Thursday, May 26, 2005

You Say Tomato, I Say To-mah-to...

One of these days I'm going to tell you all about my recent excellent adventure on a day trip to a food cooperative -- a blast from my past -- last Sunday afternoon, and what it reminded me about "being church"...but first I need to get over stressing about an upcoming PR event at work, which is making it difficult for me to string coherent sentences together this morning. Stay tuned, as they say.

In the meantime, I will share that I brought two souvenirs back with me from the coop greenhouse -- Red Calabash and Matt's Wild Cherry tomato plants.

I'm having a tomato taste-off this summer. Living in the woods as I do, it's next to impossible to grow vegetables because of shade issues, but I do have a couple of sunny spots in the back yard where I can put potted veggies, so that's what I'm doing. Because, gosh darn it, I want REAL tomatoes, the kind that actually possess flavor and texture, and that come in all sorts of interesting colors and shapes.

(I know what some of you are thinking: Why, LutheranChik, when we read through your blog we can't help but notice that you're strapped into a neverending, full-tilt-boogie thrill ride of decadence and sensual pleasure. I know; I know. It must be that "lifestyle" thing I keep hearing so much about.) other contenders for Best Tomato 2005 include:

Mr. Stripey
Green Zebra
Amish Paste
Italian Tree
Cherokee Purple

My favorite tomato of all time is an ugly but extremely delicious li'l number called a Purple Calabash; supposedly the variety is nearly identical to the earliest tomatoes grown in Europe. The plant itself is a weedy, sprawling mess. The tomatoes' skin is a kind of purplish-bronze; the pulp and seeds are green; the flavor is pleasantly tart and intense. Unfortunately Purple Calabash tomatoes are almost impossible to find, even in seed catalogs, and their growing season makes them a challenge here in the Upper Midwest; but one year I actually grew some to maturity, and they were wonderful. I was too pokey to get seeds started for this year, though. So we'll see what the Red Calabash is like instead.

I know tomato growers get a little passionate about their 'maters (I was once on a gardening forum where two individuals almost came to blows, as much as one can on the Internet, duking it out over the virtues of Tomato X vs. Tomato Y), so if any of you are growing tomatoes this summer, let me know about your favorite varieties and how it's going for you.


Purechristianithink said...

Yeah, my sister calls me a tomato snob. And I said to my husband, the almost worst thing about our undcertain future is not feeling confident that we'll be here late enough into the summer to harvest our tomatos.

bls said...

Oh, tomatoes! Yeah.

I like Big Boys and Supersonics. Will go for Beafsteaks and Rutgers also. There's a nice yellow variety, whose name escapes me right now. I'm going to get my plants tomorrow. THe last two years were very bad for tomatoes, for whatever reason. I'd thought it was me, but others said the same thing.

You seem to know a lot about the more esoteric varieties. That's very cool. I feel fairly plain vanilla in comparison; maybe I should go to a different supplier this year.

BTW, there are some good gardening blogs out there. Here's one, off the top of my head, that contains links to others.

It's strawberry season right now, BTW. If you have a U-Pick nearby, it's a great way to spend a couple of hours. I'm going next week.

LutheranChik said...

Mmmm...strawberries. Back on the farm we had wild ones in our pasture, and as a kid I would literally spend hours picking summer I picked 6 quarts of them. Those were the days! (Before we cared about things like melanoma.)

I like the u-pick places, too, although if I'm feeling lazy I'll buy strawberries from Amish roadside stands, if they have any to sell. (You'd think we rural folk would be swimming in wonderful, healthy organic produce all summer long, but not here in the bologna-and-Wonder-Bread Belt of my state...we have to hunt for it.)

Usually my area of my state is not a hotbed of alternative tomato activity;-) (or alternative anything, really), but I've found a few places here and there with some really cool old open-pollinated varieties. The growing-season issue, though, is a big deal with some of the older, long-season varieties, especially since we've had a couple of wacky weather years. (My tomatoes didn't do well last summer either...mostly foliage.)

Ever see currant tomatoes? Those are really prolific, grow like weeds and even re-seed. Tiny fruit, like berries. They grow so fast that if you don't pick the just-ripe ones every day they're likely to split open. They're very pretty in salads, as garnishes, etc., and for people who make old-fashioned tomato preserves, they're good for that.

I have a couple of interesting seed purveyors listed on my blogroll, if you're patient enough and have the room to go that route sometime. Otherwise...finding interesting greenhouses just gives me a good excuse to roam around the countryside. And since I'm my mother's social director [rueful grin], it's a good joint excursion once in awhile. (Although I keep hearing, "You're spending too much on plants! Save your money for new clothes!" Yes, Mom.)

Christopher said...

Strangly enough this is on topic:
Lord tader, Cuke Skywalker, Ham Solo, Chewbroccoli, Tofu D2 etc.

bls said...

I saw that a few days ago, Christopher. It's very funny - but ver-r-r-r-y slow on dial-up. (And don't forget Obi Wan Canoli!)

I have seen currant tomatoes, LC. Can't think where, though. Tomato preserves sounds good - or some sort of salsa or hot sauce, I bet. I'll check your seed links, too.

Have a nice long weekend, everybody!

LutheranChik said...

More fun...yesterday at lunch, at our local rural big-box store that's generally useless as far as purchasing anything interesting, I found more heirloom tomatoes in the greenhouse. So now I've added a Black Krim (which I've grown before...tasty tomato from Russia) and something called a Sausage tomato to my collection. And am scrambling to find places for all these goodies.

Here's a question: Tart vs. sweet? I like tomatoes with a little bite to them.

bls said...

Well, I got my plants today. Just the usual, I'm afraid: 3 each of Beefmaster, Big Boy, Big Girl, something called "Celebrity," and one called "Carolina Gold."

Boring, compared with what you've got going! Oh, well.

I got three kinds of peppers, both sweet and hot, and sage, tarragon, and hyssop (Asperges me, Domine, Hyssopo et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbador, etc.)

So I'm happy, if fairly conventional....

bls said...

Oh, to answer the question: sweet, mellow, and meaty. I like 'em with olive oil drizzled over, salt and pepper, and crunchy Italian bread to dip in the juices.

LutheranChik said...

I like tomatoes (tart ones!;-)), with olive oil and a grinding of pepper too. My mother recalls eating tomatoes and butter on white bread in her Depression-era childhood.

Does hyssop have any uses other than the cleansing/purging ones? I've seen them in nurseries but wasn't sure what to do with them.

I have a real hankering for fresh dill this year; I might have to invest in one of those short, feathery varieties. I found that the lemon thyme and sage that I had in a planter last year survived the winter, even though I just stuck them in the dirt behind my garage when I cleaned out the pots in the fall...maybe I'll make an herb planter.

(I told Mom, "I could be spending money on whiskey and glad I have wholesome hobbies.";-))

And with that...I'm off to plant some more! Doing a pocket garden by my back steps with "Firecracker" salvia (all colors), coleus and red wax begonias). Doing a violet-and-orange theme under the dining room window, with "Jolly Joker" violet-orange pansies, purple salvia, assorted orange marigolds, various purple petunias, orange celosia and calendulas and purple alyssum. You can take the girl off the farm, but you can't take the farmer out of the girl.;-)

bls said...

Meant to respond about hyssop. (And gee: there's a phrase I never thought I'd use in life.)

I think it's used in salads and things. But I really just got it for looks - I want to edge the garden with little flowery plants. Also, I hope it's smelly and repels the deer.

I put all my plants in yesterday. I always experience great happiness and hope, looking at a brand-new, freshly-planted tomato garden. I forgot to mention I bought some basil, too, a couple of plants with beautiful purple leaves. So everything's going: sage, basil, parsely, thyme oregano, tarragon. I already had mint and sorrel and catnip and leeks. So it's a nice herb garden, and then there's Cherry Bomb hot peppers, and cayennes, and cubanelles.

I'm ecstatic.

Your flower garden sounds so nice. I never have the patience, myself, for annuals - I'm a purely perennial kinda gal. Lazy, that's all. Some people around here plant pepper plants among the flowers - you know the kind? That have those tiny miniature yellow and red peppers? They're just for looks, really - I don't think people eat 'em.

fausto said...

Whaddya know? Not only do LChik and I share an on-line religion obsession, but now tomatoes too! (I'm "moucheur2003" on the tomato discussion board at GardenWeb, and LC already knows me from the C2CD board.)

I started my toms from seed this year for the first time, and had so many I had to give most of them away. Church e-mail listservs are superb for that purpose, I discovered. The ones I did plant went in on Memorial Day weekend. Here's what I'm growing:


Early Girl
Silvery Fir Tree

Earl of Edgecomb
Aunt Gertie's Gold
Kellogg's Breakfast

Noire de Crimee
Indian Stripe

Red/Pink Slicers:
Pruden's Purple
Neves Azorean Red
Burpee's Delicious
Marianna's Peace
Dr. Lyle
Omar's Lebanese
Stump of the World
Milka's Red Bulgarian
Polish (Earl's)
Park's Whopper Improved
Better Boy
Earl's Faux
Gregori's Altai
Wisconsin 55

Opalka (paste)
Novogogoshary (stuffer)

I've even got some spare Purple Calabash seeds, LC, if you want 'em. Too late for this year, but there's always next.

LutheranChik said...

How are those Silvery Fir Tree tomatoes? I hear they're on the tart side, which appeals to me.

I'm becoming too lazy to grow my own 'maters from seed...but ask me again in, say, January, when I'm starting to get cabin fever and am in the mood for a science experiment on the windowsill.;-)

fausto said...

We'll see. I haven't grown SFT before. I've got some blossoms already, but the ripe toms are probably at least a month away still. They are very pretty plants, with profuse fernlike gray-green leaflets.