Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tomatoes 2011: The Good, the So-So and the Zombies

The stars. 
Plants that were worth the effort, or at least let us feel that we saved money by purchasing plants instead of buying tomatoes at the market.

San Marzano.
The first is an Italian tomato great for making sauces. The plants grew strongly, and so fast that I needed to add support. They tend to ripen late, but without complications. I did have some blossom end rot, but it was because I was a bit too vigorous scratching some organic fertilizer into the soil. They did not split after being watered, either.

This is an orange cherry type that produces like crazy and is very sweet, if somewhat lacking in the acidity department. These started producing early on, and are still going. No blossom end rot with these guys, either.

Anonymous reseeded red cherry.
Little water, lots of sun and still a great yield. It will probably reseed for next year, since plants have been coming up here for three years now.

These are not strictly speaking tomatoes. Yet, despite heavy infestations of white flies, sometimes looking more like a blizzard than anything else, the tomatillos managed to produce a consistent, usable crop. These were all reseeded from last year's crop, so we had well over the two plant minimum (one tomatillo plant produces nothing since the plants are not self-fertile).

The So-So
These varieties gave mixed results and needed a lot of fussing, staking and fiddling. It's debatable if they were worth the extra effort, regardless of taste. Low yield, lots of labor and tragic disappointment as you find rotted, inedible fruit does not make a happy gardener.

Cherokee Purple.
One of my favorites for flavor, Cherokee Purple was unpredictable and fussy. Some plants bore little fruit. Others dropped their fruit. There was a good deal of blossom end rot, splitting and other reasons for a perfectly good tomato to transform itself into a rotten, mildewed blob. Other tomato varieties growing nearby did not have these problems, or at least not to this extent.

Supposedly a super tasting tomato, these were not up to the level of the few Cherokee Purples that managed to elude splitting and rotting.

Early Girl.
A fairly reliable performer here. Still, although she might be quick she's not especially tasty.

Not a lot of fruit, but when the plant got in the groove toward the end of July we had incredible tomatoes, although not the mega-pounder size you read about in veggie porn magazines.

The Zombies. 
Tomato fail. Rotting flesh, sunburn, strange plant growth. These would be better as worm food than tomato plants. A real waste of time.

Brandywine VF.
Supposedly more disease resistant than the normal Brandywine, these produced few fruits, grew strangely, sunburned since there wasn't a dense canopy of leaves. We were lucky to get three edible tomatoes per plant. 

Big Pick.
Initially a great producer and early, these plants took a trip to Zombieland as soon as the weather got hot. And this wasn't even a particularly hot year. So, the end result was that the majority of the crop looks like it's just going to sunburn and rot on the vine without fully ripening.

I grew this variety years ago and remembered it as excellent and a good producer. Not here, not this year. Lots of slow to mature fruit, sparse leaf growth, sunburn and aborted fruit littering the ground. Appeared to go zombie when the weather warmed up. Blecch.

Seasoned tomato farmers have all said that this was a bad year for tomatoes. It was a great year for zucchini, but when you want tomatoes that's little consolation. Spaghetti with zucchini sauce? I think not! Yet, there's hope since next year might be better.

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