Tomato Riches!


Zapotec Pleated Tomatoes

You know how it is this time of year. You start thinking about tomatoes. Especially when you’ve realized your miserable fate after scheduling two classes (actually three–two sections of comp, one section of lit) to turn in their rough drafts at the same time.

So, after spending the morning answering desperate e-mails and sorting through which mail contains a draft I’ll need to critique and which is a plea for an extension, I decided to take a break and sort through my tomato-seed riches.

Every year I say I’m going to cut down on the amount of varieties I grow. And every year, I end up growing a couple more varieties looking for that “perfect” tomato after an old favorite didn’t perform as well as it did the year before. Not that I stop growing that old favorite either–there’s only a few varieties I’ve given up on, and really it’s more a matter of putting them on reserve and/or needing to refresh poor seed stock.

So, I went through the seed box, and realized (Horror!) that out of something like seventeen varieties, I don’t have a mid-to-late season, indeterminate yellow/orange tomato in my line-up. Back to the seed catalogs I went, and picked out a couple more varieties–one I’ve tried (Yellow Perfection), and one I’ve wanted to try (Nebraska Wedding). Here be the complete list:

Tiny Tomatoes:

Red Currrant (new), Sungold Cherry (hybrid), Red Pear (saved), Black Cherry (new)

Paste/Drying Tomatoes:

Principe Borghese (saved), San Marzano (saved), A blocky, three-lobed “sport” of San Marzano I’m developing (saved), Polish Linguisa (saved)

Salad/Slicing Tomatoes:

Zapotec Pleated (saved), Brandywine (saved), Stupice (new), Yellow Perfection (re-stock), Nebraska Wedding (new), Black From Tula (saved), Nyagous (new), Red Zebra (new)

Indeterminate Tomatoes (Early Season Bush):

Orange Blossom (hybrid), Taxi (yellow), Oregon Spring (red)

I’ve only got two hybrids (F1–first generation–not GMO) on the list–Sun Gold Cherry because it’s the best darn cherry tomato I’ve ever tasted, not to mention looking really pretty in mixed boxes with Red Pear. I had a couple volunteers this year from the previous year’s dropped fruits, and they weren’t nearly as tasty, and they didn’t quite glow like the little orange suns of its parent plant. It’d be a pretty special cherry to make me drop this variety–but I’m open to possibilities.

The other–Orange Blossom, was just an ordering mistake. It’s pretty good (and big for an early tomato), but I’ll just use up the seed and either grow only the red and yellow early-bearing bush varieties, or I’ll try to find an orange early open-pollinated replacement, because I prefer to save my own tomato seed.

A couple notes on a few varieties:

Most Productive (even under stress): Principe Borghese, Black from Tula, San Marzano

Strangest: Zapotec Pleated (these are pictured in the thumbnail above–yes, they get huge, craggy, and cat-faced–later fruits are smaller and kind of draw-string purse-shaped)

Most Popular with Market Customers: Brandywine, of course, but also Yellow Perfection (people say they’re lower-acid)

Biggest Pain to Grow: Yellow Perfection (high yields, but they crack terribly if the moisture level is unstable), Polish Linguisa (finicky plants, low yields, at least in this microclimate–trying to develop a hardier strain)

Tastiest: This is totally subjective, and all the tomatoes I grow are chosen for flavor, but the prizes go to Black from Tula, Polish Linguisa, Zapotec, and Sun Gold Cherry. Brandywine is good, but I like the richer flavor of the dark red-to-“black” tomatoes. More complex, a little acid, kind of like eating a glass of good wine. Cherry tomatoes are different–I like those a little more fruity, like sunshine bursting in my mouth.

I’ve never grown a green-when-ripe tomato, though I’ve heard good things about Aunt Ruby’s German. It just doesn’t seem right. I’ll wait for someone else to grow one and try it. But, I’m afraid that, if a few at the market question whether my green-shouldered black tomatoes are ripe, or even my yellow varieties, green might be a hard sell.

Well, that was fun. I guess I better get back to critiquing drafts.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Rebecca–

    I grew Yellow Perfection tomatoes for the first time last year and wowie zowie… I am smitten. They are so prolific, so delicious and, if they don’t crack, so beautiful. I had only two plants and couldn’t eat the fruits fast enough (probably because I had 23 tomato plants altogether–for just two of us!), so after searching high and low for ways to use yellow tomatoes (especially the cracked ones), i found a recipe for putting them by: a yellow tomato marmalade. It is just to die for and really easy. If you want the recipe let me know.

    Thanks again for so many inspirational things!

  2. Posted by flyingtomato on March 6, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    DJ–

    Thanks for all your comments! Yellow tomato marmalade does sound good–if you send me the recipe (and let me know how to credit the source), I’ll post it on my blog.

    I made an all-yellow tomato sauce for canning a couple years ago (it takes a long time to cook down those juicy Yellow Perfections), and it was delicious and incredibly pretty.

    But usually I just throw every ripe tomato in the field into one batch of sauce–yellow, red, orange, black–as long as it’s ripe, it’s fair game.

    What tomato varieties are your favorites?

    –Rebecca

  3. Rebecca–

    The recipe for Yellow Tomato Marmalade and a link to my blog’s (brand new) recipe box page is on the way via email.

    I will definitely try the all-yellow tomato sauce you describe. Thanks! Do you ever make your own tomato juice? I wonder how yellow tomato juice would taste. I know it would look stunning.

    Yes, I’m of your mind, on the ripe is fair game philosophy for tomato sauce. I’ve even thrown green zebras in there!

    Green Zebras, by the way, are among my top 5 favorite tomatoes at the moment. They take a long time to get ripe (so zone 3 is pushing it), but boy oh boy! Tomatoes don’t get more delicious and they are so pretty! (I know they’re ripe when they sport a little yellowish background tinge and lose that rock hard feel.)

    Rounding out my current top five:

    2. Yellow Perfection (replacing, for now, the yellow heirloom Taxi)
    3. Cherokee Purple (enormous pinkish heirloom)
    4. San Marzano (definitely any chef’s favorite paste/plum tomato)
    5. Silvery Fir Tree (very early small slicer with unusual and beautiful foliage).
    Runner up: Ladybug Cherry (tiny fruity bursts of joy–very prolific!)

    How about you? Can you force yourself to name a top 5?

    Keep thinking spring!
    DJ (a.k.a. Exuberant Lady)

  4. Posted by flyingtomato on March 7, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Exuberant Lady–

    You play hardball! OK–I will try to force myself to pick a top five of the moment.

    1. Black from Tula: medium-sized green shouldered “black” slicer
    2. Principe Borghese: great flavor, great for drying or saucing, and prolific, too
    3. Polish Linguisa: I am working on a hardier, more prolific strain, but this is the best-tasting paste tomato ever–I had a hard time putting any in deliveries as I wanted them all for myself
    4. Zapotec Pleated: shape is weird, flavor is fabulous
    5. Big Rainbow: I’m not growing it this year, but it is a beauty. I am going to try the similar yellow-with-red-streaks Hillbilly Potato Leaf because it’s earlier and looks like it might be more prolific

    Runner-up (hey, you had one!): Sun Gold Cherry. But, I am trying a couple new ones this year, so who knows? Sun Golds are just sooo tasty and prolific and beautiful. Not only that–they keep me fed on those days I am in the gardens for so long I have to graze to keep my energy up.

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