Well, Becky has moved on to other libraries, but we've become friends, and my seedlings grow in Becky's garden each season. She also is the first to take me up on my offer to provide a blog entry, and hopefully, others will submit entries for me to post. So, here are the words of Becky Woodhouse, the first nctomatoman site guest blogger! Becky, thanks for your charming story.
Better than Chocolate Tomatoes
By Becky Woodhouse
If a tomato ever described the sun, it would be the Sungold cherry tomato. Sungold conjures an image of the fiery orange ball when it sets in a summer sky over the ocean, only millions of times smaller minus the heat. The color of fall harvest pumpkins, a bite of this little tomato captures sweetness better than chocolate.
Sungold tomatoes, Lycopersicon esculentum, are hybrid cherry tomato fruits. Yes, tomatoes are botanically classified as fruits, but most of us call them vegetables. When you pop one of these tiny grape sized gems into your mouth, eating your daily dosage of vegetables does not come to mind. Sungold, like most tomatoes, are full of vitamin A, vitamin C, and lycopene, an antioxidant. This tomato could be bottled and sold as a happy pill; for it brings a smile to your face once you eat just one. The little tomato has become very popular, but hard to find.
Enter Craig LeHoullier, “NC Tomato Man”. The first time I ever heard of this variety was because of him, a well-known tomato expert and seed saver. He touted this tomato as a wonderful treasure to be savored. Now that Sungold has gained a following, folks ask Craig for them before the blowing of March winds. My husband and I start dreaming of tomatoes in January, especially Sungold. Once you find out about this tomato, you’d think there is no other. Sungold is particularly well-suited for hot humid summers and container growing.
Craig assures everyone he grows over 100 tomato varieties each year, many with Sungold worthiness - some even better. I try a few new tomatoes every year along with my old standbys, and while they are wonderful, my heart belongs to Sungold. Craig is to be commended for keeping Sungold popular, and for saving many other delicious old-fashioned varieties of tomatoes from becoming extinct. Heirloom tomatoes are in vogue and have become well-known. This was not always the case.
My father planted an acre garden. He grew Brandywine, Big Boy, Beefstake, German Johnson, and Early Girl. Many times, he just bought no-tag six packs at flea markets, farmer’s stands or greenhouses and traded with friends. He frequented Hills Farm and Garden Center, a one of kind supply company. This type of garden center is becoming rare today, much like many heirloom vegetables and fruits. One of his favorite tomatoes was “Mr. Stripey” or “Pineapple”, which is actually an old-fashioned variety, but we didn’t know that then. Occasionally, he would plant a cherry or yellow tomato. We never used the word heirloom. Any talk using the words “sun and gold” together did not exist for us, since we picked tomatoes in blazing 90 degree heat. We did not water because the garden was too large and faraway from hoses. Dad rarely grew cherry tomatoes for several reasons, one of which teeny tomatoes did not work well with sandwiches. Many summers there were so many tomatoes we couldn’t give them away, and this was after we canned enough to last two winters. Tomato growing has changed, unless you are a farmer.
With less land, growing big gardens is not as possible for many homeowners. Canning, while becoming popular again, was done for survival. Sungold and other smaller sized tomatoes are easy to grow in small spaces and people are beginning to understand the importance of planting hierloom varieties.
When planting Sungold in good soil and with tomato/vegetable fertilizer, make certain they are staked, especially in containers. With most all cherry tomatoes, the vines grow very tall and can ramble. Keep them evenly watered and pick them only when fully ripened to get the taste of perfect sweetness. Sungold tomatoes look lovely in a bowl with other varieties, and are perfect for summer salads. And don’t forget, there are so many other tomato varieties to try, each with their own delicious taste. Speaking of sweet, there is a tomato called Cherokee Chocolate—hmm, could it be better than Sungold?