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My culinary obsession is heirloom tomatoes. This year, in my most ambitious gardening effort to date, I started 15 varieties from seed. Tonight I'll share some photos and commentary on the harvest.

Not all of my varieties grew to maturity as I had to grow them all in containers. But those that did have brought all kinds of bounty to my kitchen! Follow me below the orange blossom for more.

The winner of First Ripe Tomato of 2014 went to … Whippersnapper! The fruit are the size and shape of large grapes, deep pink and so sweet. I’ve never had much luck with upside down planters, but this variety is a winner.

With harvest starting in mid-June and still going strong, they don’t seem to mind the heat and not one has cracked. I will grow these again; highly recommended for hanging containers and small gardens!

Whippersnapper on the vine
On to Determinate (container) varieties: These generally reach 3-4 feet tall and require little or no staking. True determinates produce their crop over a short (~2 weeks) harvest season, then the plant dies. My two best determinates:

1. Orlovskie Rysaki
On Whippersnapper’s heels for earliness was Orlovskie Rysaki. It’s named for Orlovskie trotters, a Russian breed of horses known for its speed. My two plants grew like mad sprinters, and dusted the other varieties in blossoming and setting fruit.

The first ripe tomato appeared on June 28, followed by a harvest of 4-6 oz red, slightly oblate fruit over two weeks. Each plant yielded a pound of ripe tomatoes, and another half pound green.

Orlovskie Rysaki plant
Orlovskie Rysaki tomatoes
The ripe tomatoes were juicy and fairly acidic. They’re not as flavorful as some of the indeterminates, but a tomato sandwich on the 4th of July? I’ll grow these again.
Orlovskie Rysaki, sliced
2. Czech Bush
I planted two seedlings, each in a 20-gallon container. Each grew to almost four feet tall, and like Orlovskie Rysaki produced about a pound each of round red fruit before withering rather abruptly. I got another half pound of small green tomatoes from each plant.

They were a little later, maturing in mid-July, with a deeper flavor than the Orlovskies. Excellent for sandwiches and fresh eating.

Czech Bush
Indeterminate varieties: since I ended up growing everything in containers, the indeterminates didn't fare too well. The two exceptions:

1. Tigrovy

Russian in origin, Tigrovy is red with orange stripes and a tangy sweetness. It's heat tolerant and I've had no problem with cracking. I grew this in an upside-down planter by accident, and it's done well although the fruit are smaller than they'd be if it were in the ground, averaging 4 oz. Beautiful and delicious.

2. Yellow Stuffer

This was a novelty variety, but it's done really well. The plants are vigorous and the fruit is yellow and hollow. I slice these in half, season, and stuff with tabbouleh or hummus for an easy, healthy work lunch.

Yellow Stuffer
Semi-Determinates: Also known as compact indeterminates, these reach 3-5 feet tall and can be grown in either containers or beds. Either way, they do require staking. The plant produces a crop that gets ripe all at once, followed by fruit that continues to grow and ripen until fall.

1. ABC Potato Leaf
Another fast grower, this round red cherry is very productive. Unfortunately, it’s also prone to cracks. The fruit is small and sweet, but I don't think I'll grow it again.

ABC Potato Leaf
2. Bradley
This pink tomato is so beloved in Bradley County, Arkansas, a festival is held in its honor every June. Heat and humidity tolerant, 7-10 ounces, excellent for sandwiches. Early for a full-size tomato; this was harvested on 7/16.
3. Indigo Rose
I saved this for last because it's my favorite. I love everything about this tomato. It was bred at Oregon State University for its high level of anthocyanins, which are thought to have antioxidant properties. It’s also gorgeous, with indigo shoulders fading to deep orange heels. They grow in bunches like grapes.
Indigo Rose
I was going to include some recipes, but my deadline approacheth so the floor is yours. What are you growing, and how are you preparing or preserving the harvest? What's for dinner at your place tonight?
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