“Pomme D’Amour” (Love Apple)
Tomatoes are one of my favorite garden vegetable/fruit (fruit has a ripened flower ovary). There are SO many ways to eat and prepare tomatoes: BLT’s, cut up with oil & vinegar, caprese salad, pico de gallo, fresh and canned salsa, sauce, etc. I usually grow about 40 plants of different varieties for different taste, texture and end use.
I attended a CSU Extension session on just tomatoes a few years ago and learned some interesting information: Did you know tomatoes were thought to originate in South America? Check out the following historical reference from “Cook’s Illustrated”. The US Supreme Court decided that the tomato would be known as a vegetable because it was eaten with the main course of the meal! California and Florida each have around 40,000 acres used for growing fresh-market tomatoes. Another interesting tidbit: Tomatoes used to be considered ‘poisonous’ in Colonial America because the aristocrats died after consuming the fruit off of pewter plates when actually they died from lead poisoning!
Let’s get to some details about tomatoes. There are two different plant types: indeterminate and determinate. Indeterminate plants, the most common household type, have a main vine that keeps growing and producing fruit throughout the season. Determinate plants (more for industrial growing) are ‘bushy’ and will stop growing when they first produce fruit; therefore, all the fruit will grow at once.
There are several tomato categories: cherry or grape, slicer/salad, beefsteak and paste. Of these different categories you can have heirloom varieties, hybrid (combination of 2 or more varieties) or open pollinated. Over the years I have grown many varieties and now have a few favorites. The Sun Gold cherry tomatoes (hybrid) are the sweetest, just pop in them in your mouth. The seeds are pretty expensive $4 for 10 seeds.
I donated to the University of Florida 2 years ago to a tomato testing lab that experiments with combining different varieties of tomatoes. With the $25 donation I received 2 “hybrid” samples without names to test. They sent a questionnaire form to fill in for evaluation at the end of the season. I tried both of them last year: the “A Hybrid” was a larger red cherry tomato – I did not care for it, it was quite tart; the “B Hybrid” however, was a perfect beefsteak type tomato and had fantastic taste and texture. I tried to get more of the “B” seeds from the lab but they were not giving out the name:( I planted 5 of this type this year but saved a few for next year!
Green Zebra is a small slicer/salad variety that never turns red! Super sweet and tasty. You know when they are ripe when they are soft and have a yellow ripened color. Many of the heirloom beefsteak variety are very juicy, too juicy for making salsa. I don’t grow many of those anymore. The paste variety are great for making sauce since they have thick fruit walls and very little juice. They have an oval shape which is a distinguishing feature (you can see these in the produce section at grocery). Beefsteak are round, firm and are by far the best for eating fresh. This year I have 14 varieties: Paste are San Marzano and Amish Paste; Small Slicers are Green Zebra, Better Boy, Garden Gem, Brandywine; Beefsteak are Heirloom, B Hybrid, Pineapple (the yellow one in the basket of tomatoes), Orange Jazz; Cherry are Sun Gold and Green Doctor.
I also grew 2 Tomatillo plants that are a Mexican husk tomato. They are a small green firm fruit with a paper ‘lantern like’ shell that turns yellow when ripe. Tomatillos have a unique flavor and when blended with cilantro, garlic and lime juice make great fresh or canned salsa for Mexican dishes.
I started my tomato seeds indoor on April 6th. Now, mid August they are a jungle over 6 feet high! I am picking several each day and have already made 3 batches of Pico de Gallo. Next is a Roasted Tomato Basil Soup and Salsa will follow when I have a total of 10 pounds of ripe tomatoes. I use my roasted hatch peppers to thicken the salsa along with the tons of jalapeños and onions from garden. It’s the BEST TIME OF YEAR for fresh eating from H’s garden!