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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.