Growing Heirloom Tomatoes My 2013 Picks
Friends Drift Inn Heirloom Gardening
Apparently, I have a tomato addiction. It was not something I was aware of until my friend Kathy at Mother of a Hubbard posted how many different varieties of seeds she had in her seed bank. Not to be outdone, I started counting.
I knew I had a problem with bean addiction. I knew my pepper penchant was out of hand. I suspected I had issues with melons and squashes.
But tomatoes? No. You can never have enough tomatoes; can you? I’m not going to tell you just how many varieties of tomatoes I am in possession of. I’m not going to tell you how many seed swaps I intend to go to this spring; looking for more tomatoes. I DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM! (They call that denial in some circles! Giggles)
What I will tell you is my 8 tomatoes I would never be without. Here we go.
8 Heirloom Tomatoes I Love
San Marzanos tomatoes are hands down the best tomato for saucing. They are meaty, with a richness that makes catsup, salsa, jam and sauce truly spectacular. San Marzanos produce a heavy first flush, which tapers down but continues throughout the season. They take about 78-80 days to mature. This is my main crop for plum tomatoes.
Amish Paste tomatoes are good for saucing, but I grow them more for dehydrating. A bit sweeter than San Marzanos, Amish Paste tomatoes has little to no core. I use dehydrated tomatoes to kick up salads, soups, and pizza. Amish Paste takes about 80-82 days to maturity. In my garden they continue to produce right up to the first frost.
Farmers Market First!
Hazelfield Tomatoes are my main crop for fresh produce. I am not a big farmer’s market producer, but Hazelfields are top sellers. They taste good. They have a pretty red flesh. They are just a little flattened in shape and have a few ridges. They make for great displays. Hazelfields have fought off blight very well in my garden, and produce consistent yields maturing in about 80 days.
Yellow Pear Tomatoes, tiny pear shaped tomatoes still retail well here. They are perfect little pops of sunshine for salads. Jake will eat these by the fistful as we work in the garden. Especially sweet, I like Yellow Pear Tomatoes for making preserves. Yellow Pear Tomatoes are heavy bearing all season. They are prone to crack if the rain is inconsistent, but I still love them. These will mature in about 80 days.
Cherokee Purples are the most maddening tomato I have tried to grow! They sulk if it rains. They pout if it is dry. They give up to blight like without a whimper. But if I can coax these tomatoes to produce, the taste of Cherokee Purples are my idea of tomato nirvana. Total Zen! The taste is a little smoky and salty. Don’t put out more than 6 of these, they will break your heart. They produce maybe 2 fruits per plant all season.
Coyote are a tiny marble sized yellow tinged tomato that is making the waves as a taste sensation. I lost my first crop to floods and my second crop to a varmint. This year is my year. I can feel it. Coyotes are a bit obscure, but Maria at Blue Ribbon Tomatoes can hook you up.
Best Slicing Tomatoes Ever!
Here on the creek, few people grow Mister Stripey tomatoes from seed. That is because all the local nurseries know, this is the community favorite. Yellow with pink to red stripes, this tomato is sunset on a plate. Indeed, I call them “dinner plate” tomatoes, producing ‘maters so big they hang over the edges of even the largest hungry man sandwich. There is lightness about Mister Stripey, I really love. This will sound crazy, but Chef Rick in Frankfort serves these tomatoes on hamburgers with crunchy peanut butter. I love that! Mister Stripey takes about 80 days to mature, and will keep on coming right up until frost.
Fried Green Tomatoes
White Wonders never turn red; they will take on a yellow tinge when fully ripened. The flesh is firm, and the seed cavity is very small making them perfect for frying. The flavor is sweet, which pairs well with a corn meal coating crisped in bacon drippings. It was Chef Sean Brock who first turned me on these babies; and I love him for it. Plant plenty of these, you can slice them and freeze them for frying even in the depths of winter. These make an especially bushy plant, and take about 90 days to maturity.
Chef Nathan Breeding at House on Main in Abingdon, VA is enamored with a salad tomato locally known as Mexican Midgets. Chef Bobby Benjamin of La Coop in Louisville, KY grew a tiny French purple tomato last summer. He’s not talking about what they are called. I’ll just tell you. I’d call them “good.” Giggles
Here on the creek, I am growing out Bevin’s Tomatoes a local beefsteak variety that has been a hillbilly favorite in our neighborhood for years. I am also growing out Pike County Tomatoes, named for the county of my residence.
I am not hearing much about Green Zebras, a more modern development but open-pollinated and worth mentioning. If I were a professional chef, I would have Green Zebra tomato plants growing in every nook and cranny in my restaurant garden. They are small, green and have an acidic zing that rocks my world!
I’ve got more tomatoes I’ll be growing this season, but if I tell you what they are that would ruin the surprise. Check back in a few days for my pepper picks.