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Monday, September 10, 2012

Even Tomatoes Need a Little Rain

Posted by on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 at 7:35 AM

Clockwise from top-left: Prudens Purple, Ultimate Opener, Stupice, Sungold, and Sweet Million
  • Goldy | The Stranger
  • Tomato varieties clockwise from top-left: Pruden's Purple, Ultimate Opener, Stupice, Sungold, and Sweet Million

My dog and I awoke this morning to find the backyard covered with water, the result of the first measurable rainfall in 49 days. In case you're wondering, that's just shy of Seattle's record 51 day drought set back in 1951.

Ah well, this extended summer was nice while it lasted, particularly in the garden where this year's sloooow tomato crop took advantage of the past couple weeks of unseasonably warm and sunny weather to finally start ripening in quantity. We are now enjoying a steady supply of ripe tomatoes from all five varieties we planted: Pruden's Purple, Ultimate Opener, Stupice, Sungold, and Sweet Million.

While we only got a touch of rain—not enough lessen the need to water—the mornings have begun to get rather dewy, so I remain on the watch for the usual late season tomato troubles. Rain or dew can crack the skin of ripe tomatoes, and that means use 'em or lose 'em. And once the season turns wet, late blight is always a possibility.

I guess any tomato season in which I get a few beefsteaks can be considered a success, but I'll wait a few weeks to pass judgement on the 2012 crop.


Comments (15) RSS

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venomlash 1
Posted by venomlash on September 10, 2012 at 7:58 AM · Report this
Bauhaus I 2
Again, Goldy, envy. Even that crop of home-grown tomato goodness would beat a barrel of any store-bought tomatoes. They've toyed around so much genetically with commercial tomatoes that they've bred all the taste out of them. But yes, they can pick 'em hard and green as jade, blast 'em with ethane gas to hasten ripening and sell them at your friendly market - what? - one, two, three weeks later sans one bruise or blemish.

Not everyone grows his own in the South. Many do because they are so easy to grow down there if you have good seeds. But the best tomatoes (and I don't even know if they do this anymore) were always the ones you bought on pick-up trucks parked on the side of the road - picked that day, taken to market that day. We'd slice them or just eat them like an apple with a little salt. I don't think my mother even knew what basil was (outside of a spice tin) until she was a senior citizen. What a total joy it was discovering fresh basil. Intoxicating! Now if I only had those tomatoes from the pick-up truck to go with it.
Posted by Bauhaus I on September 10, 2012 at 8:06 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 3
This is my first time with heirlooms. Diappointing, to say the least. They rot before they ripen. The others look like they might be good if they ever ripen.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on September 10, 2012 at 8:14 AM · Report this
Bauhaus I 4
Don't feel bad, Pope. Some heirloom varieties are hard to grow - right soil, right amount of water, right sun. I just read somewhere that to buy heirlooms in the market is a waste of money (and they command a premium) because very often they are refrigerated. Refrigeration of a tomato can kill its taste in as little as 10 minutes.

Best wishes for the remainder of your crop.
Posted by Bauhaus I on September 10, 2012 at 8:31 AM · Report this
pragmatic 5
@2 I think you mean ethylene gas for tomato ripening. The same effect can happen naturally if you place tomatoes in a bag or a jar with bananas since bananas give off ethylene gas as they ripen.
Posted by pragmatic on September 10, 2012 at 8:40 AM · Report this
Goldy 6

@1 Well, I'm a bit red-green colorblind, but my experience is that the Pruden's Purple is actually pink with green ribs when ripe. I pick 'em when they start to get soft.

The one pictured above (probably my largest beefsteak of the season) probably could've gone another couple days, but was delicious none the less, and a single thick slice was the perfect size for yesterday's BLT.

Posted by Goldy on September 10, 2012 at 8:44 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 7
@6 That BLT makes my mouth water.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on September 10, 2012 at 8:54 AM · Report this
That Stupice variety has been the top producer for me the past couple years. It's the earliest, and the most abundant. It's pronounced stoopee'see, and it's from Czechoslavakia. Recommended.
Posted by onalki on September 10, 2012 at 8:57 AM · Report this
Try growing Juliette next year. It looks like a small roma, but it has some nice acid. It fruits really well here, good years and bad and it tastes better than Stupice. We grow it as our survivalist tomato along with Sungold.
Posted by Stumphaven on September 10, 2012 at 9:00 AM · Report this
Yes, yes, Juliette good; very tasty as a saucer or slicer.

Heirloom tomatoes are easy; just start your seed under lights in February, transplant to a sunny spot in May, and then install a heated greenhouse over those bastards!

Thank Jah for Stupice.
Posted by Lonesome Cowboy Burt on September 10, 2012 at 9:14 AM · Report this
Sungold never disappoints, but an even more prolific cherry tomato that seems to be able to last longer into fall than anything else in my garden is Matt's Wild Cherry. Tiny sweet red morsels of goodness ready to pop in your mouth. Also growing Momotaro, Carmello, Chianti Rose, and German Johnson this year. Not watering much anymore so they can focus on ripening before the blight sets in.
Posted by en on September 10, 2012 at 9:36 AM · Report this
Posted by rob! on September 10, 2012 at 9:42 AM · Report this
For two weeks I have had a troubling number of beautiful, full, GREEN tomatoes on my vines. I haven't gone out and looked at them today, but when the rain woke me up last night, I assumed they would be all cracked and wasted in the morning. Tomatoes drive me nuts.
Posted by mitten on September 10, 2012 at 10:53 AM · Report this
balderdash 14
That's a nice-looking heirloom tomato there, Goldy. Seems similar to Cherokee Purples that I've grown in the past.

We've been rocking the Bloody Butcher and Chocolate Cherry varieties this year and that has worked out quite well. The Butcher in particular has yielded a satisfyingly large number of small-to-medium bright red salad tomatoes.

Still waiting on the roma-like Sausage - that plant got a little stunted early in the season by some fungus - and the French Carmellos, which have produced in quantity but are taking a long time to ripen.
Posted by balderdash on September 10, 2012 at 11:33 AM · Report this
Goldy 15
@14 Are the Carmello's those pretty, uniform French market tomatoes? I one grew a variety called Dona, and it was lovely and perfect, but have never found a start again.
Posted by Goldy on September 10, 2012 at 1:24 PM · Report this

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