Kelley's Garden Review...Tomatoes

2011 tomatoes, well, let’s face it.  What crap.  Relatively speaking.  The year of the late, bland, largely forgettable fruit.  And, when is tomato season?  July?  No.  August?  No.  September?  Kind of.  October…REALLY?   They weren’t all disappointing, in fact many of the cherries did just fine.  I’m just not fanatical about about cherry tomatoes.  I like tomatoes to slice.  I like texture and color and the amazing varied flavors.  Most just didn’t reach their potential.  Having said that, they ALL taste better than any factory tomato out of a supermarket, so I’ll…slow down the complaining. 

I planted tomatoes in May, some in my front garden in raised beds, and some in the backyard in a freshly double dug bed.  The night temps were thinking about staying in the 50’s, and they days were pleasant.  I planted on a nice warm sunny day…and the next day our first heat wave hit,  followed by a 25 degree temp drop, then another temp spike, and then the cold and the rains.

I grew 13 of our tomato varieties in my garden, Arti grew 18 or so in hers.  Here’s the highlights and lowlights of mine.

The Good…

Aunt Ruby’s German Green:  I love this tomato.  I thought there was no way it would perform this year and I was dead wrong.  My best beefsteak this year.  Beautiful, subtle flavors, lightly sweet, and great texture.  I can drool just thinking about it.

Wild  Galapagos:  I can only wonder what a normal summer would do for this one.  This was one happy, prolific plant!  I made the mistake of using one of my shorter cages for it.  Not only did it outgrow the 5’ cage in no time, I couldn’t keep it inside the cage either.  It laughed at pruning and suckering was pointless.  I looked away for a moment and it grew into 3 nearby cages.  It fruited early and continued to push out gazillions of lovely, tasty cherry tomatoes.  I thought about Galapagos tortoises snacking away while I did the same.  It became my favorite cherry of the year, not as citrusy as Blondkopfchen, not as sweet as Gajo de Melon, just a nice balance of flavors.

Gajo de Melon:  Mine was polite.  I asked it to keep it’s arms and legs inside the cage and it did.  It produced lots of sweet, sweet cherries.  As sweet as Sungold but with better tomato flavors.  It was a bit thick skinned though.

Cuostralee:  I think this one will be a real winner in years that include a summer.  I got loads of big red, juicy fruit.  Some developed very good flavor, some just okay.  I’m eager to try this one again.  I think it will rival the Sudduth Brandywine for flavor and maybe out-produce it.

The Not Quite So Good…

Orange Russian and Ananas Noir:  These guys really wanted to be stars.  While other varieties napped and said “wake me up when summer gets here,” these guys worked hard.  They produced nice quantities of beautiful looking fruit.  They couldn’t quite produce the flavor to match, but I’m convinced they could reach star status with better conditions.

Caspian Pink:  The great procrastinator.  I have to say, this one didn’t get a fair shake.  I planted it in a marginal area under the drip line of an Atlas Cedar.  Strike one.  It got less sun than a tomato plant wants.  Strike two.  It’s a late season tomato, and “late” in this case meant November and December.  It was utterly entertaining to watch it kick into high gear in late November, when the days were so short and winter looming. It was kicking some serious ass in December. The flavor wasn’t bad for a December tomato. I’m giving it 3 of 5 stars for the impressive last ditch effort.

Red Fig:  I dried these this year, and love them.  The flavor is tomatoey (that's a word, right?) with a hint of sweet and no bitterness.  I dry farmed this one and it flourished.  It got zero irrigation from me, and the head scratcher here is the fact that the fruit swelled with water, presumably from the late rains, but continued to produce that way all season. I gave up on it as a fresh snacking tomato because of that.  It was just too watery and bland for me this year.  

The Ugly…

Stupice:  The bomb proof–early–prolific–laugh at the first frost–ripe tomatoes for Christmas dinner wonder.  Anyone with a black thumb can grow this one.  Except for me this year.  I planted it in my freshly double dug bed.  It went Frankenstein.  After the June rains, it stopped growing, except for the existing leaves, which grew to enormous proportions, became thick and distorted but stayed a healthy deep green.  The top growth curled up, and there the whole plant stayed, just that way, no blossoms, no new growth, no yellowing, like it was frozen in time, until late July.  Frankenstein with a Shirley Temple hairdo.  By then I had given up on it as a producing plant, and just stared at it a lot.  Finally it started pushing out some new growth, and a few blossoms appeared.  The new growth started to curl, but not so badly, more blossoms appeared, and then new normal growth, and more blossoms.  I got my first fruit in late August.  Two years ago I had ripe fruit from the first week of June to New Years day.   To it’s credit, the fruit was consistently good once I got it.  I’ll grow it every year.

I struggled with blossom end rot this year, mostly on sweet peppers, and some tomatoes, most notably the San Marzano.  It came and went and came again, I adjusted my watering and tried some amendments to encourage calcium uptake, but I don't think I made a difference.

That, believe it or not, was the short winded version of my tomato adventure.  Next up, the rest of the summer garden.

To be continued…