Tomato Lessons

Last October, I was in full canning tomato mode. This year, I haven’t done any canning and I probably won’t. My tomato connection, aka my Mom, lost her crop, and my yard doesn’t produce enough to make breaking out the canning pot worth it. So our tomatoes are either being eaten fresh (like a BLT salad we had tonight), frozen whole or turned into quick sauces, and then frozen.

Overall, I think we’ve had a successful crop, and our tomato cages were a huge success.

This year, we grew 8 different types. From left to right: Cherokee Purple, Ananas Noir (Black Pineapple), Marmande, San Marzano, Lime Green, Chadwick Cherry, Black Mauri, Sun Gold Cherry. 

This is the first year we grew Cherokee Purple. My mom regularly grows these, so we didn’t plant any seeds, as I was expecting my share from her, but I was excited to get a healthy start for free when we bought compost. It produced well and they are great for slicing and sandwiches. I’ve saved a bunch of their seeds and we will definitely grow them again.

This is the second year we tried for the Pineapple, and it wasn’t successful. The plant starts to die back early in the year, any of the green tomatoes get leathery and dried out. Last year we thought it was because of sunburn, so we planted away from direct sun. It didn’t work. So far we’ve only gotten 3 or so edible: delicious, but not worth the space. They won’t be going into our garden again.

The Marmandes are a repeat again, they produce well, but nothing special: a fairly standard red tomato. They are fairly meaty, good for soups & sauces, and usually consistent in size. I might try something new next year to fill my red tomato needs.

This is first times we grew San Marzanos, as my mom usually supplies me with POUNDS of them. I wasn’t planning on growing any, but we got free seeds from the Seed Bank, so we decided to try one of them. They just started to ripen, much later than the others, and so far I’ve picked 5 pounds. These are paste tomatoes, perfect for sauce, so I’ve froze the harvest so far and I’ll make a batch once I have enough. I’m sure I’ll get another 5 pounds, but I don’t think I’ll grow these again until I have many plants so I can do all my saucing at once.

The Lime Green we also tried last year, but it is a short plant, only a few feet tall, and got smothered under all the others in the giant mass-tomato-mess. The novelty of a green tomato is cool, but you can only tell if the are ripe by squeezing each one. I don’t have time to squeeze each tomato, so I won’t be growing them again.

Chadwick Cherry, how I love you. This tomato will always have a spot in my yard. The two plants that we have in the beds, plus the random volunteer in front of the chicken coop, have provided buckets full. They are perfect for drying or eating fresh in salads.

The Black Mauri was our random choice this year, and similar to the Lime Green, we won’t grow it again. I don’t really like plum tomatoes, which I should have remembered from the Yellow Plums last year, and you have to squeeze to tell if they are ripe.

Finally, our little Sun Gold Cherries. These are perfect for eating right off the vine, in salads, or tossing halved into pasta. Our plant didn’t produce as well this year as last, I think because it was sandwiched between two Chadwicks. We will try next year on a corner.

Even after years of digging through tomato plants, I always get surprised when I wash my hands afterwards!

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