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The End of Tomato Season

September 25th, 2011

At the end of September, about two months after the appearance of the first vine-ripened homegrown tomato of summer the time has come to dismantle the garden before the cover crop is sown. Frost is coming: fermentation and decay are in the air. Plants have fallen down, top heavy, and many tomatoes look like sad sacks, flaccid and drained.

-Amy Goldman (The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit)

Come mid-September, the tomato plants are no longer the stars of the garden. The Vines are starting to look like exhausted from their summer of bounty. I still have a few plants that are nice and green, but the majority of them are looking pretty rough.

Tomatoes don’t taste as well this time of year when the night temperatures start to drop. I have noticed that they’re not as sweet as August tomatoes and the depth of flavor just isn’t there. That’s the main reason I no longer keep the vines around until they are killed by frost.

Today I plan to spend my afternoon clearing out the two rows of tomatoes in the garden. All the green tomatoes will be put in the basement on shelves to ripen slowly. They won’t taste like vine-ripened tomatoes, but they’ll be quite delicious roasted with garlic and olive oil. The ripe ones will be canned into something delicious, most likely my new favorite recipe for them, Roasted Tomato Passata from the The River Cottage Preserves Handbook.

A few years ago I stated pulling them out in mid to late September to make way for cover crops or overwintering crops like garlic or shallots.

When do you clear out your tomato patch?

2011 Tomato List

April 13th, 2011

I spent the afternoon yesterday seeding all of my tomatoes, peppers, basil, parsley, marigolds, and other herbs & flowers. I narrowed down my tomato list, leaving off a few that I’ve grown for the past 3 years and adding a few new ones to try. I’ll be happy when I have the new garden area finished and I can grow a lot more varieties of tomatoes just for fun and to see what they’re like.

Here’s the list of the tomatoes I’ll be growing this summer. I added images where I had them of each variety. One this I want to do this year is to take photos of the foliage and the tomatoes from each kind I’m growing. Hopefully I can do a post on each kind to give you a review.

Yellow Cherry – indeterminate, regular-leaf, vigorous and tall tomato plants that yield copious amounts of 3/4-inch, round, yellow cherry tomatoes that are loaded with delicious, fruity, sweet/tart flavors (source: Sand Hill Preservation)

Tess’s Land Race Currant – Deliciously flavored currant tomato that originated from Maryland’s southern shore. The tiny fruit of this variety vary in color; most are deep red but some are also rose, gold and yellow. The flavorful fruit are popular with chefs and home gardeners. The sprawling vines produce clusters of these intense tasting miniatures. (source: Baker Creek)

Lemon Boy – A popular hybrid tomato, particularly with commercial growers, known for its uniform, lemon-yellow colored fruit which generally grow to about eight ounces. Borne in clusters, the fruits are a treat to the eyes and have a nice mild, sweet, tomato flavor. The plants are vigorous and are resistant to several common tomato pests so they are quite easy to grow. The vines also tend to be quite productive. Maturity: 72-75 Days, Determinate (source: saved seed)

Brandywine Tomato – 80/100 days, indeterminate – It is by far one of the best known heirloom tomato varieties. There is a lot of lore surrounding the ‘Brandywine’ category of tomatoes. Reportedly it is an old Amish heirloom, dating back to 1885 and named after Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The disease tolerant, regular leaf plants yield fruits that are red, globe shaped, and full of flavor. (source: saved seed)

Silvery Fir Tree – Traditional Russian variety with distinctive carrotlike silvery-gray foliage on compact 24″ plants. Heavy crops of round, slightly flattened 3-3½” red fruits. Unique decorative variety that is a real eyecatcher. Does well in hanging baskets or on patios. Introduced by Seed Savers International in 1995. Determinate, 58 days from transplant. (source: Seed Savers)

Henderson’s Crimson Cushion – The Crimson Scarlet Brother of “Ponderosa” has huge size and delicious rich flesh. Said to be introduced in 1892 by Peter Henderson, the flesh is very thick and of great quality. This is probably the tomato that made red “Beefsteak” type tomatoes famous. (source: Baker Creek)

Cherokee Purple – Given to heirloom tomato collector Craig LeHoullier by J. D. Green of Tennessee, it is at least 100 years old and was reported as originally grown by the Cherokee Indians. The fruits are large (twelve to sixteen ounces), dark pink with darker purple shoulders. Excellent complex flavor, slight sweet aftertaste, perfect slicer for tomato sandwiches! Try this one for real old-time tomato flavor. Indeterminate, 80 days. (source: Baker Creek)

Winterkeeper - 10 oz. fruits, solid green until storage then turn a pale yellow outside and red inside. (source: Sand Hill Preservation)

Principe Borghese – The Italian heirloom that is famous for sun drying. Small 1-2 oz. grape-shaped fruit are very dry and have few seeds. They have a rich tomato taste that is wonderful for sauces. Determinate vines yield clusters of fruit in abundance, perfect for selling in fresh markets and making specialty products. Determinate, 70-75 days. (source: saved seed)

Goldman’s Italian American – Unique, beautiful and large tomatoes that have a squat, pear shape, being ribbed and pleated. These have a bloody, intense red color when ripe. Thick, red flesh is perfect for delicious sauces and preserves. Found at a Roadside stand in Italy, by Amy Goldman and named after her father’s grocery store in Brooklyn. This variety has good flavor, fresh or canned (source: saved seed)

San Marzano Tomato Lungo #2 – For canning, paste, and a killer spaghetti sauce, it’s hard to beat ‘San Marzano’, a sought-after heirloom from the Campania region of southern Italy. A highly prized Italian heirloom tomato for its fruit with firm pulp and thick skin, used in the concentrate industry as well as for canning ‘peeled’ tomatoes. This is truly the Italian standard for sauce and paste and a heavy producer. The fruit are long, often mistaken for large peppers from a distance. Fleshy with few seeds, often with ‘dry’ seed cavities, and with an authentic flavor that will take you back to Italy. A vigorous grower (we couldn’t believe the size of the harvests even in zone 5), vines start bearing later in the summer but then come on fast and furiously, producing heavy, 3½-inch-long tapered fruits in clusters of five or six. ‘San Marzano’ is low in sugar and acid, which gives it superior flavor when cooked. The vigorous plants are extremely prolific and produce until the first hard frost. Indeterminate, 80 days. (source: Baker Creek)

Rutger’s Tomato – Good for canning; also good fresh; large red 8-oz. globes. Good yields and flavor on large vines. A fine New Jersey heirloom. (source: Baker Creek)

Dr Carolyn – 65 days. (indeterminate) [Selected from a sport of 'Galinas'. Named by Steve Draper in honor of Dr. Carolyn Male who first saved the seed.] The most flavorful yellow cherry tomato we have grown. It has an excellent balance of sugar, tartness and depth of flavor. The pale yellow, cherry-sized fruits are typically borne 6 to a cluster with fruits of uniform size measuring 1-1/4″ x 1-1/4″. The large vines are extremely vigorous, well branched, and provide excellent cover. (source: Southern Exposure)

I think I’m most interested to see the Silvery Fir Tree, I’ve heard they’re really beautiful plants. I first heard about them in the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I’m also excited to try the currant type tomatoes for the first time this year. It will be interesting to see how quickly they ripen since they’re so small. They might be a great option for early tomatoes each year. I’ll never go a year without growing the Lemon tomato as that’s Mr Chiot’s favorite and I’ll always grow Principe Borghese as it makes the most wonderful dried tomatoes that we enjoy all winter long!

Do you have a variety you’re excited about trying this year? Any old favorites you always grow?

Saving Tomato Seeds

October 4th, 2010

I’ve been saving tomato seeds for a few of my favorite varieties including: ‘Principe Borghese’, ‘White Beauty’, ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Goldman’s Italian American’ tomatoes. Saving tomato seeds is an easy process, if you have a favorite heirloom variety you should give it a try to preserve it.

The most important part is choosing a few of your best tomatoes. Obviously these tomatoes have had great germination and have good genes to pass on. Ideally you’d want to choose a few nice ones from different plants (of the same variety of course), but don’t worry if you only planted one plant, the seeds will still be OK. I only have on ‘Brandywine’ plant and I save seed from it every year.

All you need to do to save tomato seeds is to scoop out the seeds and gel and put them into a jar. Add some water and let them sit until a scum/mold forms on the top of the jar. This process ferments the seeds and helps remove them from the gel, I’m guessing it also helps kill bacteria and disease. All the seeds will sink to the bottom when they’re ready to rinse. Generally I let mine sit for a week or two.

You’ll want to skim off the scum/mold, then pour the contents of the jar into a colander and rinse them to get rid of all the gel and any scum. Next you’ll want to spread the seeds on a towel to dry (I prefer a cloth towel as I find the seeds don’t stick as much as they do on a paper towel). When they’re good and dry, put them in a small envelope and label, they’ll be ready to sprout next spring. Make sure you keep them labeled throughout the process as you don’t want to mix them up! Label the jar, label the towel you’re drying them on, and label the envelope, believe me you won’t remember – I know from experience!

Not only is saving your own seeds a great way to keep you favorite tomatoes around, but it’s also a great way to save some money on seeds and have some from trading with friends. You can also give them away to encourage others to garden and grow some of their own food. I’ll be giving away some of mine in a few weeks when I have them all saved.


Do you save your own tomato seeds?

The First Brandywines of the Season

September 25th, 2010

The tomato season is almost over and I’ve already taken out 80% of my plants. I have a few nice plants left and among them is my ‘Brandywine’ tomato. It doesn’t produce a ton of fruit, but they’re the quintessential tomato when it comes to flavor and type. The tomatoes are HUGE and the flavor is probably the best as far as classic tomato flavor goes, at least in my book.

There are a lot of varieties of ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes, these are from saved seeds from a tomato a friend gave me so I’m not sure what variety it is. I’ll be saving seeds for these for years to come. I’ll always grow at least one vine even though I only get 5-10 tomatoes from it, it’s worth the space for such delicious flavor.

Do you grow ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes? What tomato provides your favorite perfect tomato flavor?

‘Goldman’s Italian American’ Tomato

September 11th, 2010

This year I decided to grow ‘Goldman’s Italian American’ tomatoes in my garden after reading about them in The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit by Amy Goldman. Notice her last name and the name of the tomato – not a coincidence.

They’re described as: the famous Goldman’s Italian-American Tomato has ongoing production of large, red, voluptuous (large in the hip) pear shaped, paste tomatoes with exceptional flavor and few seeds. Individual tomatoes can reach one pound each. Makes one of the creamiest tomato sauces. Named by Amy Goldman for her father’s grocery store in Brooklyn after she found this at a roadside grocery store in Cernobbio, Italy.

They’re quite a lovely tomato, perhaps one of my new favorites. The vines aren’t as productive as hybrids, which is common for heirlooms, but they’re well worth the space. Most of mine have produced huge tomatoes and the sauce they make is velvety and smooth, with great tomato flavor. They’re quite beautiful as well, almost stunning. If you’ve never grown this variety I’d highly recommend giving it a try in your garden. I’ll be saving seeds from a few beautiful species of this plant and I’m hoping I’ll have some to share.

Did you discover any great new tomatoes this year? Is there a variety you grow each year without fail?

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