bruise easily... and are still well worth the effort for their flavor. Mine did fairly well this year considering our cool summer, but they've done much better in past years.

Taxi: Yellow determinate salad tomato. Mine produced poorly this year, but I'm not sure if the problem was the weather or the soil. Mine was planted in an area where other things didn't do well either, so I think I need to amend the soil and try again.

Juliet: Hybrid grape tomato (well... really it's bigger than a grape tomato, shaped like a Roma but smaller) on indeterminate vine. Mine produced prolifically despite minimal care, with no blossom end rot, no cracking, and no blemishes. They also kept well on the vine.

So... How did your tomatoes do?

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