omatoes seem to catch a gardener’s heart. Hardly anyone asks if you have eaten the first green bean, but tomatoes – yes, everyone wants a fresh, home-grown tomato. That is if you like tomatoes. If you don’t, step away from the blog right now, you might get hurt or at least irritated by all the fuss.
Even though I have my old standby tomatoes, Costoluto Genovese and Bellstar, which make up the bulk of my tomato planting. I like to try new (to me) varieties.
Our paste/salad tomato Bellstar, pinch hits as our early tomato too, although it lacks the flavor you want in the truly first tomato kind of way. Stupice is not all that flavorful either and no earlier in my location. So the determinate, no muss habit of Bellstar suits us just fine. But after reading Eliot Coleman’s rave reviews about New Girl, I decided to give it a try. Eliot and his “new girl” do not disappoint. It is early and delicious. As in so early and delicious that the first red tomatoes just never did make it to the house.
As for tomato pruning, I kind of approach it with a great attitude in May and early June. But by late June I usually adopt the theory that all the foliage is needed for photosynthesis…right? So I planted two New Girl plants, and diligently
half-arsed trained one plant to one stem, and the other to about four or five. That’s them, number two and three in the row above. The only difference is that I have more tomatoes on the one I didn’t hardly prune, they have ripened at the same pace and for me that’s enough reason not to prune too heavily. Another new tomato this year is Bobcat, a determinate beefsteak type, and it’s good, big and the plant has been so stocky and healthy, it’s worth growing just for that reason. A friend shared seeds of Japanese Black Trifele too, and it has a heavy fruit set, but no sign of ripening yet.
On the advice of my neighbor who direct markets their hydroponic tomatoes, which are delicious by the way, I top all my indeterminate tomato plants the first week of August. Any fruit set after that time will never ripen as the days get shorter, so basically what I see now is what I get. The 80 day tomato takes 80 days from bloom to ripe, so it’s actually futile to hope for those last few tomatoes to ripen with any degree of flavor. I take it one step further and quit watering my tomatoes this first week of August too, that will signal the plants to get busy and ripen those tomatoes and sweeten them up a little too while they are at it. For another perspective on why we shouldn’t try to squeak every last fruit from the vine, read this essay by Anthony Boutard, one of my favorite farm writers.
Trying new pepper varieties is fun too, some never live up to their catalog descriptions, while other surpass expectations. Flavorburst was a replacement for Sunray our go-to yellow bell, and it’s definitely a keeper here. So productive and reliable, it’s hard to believe. It does require staking before fruit set though, it sets so many peppers. Oh Darn!
I don’t use too many hot peppers, but Padron sounded good and it is, what we don’t eat up will make a good addition to salsa. I wish I had planted more than four plants now.