I blogged my impressions on the Tomatopalooza website - here.
So with Tomatopalooza X somehow come and gone, I ventured back into the garden today....an increasingly stressed, tired, diseased garden, sadly (but not surprisingly - this seems to happen every year). I actually did pick some tomatoes, though nowhere near the number I've picked over the last two weeks. There were some summer squash, a good picking of green beans - and there are hot and sweet peppers and eggplant all ready for picking and eating.
But my annual focus - tomatoes - went well this season. I've got seed saved from the vast majority of varieties I planted. The Dwarf project produced many delights and is well set for years of fun. Some varieties just reconfirmed their excellence - Brandywine, Green Giant, Cherokee Green and Purple and Chocolate, Polish, Lucky Cross and Lillian's Yellow. A new tomato hero emerged - Dester Amish. I managed to get some fresh seed from a few old favorites germinated from very old seed - Big Sandy, Anna Russian and Cooper's Special.
So now I have lots to ponder and work on - a possible magazine article, a likely book - the SSE tomato tasting. I plan to attend the next three Zely and Ritz tomato dinners - August 1, 7 and 9 - and will engage in some tomato talk at those events. October will bring a few weeks at Ocracoke. And throughout there will be pepper and eggplant seed saving, dead plant tossing, and even some initial planning for what comes next!
Tomatopalooza X is today - in Efland, NC - from 1-4 PM..... information can be found here.
I am about to head out to pick the cherry tomatoes, select some hot pepper plants in small pots for table decorations - maybe one more look around the plants for any last minute ripe tomatoes. Then load up the car and truck...and off we go!
Hope to see you there....and don't forget to bring your tomatoes and salsa! And your cameras...and pencil and something to jot down your favorites on.
For those who are concerned about the heat - it is always just a little bit cooler in Efland, there is always a breeze, always some shade. And lots of tomatoes and good people.
See you there, I hope!
Let's call the list below the maximum list - a few varieties will likely come off as they fail to make it in edible condition to Saturday. Then again, a few more may come on if other things ripen over the next few days.
But...get your palates ready! Don't worry about the numbers after the Dwarf names - they are my reference vial number. Most of the indeterminates will be OK for saving a few seed from (and there are a few mystery crosses that may prove fun to work with). A few of the Dwarfs will be OK for seed saving (the released ones - I will have those on the main table) - but for varieties on the Dwarf tables, no seed saving, please!
Pictures of the tomatoes below
Green Zebra Cherry
Sungold Select II (red fruit)
Casey's Pure yellow cross red cherry
Aunt Ruby's German Green
Nelson's Golden Giant
Farmers Market Bicolor
Dana's Dusky Rose
JD Special C-Tex
Hege's German Pink
German Johnson Potato leaf
Lillian's Yellow Heirloom
Hillbilly red cross
Caitin's Lucky Stripe
Cour du Bui
Reinhard Chocolate Heart
Casey's Pure Yellow cross large yellow striped
Green Giant cross large pink
Trader Joe Yellow Cherry
Cherokee Chocolate cross small red
Taps regular leaf
German Johnson regular leaf
Dwarf Russian Swirl 3467
Dwarf Blazing Beauty 3434
Dwarf Blazing Beauty 3435
Green Beauty 3366
Uluru Ochre 3481
Loxton Lad 3432
Summertime Gold 2512
Uluru Ochre 3460
Dwarf Sweet Scarlet 3412
Dwarf Arctic Rose
Summertime Gold 08-145
Dopey F2 selection 1
Dopey F2 selection 2
Dopey F2 selection 3
Dopey F2 selection 4
Ivalde F2 selection 2
Ivalde F2 selection 4
Dwarf Rosella Giant purple 3443
Summetime Gold 11-181
Uluru Ochre 11-147
Rosella Crimson 3445
Rosella Crimson 3444
Dwarf Sweet Scarlet 3457
Dwarf Blazing Beauty 3410
Uluru Ochre 3460
Dwarf Jade Beauty
Dwarf Beryl Beauty
Dwarf Golden Heart
Beauty King yellow striped
Dwarf Kelly Green
Dwarf Sweet Sue
Fred's Tie Dye
Dwarf Lemon Ice 3513
Dwarf Lemon Ice 3156
Dwarf Pink Passion 3180
Beauty Yellow green striped
Blazing Beauty 11-40
Barossa Moon 3431
Summertime Gold 2512
Let's do this again - If you are going to attend Tomatopalooza this coming Saturday, please register here! The general Tomatopalooza website is here.
We are only a few days away!
Well, my hair is grayer and less abundant than I realized....and watching videos of myself really pains me! But for those who are interested, here
is today's WRAL Tarheel Traveler segment. Thanks to Scott and Mike - well done!
Once Tomatopalooza is over, as always seems to happen, my tomatoes start to recede in a big way....which will free me up to start focusing on eggplant and peppers. As far as what tomatoes I will bring to taste to Tomatopalooza.....I will make the decision tomorrow - there are lots of ripe fruit sitting on my floor and table, but whether it will survive until Saturday is always an adventure! Stay tuned....on Friday I will blog the varieties I will bring.
Of course, the success of Tomatopalooza depends upon the varieties that all attendees are able to share.....and I am sure that, as always, my worries of insufficient tomato numbers will be proven unnecessary!
First, to repeat my last blog - If you are going to attend Tomatopalooza, please register here! The general Tomatopalooza website is here.
We are less than a week away!
Next....if you happen to be near your TV tomorrow at 5:55 PM and happen to be watching WRAL, you just might see someone familiar and involved with tomatoes in a big way....(I am cringing already!). I've been told it should show up on the website after 7 PM tomorrow night - here
Finally - my blogging has decreased as tomato harvest, seed saving, documenting and preserving has increased. My driveway is an assortment of plants in various stages of health - from excellent to totally dead. That's typical for this time of year, with the type of heat and humidity we've experienced, and the varying ability of different varieties to deal with it all.
Right now I've got 9 flats of tomatoes just picked....a dining room table and kitchen counter each half covered with them. If it were only as simple as pick and eat or process - but of course it is pick, record, decide seed save or not...then this week the added complication - will it last for Tomatopalooza, or does it have to wind up in sauce or salsa or a canning jar?
Some things are not what I hoped them to be, which is typical. Of all of the varieties we carried as seedlings this year, you may have a surprise if you are growing the following: Caitlin's Lucky Stripe (I knew it wasn't totally stable yet - I got delicious 4 ounce pink ovals with yellow and green shoulders, rather than 6 ounce pink fruit with gold vertical stripes), Tennessee Britches (mine are coming out large, flat, ugly and pale yellow with pink streaks), Large Lucky Red (it is a nice tomato, but pink - supposed to be red, and I am not surprised to still see variations), Sungold Select II (mine is a red cherry - tasty, but not gold like it is supposed to be) and Hillbilly (mine is a hard, red thing - clearly a hybrid, and not very good). And there may be issues with pepper Corno di Toro (long, slender, green, likely crossed with a hot type), Super Shepherd (a pretty chartreuse, but pretty hot, so beware! supposed to be dark green) and eggplant Ping Tung Long (mine looks like Rosa Bianca instead). Not too bad, actually, considering how many varieties we carried. And not all bad news - the surprises, with the exception of Hillbilly and Corno di Toro, are just fine as they are.
Tomatoes of the year for me (not counting Dwarfs, some of which have been spectacular) are Green Giant, Brandywine, Dester Amish, Lillian's Yellow Heirloom, Nepal, Cherokee Green and Polish. All have outstanding flavor (really 9 out of 10 territory) and are doing very well. Amish Dester is a new one I got from my visit to the SSE last fall....I will have seedlings next spring!
If some of the tomatoes I picked today (and hope to pick in the next few) hold, I could have over 100 different varieties to bring to Tomatopalooza. But you never know....must get them out of the hot garage and stage them indoors!
If you are going to attend Tomatopalooza, please register here! The general Tomatopalooza website is here.
it is only one week away.....can't you just taste those yellow, red, purple, green, white, striped, pink and orange tomatoes now? We hope to see you in Efland next Saturday!
it's hard to believe that the little tasting that my friend Lee and I conceived ten years ago has grown the way it has, but here we are, about to celebrate the tenth anniversary! The event organizers are hard at work behind the scenes getting things ready....all of the information can be found here
- we would love you to check out that link as soon as you can and register (there are no attendance limits - we are just asking for minimal information).
The event will be held at the home of our friends Jimmy and Fred in Efland NC at their beautiful location (it's always cooler there than in Raleigh, and it's a great place to just clear your mind and wander about the grounds). There will be lots of tomatoes of all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors (hopefully many of them supplied by you, the attendees!)....lots of great people with whom to engage in tomato talk, and starting at 4, music and clogging.
And this year we are going to have a Salsa competition (not the dance...the food) - info on all of this will be found on the Tomatopalooza website
. I am in the process of pondering categories for the competition. Feel free to bring palate refreshers as well - show off your culinary skill (finger food only, however - we won't be using hot plates, or rummaging the property for dishware and utentils).
I am never sure what I will bring in terms of tomatoes - each year I worry that my crop will be past its peak, plants dead, etc - but we shall see (there are always Mexico Midgets and Sungolds, and I can pretty much guarantee Blush, Maglia Rose and Green Zebra Cherry tomatoes as well). There should also be a representative sample of the Dwarf Tomato Breeding Project (which always gets its own table, as well as a caution to not save seeds from that table, as the varieties are not yet stable). We encourage you to save seeds from the main varieties if you wish.
Please ask any questions that you have - to me via my email address, or through the Tomatopalooza website itself.
Please do consider coming, please register....and we hope to see you in Efland on Saturday July 28 at 1 PM!
I didn't tell her which varieties I used, but cut up big slabs of 11 different tomatoes, all in their prime. I arranged them around the plate and just wrote down her impressions (and my ratings) as we tasted and discussed them - just a drizzle of olive oil and a few cracks of black pepper.
Varieties used: Brandywine (16 oz, pink oblate), Cherokee Green (12 oz, oblate, amber skinned green flesh), Nelson's Golden Giant (16 oz, smooth oblate, pale orange), Nepal (8 oz, red, round), Black from Tula (9 oz, smooth oblate, purple), Amana Orange (12 oz, slightly oblate, pale orange), Summertime Gold (8 oz, light yellow, pale pink blush, oblate smooth), Polish (16 oz, pink oblate), Dester Amish (8 oz, pink, flat oblate/lobed), Fred's Tie Dye (8 oz, slightly oblate, smooth, purple with green stripes) and Caitlin's Lucky Stripe (4 oz, oval, pink with yellow shoulders).
Working backwards (least liked to best):
Nelson's Golden Giant - just a beautiful tomato - small seed locules, juicy, good texture - but very mild in flavor, tending toward sweet - we liked it, didn't love it - I would have rated it a 6 - 6.5 on a 10 point scale. An SSE member included this with seeds this spring, saying it was their favorite tomato.
Amana Orange - also beautiful, larger seed locules, juicy, good texture, also mild in flavor with just a tad more zinginess than the Nelson - after knowing about this since joining the SSE in 1986 I figured it was time to grow it....I would rate it as a 6.5+ - a good tomato - but blown away by....
Black From Tula - very nice, as always larger locules and more seeds than the similarly colored Cherokee Purple - and the flavor is balanced with a tendency toward slight tartness - a very good tomato - we both liked it, didn't absolutely love it - my rating 7.5.
Caitlin's Lucky Stripe - this is a mini project of mine (still very much a work in progress, as the selection I grew this year didn't have the stripes) - in fact, looked like a pinker version of Little Lucky, but smaller locules and firmer. Just a delicious tomato with the sweetness really poking out, nice salad tomato - 7.5+ for me. Origin - one of my Little Lucky plants a few years ago produced medium sized, oval pink tomatoes with vertical gold stripes. I saved seed - and got a repeat the following year...saved seed from that and this is the result - clearly part of continuing segregation from the BrandyTad accidental cross. I will keep trying - probably will grow a few next year to seek out the larger one with the nice stripes. That BrandyTad cross is the gift that keeps on giving (one of the best tomatoes this year is one Lee found in working with selections from that cross - he calls it Don's Double Delight - very large, oblate smooth red fruit with golden vertical stripes, a home run in flavor, at least an 8, deep red interior - superb variety, can get as large as one pound - he named it after his dad).
Fred's Tie Dye - one of the Dwarf project tomatoes, this is from seed sent to me by fullmoon (nice selection, Lyn!). Just gorgeous fruit, deep crimson interior with green around the seed gel, typical interior for black tomatoes. Very balanced, rich, full flavor - yummy - it snuck into the 8 category - this will probably be the lead selection to take forward for Fred's Tie Dye (named by Vince). I think this one will be really popular once we finish with it!
Nepal - nice to find that the tomato that got me converting from Better Boy to OPs in 1986 is still wonderful - this is from seed that I can trace all the way back to those 1986 fruit. Perfect, typical tomato interior with fairly large seed locules, plenty of seed - very full, rich, well balanced flavor - as Sue said, "it really has something extra" - it's rather ordinary appearance doesn't prepare you for the big flavor - and I have that nice 8 ounce size coming in. A clear 8 out of 10 in flavor.
Summertime Gold - this is a bingo in our reselection of this released Dwarf variety (we aren't happy with what we ended up providing the seed companies, so I grew quite a few slightly older/alternate selections so we can clean it up a bit) - this came from seed saved from a fruit Lee brought over to taste, and is F8 generation. Just gorgeous inside and out, very small seed cavities and small seed - bright, sunny, intense, sweet flavor that is a joy to eat - at least an 8.
The following were all 9+ - outstanding, nearly brought us to tears with their flavors - hard to distinguish between them flavor wise in terms of excellence, though there were subtle differences. Brandywine (this is from seed that descends from the very first time I got the real deal back in 1988, from Roger Wentling, who got it from Ben Quisenberry) - nearly a perfect flavor, perfect balance, sweetness, tartness, intensity, texture - wow. Polish - this is from Bill Ellis (which he called brick red in color) - I've had this since 1990, and as Sue said, "this and Brandywine seem pretty much identical in flavor" - shape, seed locules and productivity vary a bit - I call Polish a slightly more dependable, prolific Brandywine type. Flavor was just as superb. Cherokee Green - we just love this tomato - in a way this had the most mouth-filling flavor of all of them, but maybe by just a hair - Sue noted that all of these highest scoring ones almost tasted sauteed in butter - melt in your mouth, creamy.....and the final winner was one of the few tomatoes that I really thought tasted great at last year's SSE tomato tasting in Iowa - it won the tasting, in fact - Dester Amish. I got them to share just a few seeds with me - it is a very large, flat pink (there is an 18 ounce one waiting to be eaten tomorrow), and has the excellence, complexity, texture, balance of Brandywine or the other 8+ point tomatoes in this last group. Amazing to have a tomato that looks so much like German Johnson (regular leaf plant, pink, productive) - but where I give GJ a 5.5-6 in flavor (it has that really odd, off, musky flavor character in some large pinks), the Dester Amish is amazing - really. It was the last one we ate, and Sue just couldn't believe these tomatoes went from strength to strength.
So....what did this tasting tell us? A few things - that you can grow great - and large - tomatoes in containers. That you can get great tomatoes even in horrific weather conditions. That having to water every day in the heat doesn't dilute the flavors. and best of all - that some of the ones we've loved for years are still tomatoes we love!
Just thougth I'd share this little tasting story with you.
Well, now I know that I bit off a bit too much this season. Not that it's not been really fun, interesting, and challenging - but I am literally spending so much time dealing with all that is going on out there (and trying to ensure it keeps going on) that there's little time to provide reports as regularly as I would like.
Here is a general overview of what's going on:
Pretty much watering every day. Even through the heat the beets continue to grow and thrive - I picked a white fleshed beet a few days ago that was 3 inches in diameter, perfectly round - just beautiful - and we need to think of canning some. We are pleased with the rate of ripening of summer squash and cucumbers - each day we get 1 or 2, and that allows us to keep up with the harvest. There is one lovely spaghetti squash that is nearly ready to pick. The melon vines look good, but haven't gotten around to setting fruit yet (I think...they can be hard to spot as the vines expand). We are picking from three rows of bush beans - Velour, Fresh Pick and Jade - and they are just wonderful. The blueberries are nearly gone (so sad!). The front row cherry tomatoes are really kicking in - we can fill a quart container with each day's Sungolds....the Sungold Select II, Ambrosia Red and Orange, Blush, Maglia Rose, and Green Zebra Cherry are coming in but not as tasty...they end up in a mix, often getting chopped up in salsa. Sadly, Fusarium and/or Septoria is taking a few plants - Tiger Tom is fighting gamely but will probably last only another week or two. Ambrosia Orange is very ill and will be pulled soon - followed by Ambrosia Red and, maybe, a Sungold.
Driveway - General:
The feeling of being overwhelmed kicks in with the driveway! Just the watering and tending takes quite a bit of time each day, but the extreme heat and lack of rain has made it harder than it should be. The Indeterminate and Dwarf Tomatoes are really starting to kick in - maybe picking 25-50 lbs of tomatoes per day for the past week. It is becoming a bit of a mess - plants topping everywhere (I lost control of pruning and topping, as usual), so some frequent rearranging and relocating. (I've got plants draped all over our front Boxwoods!). I am starting to lose a few indeterminates to disease or, in one case, a broken stake which went over, snapping the mail stem of Little Lucky. And Dwarfs are starting to drop here and there - still, I will get good seed from most everything I've planted. In fact, I am deep into seed saving - just today I had 40 cups of fermented seed to sieve, rinse and put onto paper plates - and saved seed from another 40 varieties as I prepped for our canning session.
I've hardly had time to pay attention at all to eggplant, sweet and hot peppers - but they look like they are doing very well. We've eaten some eggplant, and I need to do a major picking (and we need to do some preservation - maybe roasting and freezing the flesh for future use). The ornamental experimental hot peppers are just beautiful and starting to ripen - meaning...yes....more seed saving. My dozen bird-type peppers are setting fruit - I need to do a post on them soon (as well as the eggplant and Islander sweet pepper projects).
Future blogs will (when I find some time) focus on how the various projects are working out - indeterminate tomatoes, dwarf tomatoes, hot peppers, sweet peppers and eggplant. I could use double length days right now (and enough energy to work through those double days) to get things up to date.....but there's always tomorrow.
NOTE - Tomatoville seems to be down/unavailable tonight - I will update this blog if I find anything out.
Whew - I was beginning to wonder if my taste buds moved away from tomatoes....or the heat was just going to ruin the tomato flavors for this season. But over the past few days all seems to be well again - a few varieties are shining brightly flavor-wise. And I am also noticing a few surprises - and those who got seedlings from me may be experiencing a few similar surprises!
First the good news....these are the tomatoes are really tasting just fine. In the small fruited/cherry tomato category, it is no surprise that Mexico Midget is really tasty, and Sungold (the hybrid) is just about unbeatable. I've actually enjoyed the few Green Grapes I've had (it's never been a favorite in the past, so maybe the weather is being kind to it!). Green Doctors also tastes very good - much better than my first experience with it - and it also is not quite the same, having yellow skin this year (clear skin a few years ago). I don't think it is 100% stable yet. I've not grown Tiger Tom in some years, so it is nice to be able to experience it's lively tartness again. Green Zebra Cherry, though larger than a cherry tomato (and closer to Green Zebra itself - another that clearly isn't fully stable) is just fine in the flavor department.
For the larger tomatoes, Cherokee Green is just delicious. Hege's German Pink is pretty good but not quite as full flavored as I remember it being a few years ago. Polish is wonderful - nearly Brandywine-like - and Selwin Yellow surprised me in being so full flavored atypical for most yellow/red bicolors. I also really liked Burgundy Traveler, Arkansas Traveler, Druzba and Great White - pretty close to excellent, all.
The Dwarf varieties are really starting to come in, and early highlights are Dwarf Pink Passion, Dwarf Beryl Beauty, Fred's Tie Dye, Boronia, Sweet Scarlet Dwarf, Striped Tidy, Adelaide Festival, Tasmanian Pink and Loxton Lad.
As for surprises - Cherokee Chocolate saved in 1998 is clearly crossed - the tomatoes are tasty but small, round and red (my suspicion is a Cherokee Chocolate X Eva Purple Ball cross). Tennessee Britches may be crosses or mixed up, but I want to wait for one more to ripen to be sure. And Sungold Select II is turning out to be a red, rather than gold, cherry tomato. I've also noticed that the sweet pepper Super Shepherd is the correct shape, but wrong color (pale yellow green rather than dark green) - clearly another cross. A few eggplant don't look quite right but I need to see a full sized fruit before I reach conclusions.
So, the tomato recipes are now on full force - last night Ratatouille, tonight Tomato Bisque. What a fun time of year this is!