My parents were genuine antiques. My dad wore a dress as a baby and later he had a pet burro. Mom remembered barnstormers flying low over the farm. They were adorable when they got to reminiscing, but I still rolled my eyes sometimes.
Like the thing with the apples. You could get a few kinds of apples at the Safeway–Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Stayman–but my parents would grimace over a Delicious apple and start naming all the old apples they missed. They could go on for hours. They’d just light up at the mention of some of them. Apples! Sheesh. Just buy Pop-Tarts and count your blessings, I thought.
Now, of course, there’s a whole market in Heirloom Apples and the local nursery will have at least fifty varieties available during their annual Apple Festival. They’re good, but by the time you’ve had fifty apple dice on a toothpick you no longer remember which ones you liked. It’s a bit much, but my parents’ ghosts are smiling.
And of course there are heirloom tomatoes. I’m never sure about them. I figure they’re going to have purple stripes and be shaped in cross-section like something that lives on the ocean floor. Not Regular, in other words. I look over the seedlings at the nursery and am confounded. I’m only going to get three plants and call it a day, and I don’t like to guess wrong and be filled with regret. So every year I pretend to consider the heirlooms and then get a Big Boy and an Early Girl and a random cherry, usually Sweet 100.
|The chairs are six feet apart.|
Now I’m negotiating with our local nursery for an online order that I can pay for by phone and pick up in their parking lot. It was time to look for tomatoes. But they didn’t have any tomatoes in their vegetable spreadsheet. Oh well, I thought. It is a little early to plant them. Oh wait! It’s because they have a whole other spreadsheet just for tomatoes! Heavens to Elizabeth, as my parents used to antiquely say.
It’s not even a big nursery. They have over a hundred varieties of tomato. They have one called Banana Legs. Big White Pink Stripe. Bloody Butcher. Dancing With Smurfs. Mortgage Lifter. Speckled Roman and Striped German. Stupice. Purple Bumblebee (“dusky purple with metallic green striping,” so help me God).
There are descriptions. Meaty! Flavorful! Elongated! Slightly squat! Fluted! And, of course, “determinate” and “indeterminate.” That has something, I know, to do with how they grow. And how you’re supposed to treat the little princesses. It feels like just another way of getting things wrong. One of them sort of shrubs up and the other sprawls into the street. I never remember which is what, so it just makes me feel bad and contributes to my getting the Big Boy, Early Girl, and standard cherry every year.
But this year, by gum, I’m going to do it. I’m going to buy three completely screwy varieties of tomato. I’m going all in! Headlong! Hell bent for leather! Katie bar the door! I’m getting Cosmonaut Volkov, Paul Robeson, and Chocolate Cherry.
I feel I owe it to Mom and Dad.
Re determinate and indeterminate: Determinate have a specific season to produce tomatoes, and after that, no more. Indeterminate keep on producing from whenever they start until the frost. Needless to say, the heirlooms — which taste better — are usually determinate. That's great if you have space enough for many different varieties of plants. Regrettably, I do not, so I have to make every plant count, as I like to have enough to can as well as eat now. They have to work so hard, they might as well be working for Amazon. I, too, usually stick to Early Girl and Better Boy, and also Beefsteak. When I get the urge to eat an heirloom, I'll get a couple from my local farm market.
Everything is upside down this year and I think there can be no better sign that I should try something new. And/or weird. Hell, we don't get actual tomatoes until the day before frost anyway.
Growing some chocolate cherry over here in South Carolina, even though I suck at growing any food crops except for herbs, of course. Please give an update at some point of how they do. I have no faith that I will have anything to show for my (minimal) efforts.
But…but…you have heat! I hate heat, but tomatoes are supposed to like it!
I love the choices you made of some heirloom variety tomatoes. I bought 5 different tomato plants, including the ones like Early Girl, plus an Alan Chadwick, new to me. My hubby and I had an apple farm with plenty of heirloom apple trees, including Black Twig.
I don't even think Alan Chadwick was on the list. My god. How many tomatoes are there?
Yep. Big Boy, Early Girl, Beefsteak – the names I recognize. Although I do occasionally get a Brandywine – which is an heirloom and takes FOREVER to produce a sort of purple tomato. I bought mine last Tuesday but THANK GOD was too lazy to put them in their places in the garden yet. And now we have a major cold spell with serious frost possible – so I'm just smuggly toting my tray of plants back in the house at night. Maybe next week?
I've been keeping mine indoors next to a window. Should I bring them out every day and back in?
That probably would be best, as they can get acclimated to the outdoors. Rule of thumb is to plant when the nights are consistently above 50 degrees.
I went to Brandywine High School. Does that make me an heirloom?
Yes – outside during the day to get them used to being outside – inside at night to keep them from freezing, or even too close to freezing. That said – I just now (Wednesday) threw caution to the wind and planted mine out in the garden. Good luck, kids!
Smuggly toting is diff'rent.
Hey, while I have your-all's attention, I'm back commenting through the wonders of Firefox. I still can't comment on my own dang blog on Safari. I wish someone would explain this to me. I'd rather understand that than the determinate-indeterminate thingy. And thank you all for the wonderful comments on my last two posts. I might have been too weepy to comment on the last one anyway.
I'm the same with flowers – I "pretend to consider" everything and then get pansies and begonias because I know they work! Good luck with your tommaters 🙂
Every year, profusion zinnias. Every year.
I have grown Mortgage Lifter and they were excellent. I have Brandywine in the garden now, along with Better Boy and Celebrity. Fingers crossed, as usually just when my tomatoes look the best and are in massive flower, they get this wilt thing and shrivel up and die. I'm rolling the dice again this year, though (South Carolina).
Ack! There's a wilt thing? We get the blossom end rot thing.
We had blossom end rot 2 years running, when the spring was extremely rainy. I asked my local farm market owner about this, and she said that all that rain can wash away the calcium, which can lead to blossom end rot. So now we amend the soil with extra calcium, because it can't hurt, it usually rains too much, and it's organic. Last year it worked out well for us.
Each and every year we bring them to fruition before the heat or frost brings them down I am reminded just how much better home grown tastes than the store variety.
Good luck. I suspect the heirloom varieties will move that bar another notch up the scale.
Store tomatoes are not worth buying. Canned tomatoes are the way to go in the winter. I actually like that there are things you only get to have sometimes.
The most fun tomato i ever grew was called Yellow Pear. They are a cherry type tomato but pear shaped fruit. I think you could plant them in a crack in the sidewalk and they would grow.
They taste good too. Sweet 100s are another good cherry tomato. The smaller tomatoes are the best. There's so many kinds of tomatoes out there, we could spend years talking about them.
So i love your mom and dad and their apples.
I've seen a lot of yellow pear tomatoes. Even in the store. Never grown them. I do however have a crack in my sidewalk, so…
A friend at work gave me a start of yellow pear tomato some years ago (I retired in 2004, so you know it was a while ago!) Loved them! Most years I buy jet star and celebrity plus a cherry tomato.
At the end of March, this year, I bought two Jet Stars, a Celebrity, a Big Boy, and an Early Girl & put them into the ground as a gamble. One week later we had a freeze. Another week later, I bought four more tomato plants and dispersed them around the older plants that had been nipped, but not killed, by the cold.
Today, the newer plants are slightly larger than the older plants; but, it looks like we'll be having a bumper crop. I'll be canning enough tomatoes for the whole neighborhood!
Early March? You live on the equator, then?
Late March, Murr, late March – in South Central Kansas. You've heard of global warming, I take it? Our spring has moved forward by a few weeks since we first moved from Missouri to Kansas in 1959. (Between then and now I've lived/worked in Seattle, Florida, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, SanFran, New York State, and Pennsylvania. I loved NM, WA, and CA; so, of course, I've lived most of the time in Kansas.
speaking as a long-time gardener in both Texas and now Portland, the Celebrities are VFNT resistant so they should survive the dreaded wilt. And as far as I am concerned they have superb flavor for slicing and salads. For those looking for paste tomatoes, I highly recommend a new variety of paste tomato called HealthKick, which was developed in the wake of research at OHSU related to the benefits to your eyes of lycopene. They are high lycopene, but also much bigger than the standard Roma, prolific and taste good. As to the cherry tomatoes, I learned from the extension svc in Texas that only the cherry tomatoes will set fruit when the nights stay over 70 degrees, so in Texas if you wanted tomatoes in the summer, that's what you planted. Actually in Texas, I used to plant the first batch on President's day and a small crop was done by late May or so. Then the big, canning crop went in in August and we would harvest right up to Thanksgiving some years.
You don't have to worry about nights above seventy here–yet! I swore I'd never live anywhere that I can't live without AC, and I don't, but I expect I might live long enough that the weather will catch up to me.
My Cherokee Purple made it through winter here in Florida. I rooted some cuttings, have already got ripe fruit. Uh, I got one; a squirrel got the other. It was delicious! Don't know if these would do well in Portland or not but I sent some seeds to a lady there, we shall see!
Let us know! I cannot relate to tomatoes fruiting by now. If I even planted any, they wouldn't do as well as the same plant put in three weeks from now.
I remember reading about Mortgage Lifter getting its name from being so valuable to grow (easy to grow, sells for a good price, some combination) that it was the one to "pay off the farm", so to speak.
I'd never heard of it, but obviously it's a thing. I just need a BLT lifter.
Add lime to your soil to increase calcium to avoid blossom end rot.
Nice to have Anonymous back with the hate rant
Nah, pay 'im no mind, I make him go away. I thought permanently, but apparently not, so I'll just swat him every time. I wouldn't care but I hate to have my real commenters waste any time on him.
I bought Mortgage Lifter seeds from our "Digger's Club" which specialises in just about everything heirloom and not only did they not produce tomatoes, they didn't even sprout from the seeds! I was so disappointed and several other things I bought form them didn't do as well as expected either. I'm guessing my home state is at fault, since we have dry to very dry conditions, way too much heat and clay soil.
But earlier this year I bought actual heritage tomatoes (not heirloom) from a local supermarket and they were fantastic! Tasted like tomatoes used to and were meatier than the current "gourmet" and "vine ripened" so I saved the seeds to plant next spring. Hundreds of seeds. But now I'm not sure I'll plant anything at all, since my tiny garden isn't fenced (no fences allowed) and easily accessible to anyone who wants to (and did!) help themselves to my plants and ornaments.
Man, you are one unlucky gardener. What's the difference between a heritage and an heirloom?
No idea, I should put that question out there on my blog. it may be that Heirloom are very ancient original varieties and heritage are something else, like tomatoes grown from seed saved from plants grown from seed saved from…back to an original plant?
It looks as if you have some great plants there! I wish you success with yer 'maters. I've grown the Cherokee Purple, the little lemon-coloured 'Yellow Pear', Chocolate Cherry, Early Girl, Brandywine, a green-striped one called 'Zebra', and a few dozen others. I'm kind of a tomato freak, and I like the heirloom varieties. There is nothing quite like eating a sun-warmed tomato right off the vine. Yum-yum!
I've always had a greenhouse to start my own seeds/plants in, but not this year, so I'll have to buy. We're in a really short growing season here – 63 days average frost to frost – and I'm not sure how many nights will be warm enough to set fruit on a tomato. There are 'Arctic' varieties but I've found them spongy and tasteless. I may beg the boy to build me a hot house for my tomatoes, peppers and pole beans.
River, we're lucky to have a five-foot solid cedar fence around our entire back yard or the deer would eat *everything*. As is I worry that the squirrels will take one bite out of everything. I'm thinking of hooping my raised beds and covering them with bird netting to discourage furry 'foragers'. I do love gardening and can't wait until the 1st week of June, when it's finally safe to start planting!
I thought deer considered a five-foot fence a minor impediment. We don't have to worry about deer here though.
I am inspired! Then I looked out the window and saw snow flurries. Maybe I should wait another week or two.
Tomatoes hate snow. I've heard.
I would have Loved your Parents and I always buy the Quirky Heirloom Produce and I happen to like it, it's always more Interesting, especially in a Salad… and the Names are a bit of Whimsy that makes me just Smile. Good Luck with your Heirloom Babies!
They're sitting in a sunny window getting leggy indoors. Maybe I should move them in and out?
I dipped my toes into the heritage tomato pond about 10 years ago and never swam back. They are THE BOMB. Enjoy the variety–I had no idea so many textures and tastes existed and I was happy to discover them.
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