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Pick one

September 5, 2008

Warning! Subjective subject matter ahead… (and Della is still pregnant!)

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That’s usually my problem, I can’t pick just one!  But, I have to, I’m spending too much time and energy growing tomatoes that don’t meet my criteria.  This was the year I was going to decide which Costoluto Genovese to keep growing.   My DH says I’m a tomato snob, but then again, he says I’m a corn snob, cow and dog snob, truck and tractor snob, fabric and quilt snob … well, ummm, er I guess that makes me an everything snob. 😉 

Just looking at these puppies, which one would you pick?  Being the “has to be old, or I don’t want to even consider it snob”, I would pick the gnarly guy on the left.  The one in the middle looks like the uniform, hydroponic tomatoes that my neighbor grows, and the one on the right looks like it is trying to pose as a heirloom.  Maybe their names and origins might help you decide:
♥  Ugly Guy is Costoluto Genovese  from Tomato Growers Supply.
Boring Guy is Costoluto Genovese from  Cook’s Garden.
♥  On the Fence Guy is Costoluto Fiorentino from Tomato Growers Supply.  (Some people think this is the same as the Genovese strain.)

I have been on this quest for an open-pollinated, multi-use tomato for a number of years.  I have my favorite cherry tomato, SunSugar and my favorite early/sauce tomato, Bellstar, but a multi-tasking tomato has been hard for me to decide on. 

My criteria for picking a vegetable to grow and eat is really scientific.   NOT!
♥  Does it come in purple?
♥  Does it produce a lot?
♥  Is it disease resistant?
♥  Does it taste good?
♥  Is it named after someone, or something I like.
♥  Will it ripen in my location.
♥  Looks good on Fiestaware.  (just kidding, EVERYTHING looks good on Fiesta!)

I do not live in tomato growing country.  I have discovered by reading gardening blogs until I can’t look at another one, that the warm, humid nights that much of the United States suffers through each summer, gives people in colder climates that heat unit, producing edge.  We rarely have humidity here during the summer, or really warm nights.  I’m a wuss, I sleep in a flannel nightgown almost every night of the year.  (File that one under, “MORE THAN YOU WANTED TO KNOW”)  So, since I can’t wrap my tomatoes in flannel each night, I have to go for the middle of the road heirlooms, if I want ripe tomatoes.  I love Brandywine, but they are the stuff of legend around here.  I have babied those suckers, and enjoyed all 6 or 7 that each plant produces.  Meanwhile right next door, is good, old reliable Costoluto Genovese, plugging away, giving me size, complex flavor and lots of fruit. 

 I have grown Costoluto since a meat customer gave me some leftover plants one year.  Since then I have been convinced.  Over the years, I have tried this tomato from different seed companies.  There has been a huge variation in flavor, productivity and ripening dates. 
But one has been the standout all along, just patiently waiting for me to notice.


TA DA!  The winner is The Boring Guy, from Cook’s Garden

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Doesn’t it look cute all nestled in it’s own egg cup?

During all this experimentation, I tried seeds from Seed Savers, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Seeds of Change, and Territorial Seed.  All those tomatoes had the classic pleated look, but didn’t have the flavor that Cook’s strain had.  Even though I’m growing a paste tomato (Bellstar), I end up using Costoluto in my salsa, and most of my sauce because the flavor is so intense.  I know tomato flavor is subjective, and temperature and soil conditions play a role, so this may not be the tomato for anyone else – but we love it!! 

So now that I have finally decided, I can save seed from these, and start to get this tomato acclimated to my micro-climate.  Burpee bought Cook’s Garden seed, so I can’t be sure that I will be getting the correct seed from them in the future, saving my own makes more sense. 


9 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2008 11:20 pm

    Boy, it’s hard to tell which is prettier … the gorgeous tomatoes or the gorgeous Fiestaware! I think I went into a trance looking at the photos of all of them shown together! I wish my grandma was still around and could share with me some of her tomato seeds. To this day, they remain my favorite tomato, although all three of your varieties shown today look pretty darn good to me.

    I still have a ton of green tomatoes, to which I patiently but firmly tell each day to ripen already. I harvested a healthy lot of jalapenoes today, the fresh onions are good to go, and I’ve just a small bit of cilantro patiently waiting, but how can I make salsa without the red orbes? I suppose I can use my romas, but I have other plans for those.

    Hope Della is doing well. Wonder if she know’s that the blogsphere is waiting for news of her pending motherhood!

  2. September 6, 2008 8:21 am

    I’m having the great tomato debate too. I use V.R.Roma as a paste tomato but I’m still not happy with it. We have a small early tomato calls Brookpac that I like but it needs to be meatier but then it probably wouldn’t ripen on the vine and sweet one-hundreds is my cherry tomato of choice so far……………choices and decisions and being a snob just adds an extra dimension;)

  3. September 6, 2008 8:24 am

    Beautiful! I am trying seed saving this year with lettuce.

  4. September 6, 2008 11:46 am

    The tomatoes all look so tasty–potato beetles got into my husband’s and we only have a very few left. So sad!

    And the photographs! How did you manage to get such great shots — red is so very, very difficult to capture. Looks like an image you’d see in a magazine. Just gorgeous!

  5. Gina permalink
    September 6, 2008 4:48 pm

    Ugly guy has a certain quality about him. Kind of one of those “I know I shouldn’t mess with him, but, wow, he’s interesting…”

    I was surprised by the winner!!

    Good luck with your seed growing. For me, I love the cherokee purple, but cannot for the life of me get it to grow beyond 1-3 tomatoes per plant.

  6. September 6, 2008 8:41 pm

    I have not yet ventured into getting seeds from a catalog and still get most of my plants from the packets at the local nursery. Do they really make that much of a difference? I am happy with the basic Big boy and early girl tomatoes I get, and they are tasty to me and my family. Am I missing out?

    Your ugly guy is just begging to be eaten in a ham sandwich.

    If those are egg cups, then that tomato must be a small one to sink so low in it! How many tomato plants do you plant every year? I usually plant 20, but this year only did 10 because of the pregnancy and the baby. I wish I planted 20 like always because I am barely getting enough for sauces and stuff and am scanning the ads for local farmers selling surplus tomatoes.

  7. September 7, 2008 2:43 pm

    I’ve been on the same quest since moving to Montana. I look forward to the day when I can say “you’re the one!”

  8. September 8, 2008 1:00 pm

    Amazing that there is such a difference. I will try the Cook’s Garden tomatoes next year, hoping for the best that I get the right seeds. This was an interesting post!
    Ali in Maine

  9. September 9, 2008 8:01 am

    what an innocent I am! Of course… it didn’t occur to me that the sources – and strains would be so different! thanks for the comment on why tomatos “back home” are tastier – I buy dry-farmed early girls here, they seem to be better locally than than heritage types in terms of full flavor – but I long for the tomatoes I grew up with. The flavor was just so much richer! Perhaps next year I’ll have my first can-able crop.

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