Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Too many tomatoes

Although we ate some fresh garden tomatoes, and canned 11+ quarts of tomato sauce, 2007 was not a great year for tomatoes in our garden. We had a cool wet spring, and a cool (delightful, really, in human comfort terms) summer, and our tomatoes didn't really take off until August, with production peaking in September, just in time for back to campus and the craziness that brings.

Of course, part of the reason for the low productivity is our decision to go away on vacation, and while gone, neglect our pruning and staking duties, which resulted in a giant green jungle. Hoping to increase our tomato yield through a little healthy competition, Dan and I have agreed to a tomato-growing contest this summer (his idea, I might add). While we still have to work out all the details, we've decided we'll grow the same varieties, starting the seeds together, etc., but once we determine a planting date, it is every woman for herself. I'm now immersed in perusing the 'net and my stash of gardening catalogs, trying to come up with the list of varieties we'll grow.

Potential varieties:
Sungold cherries (these babies are a definite)
Amish Paste*
Orange Banana*
Ruby Pearl
Green Zebra
Milano Paste+

The tomatoes marked with an asterisk* I grew last year, and in general was very happy with; but notice the plus mark+ beside Debarao and Milano? These are 2 new paste varieties I'm considering, because they are much earlier than the Amish Pastes or Orange Bananas. I saw the Milano Plum in the John Scheepers Kitchen Gardeners catalog, $2.95 for 50 seeds. Milanos are hybrid determinate types, ready in an astonishing 60-65 days.

The Debrarao were recommended by my friend Holly's go to organic gardening source, Dan Pratt of Astarte Farm in Hadley, MA and are ready in 72 days. Seeds are available from Johnny's $2.95 for 40 seeds.

Another gardening crony recommended Opalka (82 days) tomatoes from Pine Tree Garden Seeds, saying they beat the Amish Pastes by a country mile for taste, few seeds, and thin, tender skin. Of course, they are not early. And then there are Grandma Mary's Paste (68 days), but there is no mention of flavor in the notoriously wordy Fedco catalog, hmmm. As I said, I was happy with the Amish Paste (85 days) and the Orange Bananas (85 days), but now I'm dithering and these are only the paste varieties! What is a gardener to do? Suggestions are welcome.


Meg said...

Those Milanos sound good! We were thinking of trying Amish Paste tomatoes this year, but I like the idea of something really early. Decisions, decisions. We grow a biiig paste tomato that we got from Kelly's grandfather, and they taste awesome but we want some more variety.

I have no suggestions for you on narrowing down your choices. Given the space, I'd grow a hundred varieties. Good luck picking, and let us know what you decide!

Gardening for Fun said...

What a great idea to have a competition. I plan on growing some different varieties of tomatoes too. I think Opalka and Amish paste are two of the new ones I'm trying. How are they in taste and productivity?

Genie said...

I'm not sure I can weigh in on the varieties...but you're reminding me that I need to give my tomato plan for the summer more than passing consideration!

Bri said...

Early girls are a good pink hybrid that people always buy up quickly at my farmers markets. I love Sungolds too. I could (and do) eat those like candy all season long. Anyone who doesn't like tomatoes, should have a handful of those, fresh from the vine. They'll be converted for sure. Of course Brandywine's are spectacular. Not big producers, but so amazing in flavor. I love to use the Green Zebras in a twist on Caprese salad with purple basil and buffalo mozzarella. I know the cheese isn't local, but the basil and tomatoes are, and it looks spectacular. Yum, now I'm hungry for summer.

Ali said...

Gardening: From what I've read and/or been told, Opalks and Amish Paste are similar in productivity and flavor, but the truth will be in the tasting this summer, I guess! Thanks for visiting!

Bri: Thanks for the great idea for Caprese salad! That's a favorite and it will be fun to give it some new zebra stripes, so to speak. As for buffalo mozzarella, some precious things do come from away, and should be treasured all the more because of it. Buying locally is really important, but enjoying life and other cultures through food is a joy not to be missed!

cyndy said...

I've grown Debarao, and was very pleased. Amish Paste is a great producer for me (love those oxhearts)....but for a good jarring tomato, I will grow Bellstar.