Summer has come to a close. The bewitching beauty, the ripe moments, the delicious episodes of gustatory emotion; the small side diversions. The love affairs of 2014 have come to an end. The bittersweet change of seasons has arrived. I have loved and lost….but as always, I have learned much.
I’m talking about tomatoes here. Les Pommes d’ Amour.
From the ordering of the seeds, to the first little plants that push through the soil, to the harvest of gorgeous fruits….it is a love affair. And, like any summer love, it must end.
Let me give you a run-down of the “performance” of my suitors from these past few months.
Grandaddy Hybrid—Determinate plant with verticillium and fusarium resistance. Oh Daddy! Great tomato. This is the best year I have had with this one. Very high yields of firm, round, thick-walled fruits. Very meaty with good flavor. Definitely one to strike up a relationship with next year. Even that rotten raccoon I had this past summer liked this one. Masher!
Costoluto Genovese—An heirloom plant from Jefferson’s Monticello. Duped again! My love of history has led me astray. This tomato is thin-walled and seedy. Smaller, irregularly sized and shaped fruits. Also, being an heirloom, it is more susceptible to blights. I will not be seduced by Jefferson again.
Big Mama Hybrid—This lady promised to be a little more productive than she delivered. Not bad, but not what I wanted to see. However, the fruits that I did get (and there were actually quite a few) were indeed zaftig. I didn’t give any of these away. They were pretty….. and the sauce! It could very well be that her garden position with sunlight hampered her blossoming to fullest potential. I guess it could be said that I failed her. I’ll try her again next year in a better spot.
Rutgers—This fellow is always dependable. If you’re looking for a good provider, not flashy, but definitely reliable and tasty enough to not get bored with, this is your tomato. Every girl needs one of these in her life.
Summer Girl—This one is a tease. She promised to deliver the goods by July seventh and didn’t give it up until the twentieth! Huh! Her fruits were a little thin-walled and ripened in an unusual way. She had green shoulders that ripened last. Someone should develop a new perfume for teasers called “Green Shoulders”. It would at least warn you about what to expect.
Sugary Hybrid—Cherry tomatoes. They were NOT sugary. The plant was healthy and heavy yielding. But where did that name come from? “Blah” hybrid would be more suitable. I will be looking for a better cherry for next year.
Big Boy Hybrid—In the past, this has been my best boy. Excellent quality large tomatoes. But, not this year. Like Big Mama, a less advantageous sun position hampered this one. I believe there was some envy here that crushed an ego, as well. There was a new man in the garden……
Burpee Steakhouse Hybrid—Holy tomato! What studs! I have never had such incredible tomato plants! These guys were amazing. In the best pair of tomato cages I have (see, already Big Boy is upset), they reached a height of over seven feet! They were full and glorious and loaded with enormous tomatoes. I had one that reached two pounds, five ounces! I would say an average weight for a tomato off of these babies would be a pound and a half. The tomatoes were meaty and very tasty. Good reviews came from everyone who sampled them.
These boys also brooked no insult from blights or fungi. They produced full-sized fruits up until the end.
Is it possible to marry a tomato plant? Personal relationships aside, it’s time to take the final tally. Last year, I harvested eight hundred and eleven tomatoes. I wanted to exceed that count, and I did! This year I harvested eight hundred and fifty-nine. Last year, I also discovered the astonishing fact that weighing the crop is the proper method of measuring yield, so I did that. I ended up with three hundred and seventy-four pounds of tomatoes. This was off of fourteen plants. I did not count any of the “Blah” hybrid cherry tomatoes in this.
Twenty pounds of tomatoes per plant is, by popular account, a respectable yield. I am pleased to report that I came in at 26.71 pounds per plant. These were all ripe tomatoes. I also harvested over sixty pounds of green tomatoes during clean-up.
If you received an anonymous bag of green tomatoes on your doorstep last week, I hope you didn’t call Homeland Security. It was me.
The best part of gardening over a long period of time is the satisfaction of having a real, meaningful relationship with your garden. It will talk to you. You just have to learn the language. Like any good relationship, it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of listening. These little dalliances with capricious tomato plants won’t mean a thing.
By Ginger Dawson