Summer’s Treat… Tomatoes

Tomato9Hi Friends! What types of summer veggies are you eating from your garden this year? Like most gardeners in the U.S., I’m sure your garden is filled with things like eggplants, onions, herbs, peppers, melons, corn and at least one tomato plant this summer. Am I right?

As the diehard gardeners that you are, I’m sure most, if not all of you, have done your share of research on the sun kissed rosy red beauties we fondly refer to as the tomato. I know I have and wow, I’m just blown away by the amount of choices we have as gardeners ~ proof that this fruit is one of the most beloved of summer’s bounty.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of different varieties to choose from! It’s puzzling as to why anyone would settle for the same ole “go-to-tomato” year after year when there are so many others to choose from and try out in your garden.  Just a simple search on the internet will reveal the vast world of tomatoes with very little effort.

Tomato11Okay, with that said, in my hearts of hearts I love to go outside of my box and try different and unique varieties of veggies, but this year I am sort of one of those “safe” people. At least when it comes to the tomatoes I chose to plant this year.  Pretty boring really.  In a previous post I mentioned that I had several old tomato seed packets that are at least 6-7 years old and that I purchased locally here in town.  Rather than toss them out, I decided to see if they would germinate.  They did, so into the garden they went.  That simple. That boring.

One interesting point about these tomatoes, besides the fact that a lot of people here in town grow them, is that they helped open my eyes to the possibilities of gardening here. That and finding my first local gardening resource here in town.

As I began to write this post and started to jot down some thoughts about these tomatoes, I realized that when I bought them so many years ago, I was literally at the tail end of my gardening in the desert “doubting phase”.  A phase I think most folks who move here go through because the desert can feel so foreign, especially to those coming from an area with lots of trees and greenery. Sadly for some, this phase can last a lifetime.  For others, especially those who refuse to accept defeat, move through their doubts slowly and with a focused purpose.

Throughout this doubting phase, I was unwilling to let my gardening dream die.  I was uncertain as to what that dream really looked like here, but I was determined all the same.  I wanted a garden to grow my own food… period. With an unwavering resolve, I began to wade through my doubts and misinformation and decided to step out of the “naysayer circle”.  When I did this, I actually happened upon my first local resource here in town. Even today, I’m uncertain as to why this first local resource was so difficult to find, especially for someone who’s fairly skilled at researching.  Perhaps it was the nagging doubt clouding my mind or the shock of how dry and lifeless it seemed here.  Or, maybe my eyes were only half-open at the time and I was unwilling to see the possibilities.  Who knows, really.  Once this door of information was open, the flood gates burst open. Well actually, it was more like a slow domino effect at first.  One connection led to another, then another.  The information came my way in nibble sized bits.  As my understanding and knowledge grew, then the flood gates opened with no end in sight 😀Tomato14

Okay, now that I’m back from memory lane, I thought I’d share some of the details on how these “ole reliables” are performing in my garden. I only refer to them as “ole reliables” because these are the tomatoes promoted by some of the local gardening resources here in town and not directly from my experience with them.

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Here’s the performance rundown so far:

Tomato5Hawaiian Tropic (hybrid) ~ Right off the bat, for me this tomato has one big strike against it.  The reason?  It’s a hybrid variety. I like to save seeds and because its a hybrid variety, any seeds I save and try to grow will not grow true to the parent plant. Other than that, this variety has produced loads of fruit so far and is growing well with the trellised single stem method I’m using.  The plant has had new growth recently and is continuing to climb up the trellis and produce more flowers and fruit. So far nothing has slowed down it’s growth, not even in our heat.

One thing I did notice is when our temps hit 105ºF, this tomato’s leaves exhibited a small amount of leaf browning and curling. This curling has been more pronounced since we received rain over the past few days.  The humidity in the air is quite noticeable.  I’ve also had a few fruit split on me recently, too. So frustrating when you’ve been anticipating the ripening of a beautiful perfect tomato only to find it split as it ripens.

Sorry folks, but I have to say that I’m not really impressed with the taste of this one.  I’ve heard so much hoopla about this tomato that I was expecting some heaven transcending experience when I ate it, but… I’ve had better.  I took a brix reading ~ a disappointing at 5.5 brix (= between poor and average).  I’m sure if the brix was higher it would have a better taste. What is a brix reading? See a brix chart.

Hubby and I are working hard to improve our garden soil by adding minerals/rock dusts and other nutrition building amendments that will help to increase the brix (nutrition) levels of our fruits and veggies.

070514_TomatoHeartland VFN (hybrid) ~ Like Hawaiian Tropic, this is a hybrid variety.  So far, this plant has stayed quite compact, but has produced just about as much fruit as the Hawaiian Tropic.  During a recent fruit count I did, both varieties had about 42 fruit in various stages of growth.  Thing is… Heartland is literally about half the size. Quite impressive.

This variety has experienced similar ailments as the Hawaiian Tropic, but has had a few more fruit split issues recently.  And, the taste is average.

Another disappointing brix reading… 5.0 brix (= between poor and average).

070514_Tomato4Green Grape (heirloom) ~ This variety of tomato is an heirloom variety.  It has performed well in my garden, though trying to tell when it was ripe the first time out was a short trial and error period.  Basically, when the green fruit turns a nice deep shade of yellow-green, it’s ready for harvest. This plant also has some recent leaf curling and browning, but continues to be a good producer so far  And the flavor is quite nice, far better than the first two.  Yup, and as expected, the brix reading on this tomato was much better that the last two also.  This came in at 8.0 brix (=Good).

070514_Tomato10Sweetie Cherry (open-pollinated) ~ This little guy is an open-pollinated variety and is so prolific both in growth and in fruit quantity.  This tomato plants has just about reached the top of my trellis which stands about 8′ high.  One thing to mention about this little cherry tomato (at least in my garden) is the continual number of browning and browning/die back.  I’m constantly trimming off dead sections of this plant but they are quickly replaced by a healthy green sucker, which I let grow to take its place. This browning and die-back characteristic doesn’t phase its performance in the least.  The fruit is super sweet, too with a brix reading of 9.0 brix (= between good and excellent).Stupice (Stu-peech-ka) (heirloom) ~ Here’s another heirloom and it’s a potato leaf tomato variety.  I actually started this plant from seed directly in the garden.  All the other tomato plants I started from seed indoors.  In the garden, it germinated very quickly and has grown like a weed.  I started this plant about a month later than all the rest and have yet to taste the fruit or test the brix on it.  I’m anticipating fruit soon since it currently has several flowers on it and a few small fruit 🙂

Roma (heirloom) ~ An heirloom variety.  I’m still on the fence with this one.  The fruit is much smaller than I expected and is supposed to be a determinate variety, but it sure is not acting like one.  Also, rather than trellising or caging this plant, I let it sprawl and as a result it has taken over a large section of my raised bed.

I do love the taste of these little tomatoes, but this plant seems to be more temperamental than the rest and has had quite a bit of die back in the center of the plant.  Inspite the dieback, the recent new growth on it is beautiful and green. I’ve also been finding blossom end rot on some of the tomatoes.  I’m currently working toward resolving this issue.

The brix reading was far from impressive at 5.0 brix. I’m certain if the brix were higher the tomato taste would be phenomenal.

Tomato12

Next Summer Season

For next year’s summer tomato parade in my garden I will definitely be trying out some new varieties.  Now friends, if you’re a crazed gardener like I am (yeah, you know you are) summer’s only just begun and you already have a summer seed wish list created for next year (shock!).

Well, here’s the short list version of my long list (all are supposed to do well in the heat)…

  • Punta Banda ~ heirloom
  • Nichols Pink cherry ~ heirloom
  • Violet Jasper ~ heirloom
  • Marianna’s Peace ~ heirloom

What about the ole reliables, the “tried and trues”? They have served their purpose and will be retired at the end of this summer season, at least in my garden.  Thank you ole reliables… until we meet again.

Tomato15

What Tomatoes Varieties Are You Growing This Summer?

I’d love to hear from you about the varieties of tomatoes you’re growing this year and how they’re doing for you ~ just leave a comment below 🙂

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Happy tomato eating!

God Bless

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Summer’s Treat… Tomatoes

  1. Lois

    Do you get the big, ugly tomatoe worms in Vegas or does the heat keep them away?

    • Hi Lois,
      Oh yes… we’re no stranger to the big green and juicy tobacco horned worm here in Las Vegas. I’ve seen a few here and there this season, but most of them are being picked off by the birds. It’s quite exciting to watch them drop down into and under the plants and grab their yummy red horned prize!

  2. Erin

    I love your love birds salt & pepper shaker. I have the exact same set… was my grandmother’s

    • Hi Erin,
      That is so nice to hear. I thought I was the only one who was able to enjoy these salt & pepper beauties in person 😀 I’m sure there’s a wonderful family history story behind my set, but I obtained my set from a crowded shelf at a sweet little antique store I loved to frequent. Years later, I came across another pair at an entirely different store. They were so sad looking and must have received years of abuse (or love), but the shop owner wanted more than triple the amount than what I paid for my perfect little pair.

      I’m sure your grandmother’s love birds salt & pepper shaker set brings you lots of joy and great memories.

    • Susan

      Whilst looking at the toms I was enthralled by the bird salt and pepper set. They are special and now I know about them. Thank you.

      • Hi Susan,
        I’m so glad you enjoyed seeing my special bird salt and pepper set (of course, amidst all my yummy tomatoes). Found them in an antique store years ago and it was love at first sight 🙂

  3. I love tomatoes. I used to germinate some heilroom tomato seeds in February each year, like black cherry, roma, hendrson’s pink ponderosa, brandywine, green zebra, etc. Grenn zebra, black cherry and brandywine grow very well in my garden. Especally, black cherry used to reach about 9′ tall. But I don’t like cherry tomatoes. They seems like have too many skin for me.

    This spring time, I had to focuse my little orchard, and didn’t have time to germinate seeds. I bought two tomatoes plants from Homedepote. They are brandywine and pineapple. This Brandywine produced 28 fruits during this June. Each one that I harvested weighed about more than 320 gram. My husband uses only half to make his tomatoes and cumcumber salad each time. But, unfortunately, I just had half of those tomatoes. Why? because the squirrels took half. In one morning I was not surprised to see the big bites on the three of red and green tomatoes which I didn’t harvest them before they are completely mature….

    Anyway, we still have had some tomatoes to see, to eat, to enjoy and to appreciate…..And really know Tomatoes are the most beautiful fruits. ” It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. ” -Lewis Grizzard. American writer (1946-94).

    • Hi Lily,

      Wow. Love the variety of tomatoes. The Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa is a new one for me.

      I do understand busy 🙂 Argh… squirrels. Hope you check out my current post To Catch A Squirrel. If for nothing else, just the satisfaction of seeing them behind bars 😀 Thanks for sharing!

  4. Home Email

    Hey Ape, great info and pics. Have you ever used chicken poop fertilizer? If so how much, when? Xoxoxo so

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • Paula! Long time no hear. I used chicken poop manure years ago, but recently I have been using (off and on) a well composted chicken manure to make a tea that I use to do a soil drench on some of my greens and onions. I like to steer clear of animal manure composts/fertilizers (potential for passing along to your garden bad bacterias, antibiotics, etc.) unless I am absolutely sure of the source (which isn’t very often). There are so many other great high nitrogen fertilizers out there that are not animal based, are OMRI/organic certified and are good for you and your plants. We can talk offline in more detail about this.

  5. Susan

    You are appreciated. Your words and picture compositions reveal the many dimensions of food growing. It’s product and so much more. My favorite tomato is the open pollinated chocolate cherry. It grows in clusters and is fun snacking whilst tending to the plants. Best year round producer is the yellow pear. Both have volunteers to keep the cycle going for years. I have Stupice volunteers, hope they produce more than their parents. Thank you for the time you are giving this blog to share your wisdom, knowledge and beauty. God Bless

    • Hi Susan,
      Thank you for the compliments ~ it is so appreciated 🙂 Mmmmm… chocolate cherry tomato. I’ve never tried one but it sounds delish. I think I have a new cherry tomato to put on my wish list 😀 That and the silvery fir tree tomato another friend mentioned in this comment section. Thank you again Susan.

  6. Kathy t

    I am sure I won’t remember everything we are growing but here are a few – Rutgers, marglobe , pink brandy wine, Hawaiian pineapple, silvery fir, roma, lemon boy, Arkansas traveler. They are all growing really well and have more fruit than I ever remember but still waiting for the first ripe one. Probably another week or so :-(. I check daily and just can hardly wait.

    • Hi Kathy,
      Wow, I love the lineup of tomatoes! I had to check out a few online to learn a little more about them (i.e., rutgers, marglobe and silvery fir). The silvery fir tree tomato caught my eye. How unique. You will have to let me know how this one does throughout the season and how the fruit taste. I think that’s one thing all gardeners have in common “impatient patience”!?! We take such care and time to tend to our little seedlings and watch the unhurried process of growth firsthand. Then we see it… that first little green immature fruit, that’s when the “impatient patience” really kicks in. Am I right. If you’re anything like me, you repeatedly count the days to maturity and frequently check in on our future prize. Well, hang in there. Soon my dear friend. Soon, you’ll be savoring your sweet reward 😀

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