My formerly dislocated shoulder has only been re-located for 6 days now, so I still can't do much. I'll find out more when I go to the orthopedist on Monday, but I can't imagine I'll be doing any weeding for a few more weeks, and digging and hauling may be even more weeks. This means anything but harvesting is on hold for the garden until I hear more from the doctor. This wouldn't be such a bad thing, but I had plans - big plans - for some fall planting.
But in the meantime, I can pick tomatoes, and last night there were lots waiting for me. Sitting on the counter are three Pruden's Purple, two Gregori Altai, two Cuomo de Toro, two Carmello, two Green Zebra and lots of Yellow Pear and Be My Baby red cherries.
As I start to thing of what I'll plant next year (Already? August is moving along fast!), I'm paying more attention to how each tomato variety tastes so I can make some decisions for next spring.
Cherry & Drying Tomatoes
This year I have Yellow Pear, Be My Baby red cherry, and Principe Borghese drying tomatoes. I love Yellow Pears - they have a "big tomato" taste and are very prolific - so those will be back next year. I also love the Principe Borghese when they're oven dried. I haven't dried any yet (they're waiting in the freezer, gaining critical mass), but last year I did, and they were heavenly.
As for the Be My Baby red cherries . . . they weren't as good as I had hoped, nor are they as prolific. Last year I planted Sweet Baby Girls, which were absolutely delicious and exceedingly prolific until they died in the Self-Watering Container Disaster of 2006. However, Fedco is not carrying the seeds any longer because the producer was bought out by Monsanto. (Monsanto produces genetically modified - GMO - seeds, which are controversial for a lot of people, including me.) So, Be My Baby was a recommended replacement. I think next year I'll try something else.
Oh, and I also have had a few Sungolds. When I was planting this spring, I managed to break off the top of the one Sungold plant I had. I left the stalk in the ground, and I now have a 1 foot tall plant that has produced two very small tomatoes. I'm sure this poor plant has not exactly enjoyed optimal growing conditions, so I'll reserve judgment and try again next year.
Main Crop Tomatoes
As for the main crop tomatoes, I've had at least one of each, and here's my ranking:
1. Gregori's Altai: This tomato has been a delightful surprise. For some reason, I thought it was going to be an early tomato, and hence a bit tasteless and tough-skinned. Instead, it's a wonderful main cropper, with pretty pink flesh and a delightfully tangy taste. The tomatoes are big - up to 1 pound - and fairly round. It's perfect for fresh eating. It's been moderately prolific - not a lot, but very steady. I really love this tomato and will grow it again next year.
2. Pruden's Purple: This is an extremely close second, almost tied for first. The only reason for the second place ranking is because it cracks very easily. Since it's the only tomato in the garden that's cracking, I can assume it's not a water problem. But, except for that, this is an excellent tomato. It has that perfect "heirloom" taste - balanced, with a bit of acid. It's extremely meaty without a lot of seeds. It's not the most prolific tomato, but it's much better than many of the classic heirlooms I've grown in the past. I've had seven very large tomatoes from two plants in the last two weeks, with lots of green ones waiting to ripen. Although Brandywine is the touchstone for heirloom tomatoes, our Minnesota climate doesn't allow me a long enough growing season to really enjoy them. I think Pruden's Purple is an excellent alternative.
3. Cuoro de Toro: This is a very nice tomato. It was the first to ripen for me this year. It has a nice tomato taste, and the fruits look supermarket perfect. No cracks, no catfacing, perfectly round. It's one drawback is that it's fairly seedy. Will I grow it next year? I don't know yet. It's definitely above average - a solid B+ - but I'm not sure that's enough to make it back in 2008.
4. Green Zebra: Many people are familiar with this one - a tomato that, when ripe, is green-yellow with green stripes. The fruits are small - about the size of a plum - and very seedy. The taste is unique - quite tangy. It's definitely a salad or fresh-eating tomato. I'm think they taste okay, but I'd rather eat a Gregori Altai. However, Spouse loves them. We had two last night, just sliced, and he commented twice during dinner that he thought they were great. So, I may have to grow them again next year just for Spouse.
5. Carmello: A nice tomato, but it doesn't stand out. The fruit is mostly round, with a few that are misshapen. The meat to seed ratio is about average. The taste is good, but nothing to write home about. Although better than many I've grown in the past, I probably won't grow this again.
6. St. Pierre: Unimpressive. Big, misshapen fruit lead one to hope that the taste will match it's "heirloom look." However, they're only average. Average meat-to-seed ratio, average taste. Also, I've only harvested two off of two plants so far. I won't grow this again.