Saturday, August 30, 2008


This garden season was certainly a tomato season for me. I have never grown so many tomatoes. I didn't intend to grow so many, it just turned into that when so many of my seedlings sprouted. After nursing them along for weeks, I didn't have the heart to pull the smaller ones, and so all that sprouted were planted.

Not that some of the seedlings didn't die: I tried to get some of them into the ground in early May because they were getting too tall and leggy in the sunroom, but spring was very cold here and my "test cases" didn't survive.

There were also three varieties I wanted to try that I hadn't ordered seeds for: Brandywine, Cherokee Purple and Watermelon Beefsteak. I bought plants for each of those.

I tried staking most of them with these new spiral stakes that all the garden centers are carrying now. They didn't work. Maybe they'd work with tall flowers, like dahlias or irises, but they don't work for tomatoes. Especially not mine. I fertilize and I use growth spray, and most of my tomatoes were 7 feet tall. And because they were so tall, and heavy with fruit, they made the spiral stakes fall never again with spiral stakes.

There's also a big difference with the amount of sunlight the plants get and the time of day they get it, so my ripening patterns have been erratic. Not having enough room to plant all the plants I had, I had to settle for some less-than-ideal locations. So I was impressed that the tomatoes the tomatoes in those locations even set fruit, let alone ripened!

I will say that this has been a quantum leap in learning about tomatoes this year. I used a foliar spray product called "Spray n Grow" heavily throughout the season and I think it really made a difference in the number of blossoms, the percentage of blossoms that set fruit, and the overall healthiness of the foliage. I also watered about once a week with "Neptune's Harvest" Fish & Seaweed fertilizer, which also seemed to do wonders with overall growth. My tomatoes have been huge, have set very well and, for the most part, have been delicious. A few weeks ago, when the telephone repairman was out to work on the phone lines, he commented that I really must know what I'm doing because he grows tomatoes and he's seen plenty of other people's tomatoes this season, but none like mine.

tomatoes ripening in windowsill

A few lessons I have learned: 1) I will not be planting ten plants ever again! Too much to maintain and too much to harvest (so far, I have harvested 17 lbs). 2) I will not plant Mortgage Lifter plants again - they came well-recommended by several people and they did produce very heavily, the best of all my plants, BUT the taste was bland, and many of them were mealy. 3) I will plant Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, and Big Beef next year. The Brandywines have terrific flavor. Not a great amount of fruit, but quality flavor. They are a large tomato, but not a beefsteak, so they have a lot of moisture and seeds. The Cherokee Purples were sweeter than most and tasted like an old-fashioned tomato. The Big Beefs were indeed big, very meaty and low moisture, making them perfect for bruschetta or pico de gallo...or salsa.

Cherokee Purple
Cherokee Purple tomato.

The Watermelon Beefsteaks are unusual. They ripen into orange and red fruits with little stripes. Some are large, some are not. I am not sure that the striping constitutes a "watermelon", but that's how they are. I have yet to taste one. They are just now ripening.

Watermelon beefsteak
Watrermelon beefsteak tomatoes.

The inside of a Watermelon beefsteak. Crazy, eh? Crazy delicious.

The short growing season is beginning to wane, however; with temps at night now dipping into the 60s, the plants will stop producing new fruit and stop ripening the fruits that are set. So I will have to think about whether or not I want to bother with green tomatoes. They are good for frying, for green tomato relish, or for green tomato pie. I don't know that I can be bothered with any of those. But hey, don't knock green tomato pie; my grandmother made them when I was a kid and they tasted like the best apple pies you could make. I miss my grandmother. She'd be 102 if she were still alive and she was a great cook. She didn't do anything fancy, ever. Just delicious, home-cooked food. She fried chicken better than anyone. She made chocolate meringue pies better than anyone. And her mashed potatoes and her sweet potatoes with apples and pears were to die for.


At 11:13 AM, August 31, 2008, Blogger ATG said...

I've never heard of green tomato pie before. Interesting.

Your tomatoes look gorgeous. The one good thing about over planting is that you have plenty to share with your friends and neighbors.

And there's always canning for the winter months. :)

At 3:37 PM, September 02, 2008, Blogger Dantallion said...

Im sure it's good, but the watermelon beefsteak looks kinda, well, evil to me...


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