Instead of snow, let’s think about tomatoes! We’ll be offering all of these except Florida 91 and Geronimo as plants. This will be the last year I grow Goldie, Costoluto Genovese, and Moskvich.
- Amish Paste: 85 days, indeterminate. Slow Food Ark of Taste variety, with good reason! Oblong with a pointy tip, these have an acid, complex flavor, are dense without the overly dry and mealy texture of many paste types, and even in a bad tomato year make quite tasty tomatoes. About 2 – 2.5 times larger than a typical Roma.
- Opalka: 82 days, Indeterminate. Another large (3 x 5 inches), dense, tasty red sauce tomato. The long, horn-shaped fruits are longer than Amish Paste, very delicious, and the plants set a lot of fruit. They do have old fashioned green shoulders but there’s still plenty to eat after those green shoulders are cut off. We saw some blossom end rot with this variety, so be sure to keep the plants watered when they are setting fruit. In midsummer 2013, these were my favorite tomato of the year!
- Aunt Ruby’s German Green: 88 days. Enormous green slicer, ripe when the color lightens a bit and the blossom end softens. If you wait until the blossom end gets a tiny bit of yellow and pink striping, the fruit will probably have cracked, but what awaits you may be the best tomato ever. Fruit tend to be catfaced and otherwise gnarly in appearance. Your caprese salad will look better than ever with a few of these slices in it! Limited quantity this year.
- Black Krim: 80 days, Indeterminate. The Fedco seeds catalog says: “Krims should be harvested when half green and still firm. They are dead ripe and perfectly delicious at that stage. If you wait till they are fully purple, you will not be able to get them from garden to table intact (to say nothing of market) and they will disintegrate like a hunk of road-kill. Krims are strikingly iridescent purple on the outside, usually with dark green-black shoulders and noticeable catfacing. Interiors are part black, too, with an unusual juicy yet meaty taste and texture, described as having “…a smoky flavor like a good single malt scotch.” Fruits average 12–18 oz. Heirloom Krim hails from Krymsk on the Black Sea in Russia.”
- Cherokee Purple: 80 days, indeterminate. This is what most people think of when they think of an heirloom tomato. Cherokee Purple is round, pinkish-purple, and often has green shoulders when ripe. Fairly dense, when sliced it looks kind of like a steak inside. Not the most productive tomato, but it sure tastes great.
- Rutgers: 72 days, indeterminate. These might be my most popular plants at market. In the old days, when I worked at a local retail garden center, a customer told me “There ain’t no tomato worth growing except for Rutgers.” It’s round, red, uniform, tastes really good, and when frost arrives, the green fruits that ripen on your counter are fairly good eating. (Other green-ripened tomatoes have such a weird texture that I only use them for sauce.) Two “Rutgers” tomatoes exist in commerce; this is the older, more indeterminate variety. The vines aren’t super sprawly compared to other heirlooms, but they are bigger (and the tomatoes have a better flavor) than “Rutgers Improved.”
- Paul Robeson: 78 days, indeterminate. 6 – 12 oz rounded brownish-maroon tomatoes, the same color as Black Prince, but larger and tastier. In the heat of 2013, many of our field tomatoes yielded very little and what they did yield was sunburned, cracked, or otherwise unmarketable. While harvesting and culling, I offered one of these to a retired fellow who was helping me out on the farm. At first he didn’t want to eat it because of the odd color, but after a taste he declared it one of the best tomatoes he’d ever eaten, and he enthusiastically consumed any subsequent culls in this variety.
- Cosmonaut Volkov: 65 days, indeterminate. Who needs Early Girl when you’ve got Cosmo? Fruit size and flavor very similar to Rutgers, but in my hoophouse the plants were larger, much earlier, and more continuously productive. Like all the Russian heirlooms, favors cooler weather rather than months of 90+ degree heat. Made very good fall tomatoes in our 2013 garden when transplanted on July 4th.
- German Johnson: 80 days, indeterminate. Known as “The Brandywine of the South,” which is all the endorsement I needed to see before trying it.
- Eva Purple Ball: 78 days, indeterminate. Pink/purple perfect spheres, tasty and productive even in terribly hot summers like 2012. German heirloom.
- Moskvich: Early pink slicer with round fruits. Good for setting and ripening fruit during cool springs. Like all Russian heirlooms, not good for hot summers like 2012.
- Costoluto Genovese: 85 days, Indeterminate. Red, lobed fruit that varies quite a bit in size depending on soil fertility and weather. Intense flavor, amazing flower-shaped slices, can be an adjustment if you’re not used to a tomato that is not round!
Striped & Yellow Tomatoes
- Copia: 85 days, indeterminate. Large yellow tomatoes with red stripes, or green striped with a yellow blush. A recent cross of Green Zebra and Marvel Stripe, the latest in my quest to find a yellow tomato I like eating. They’re good tasting, but crack on the vine quite a lot. Limited availability.
- Striped Cavern: Red and yellow striped tomato with big lobes for stuffing, it looks almost like a striped bell pepper. Really good when baked with filling; too firm in my opinion for good fresh eating.
- Goldie: Indeterminate, 90 days. A 1977 introduction, this is a huge yellow tomato which is supposed to be really delicious once it gets yellow-orange. In our fields they rarely stay unblemished, but maybe those of you with tomato cages and time to pay closer attention to individual plants will have better luck. Our last year with these.
- Black Cherry: 75 days, indeterminate. Dark purplish-black colored cherry tomatoes with the complex heirloom flavor you’d expect from their color. We grew this tomato in 2011 and not in 2012 due to a germination problem. I got more requests for it than anything else, for good reason!
- Peacevine: Peacevine is a round, red cherry tomato. It’s an open-pollinated answer to the popular hybrid Sweet 100. It is supposed to have high levels of a compound that helps you relax. We grew Peacevine for our first few years of farming. It’s a great tomato but cracks in rainy weather like most really sweet cherry tomatoes. We stopped growing it when we switched to fancy greenhouse hybrid Montesino. Since the greenhouse is going to be 100% full of round red slicers for wholesale, Peacevine is back.
- Honey Bunch: 45 days??? So the catalog claims. This red grape tomato is supposed to be crack resistant in the field and very sweet. The seeds were somewhat expensive so plants will be limited, but if we love it, you’ll see more next year!
In the greenhouse, we’ll be growing Geronimo and Florida 91. Both are round, red, hybrid slicers, grafted onto Montesino rootstock for extra productivity, vigor, and disease resistance. Florida 91 is supposed to be better than most tomatoes at setting fruit in hot weather. Since we usually have a hot stretch in July and August, I thought it was a good idea to plan for it. In the past, I’ve done my own grafting of greenhouse tomatoes, but for 2014 I found another grower who does this professionally. I’m glad I did, too, since our long cold winter meant I would have had a hard time keeping my grafting area warm enough to get the grafts to take. If I have extra plants, we’ll trial a few in the field.