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Happy 4th

July 9th, 2015

When I was younger, I remember my mom always trying to have a ripe tomato by July 4th. She used wall of waters, started planted early, and did all sorts of things to have tomatoes extra early. This year, I started ‘Glacier’ and ‘Stupice’ in early April. I planted some in the garden and some in pots. The ones in pots produced lovely ripe tomatoes on the 4th of July.
first ripe tomato 1
first ripe tomato 2
This isn’t too bad for Maine with no greenhouse. Next year I may try growing some in a low tunnel to see if that hastens ripening.
first ripe tomato 3
If you live in a colder climate, consider starting a few cold tolerant varieties and grow them in pots in a sunny location. The warmth of the soil in a container will help them grow and fruit faster.
first ripe tomato 4
I also realized that I haven’t yet published my list of the tomato varieties I’m growing this year, it includes a few old favorites and some new and exciting ones as well. I think I might wait until I start getting a few ripe ones so I can show you what they look like.

What’s the earliest you have harvested a tomato in your garden?

Grafting Tomatoes – Will It Work?

May 22nd, 2014

On Tuesday I grafted my first tomatoes. It should be an interesting experiment. The grafting seed stock was purchased earlier this spring and the seeds were started at the same time I started all of my tomatoes. You’re supposed to wait until your tomatoes have two sets of true leaves, which mine finally grew.
grafting tomatoes 4
grafting tomatoes 3
It’s really not difficult to graft tomatoes since tomatoes seem to want to live. I used this method from Herman’s Farm, I replanted a root grafting tomato and an heirloom tomato in the same pot. Then I simply cut the top off the grafting rootstock at a 45 degree angle and then cut a slit in the plant I wanted to graft and slid the rootstock stem up into the slit. I taped it with medical tape and in a week I’ll cut the stem of the heirloom tomato from the roots. Some methods have you cut the top off the heirloom tomato and graft it to the rootstock. This method seemed like I’d have better success for my first go at grafting.
grafting tomatoes 2
After grafting all of them I spritzed them with water and down into the basement on a heating mat they went to give them the warm dark environment they will need. I also put a clear plastic tote over them to hold in the moisture. They were left in darkness for a day and when I checked on them yesterday they had all perked up and looked great. Today the grow light will be turned on and hopefully they will start healing their wounds.
grafting tomatoes 1
I’m planning on planting these grafted tomatoes side by side with their own root counterparts in the garden. This will give me a good idea of how the grafting affected both disease resistance and fruit production. Stay tuned, it should be an interesting summer!

Are you doing any interesting garden experiments this summer?

Tomatoes

April 19th, 2014

Last weekend I started my tomato seeds. I’m doing this a few weeks later than I usually do, but spring has been long in coming.
tomatoes 3
tomatoes 1
I’m growing a few new varieties this year, the ‘Beaverlodge’ types from Territorial. They are supposed to start producing at 55 days – we shall see if I’m harvesting fruit in late June. The best part about this variety is that if it does well it should be producing fruit for canning before late blight arrives.
tomatoes 4
This year I’m going to try grafting a few. I purchased the grafting seeds and am hoping to get enough rootstock to graft one of each of the heirloom varieties that I’m growing. I’ll plant them side by side with their non-grafted counterpart and look for any differences is disease resistance, growth rates and fruit production.
tomatoes 2
I’m most excited about my favorite tomato ‘Principe Borghese’. This beauty is the perfect tomato, small, delicious and a prolific producer. I love that it can easy be dried and tastes just like sun dried tomatoes. It also roasts up perfectly for my roasted tomato passata.

What’s your favorite tomato?

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?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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