Sunday, June 24, 2012

Papi's 2012 Line-up: Second Flight


I have planted this tomato for several years.  It is a very good producer and has good to excellent flavor. I generally pick tomatoes I have not grown before for their names or if they look good in the catalogs.  I am soooo a sucker for tomato catalogs, but that is a blog I have to write in the winter.  If a tomato is going to stay in the line-up it has to first and foremost taste good.  Second, it should be a good producer. It has to have more than six or seven tomatoes on it.  Lastly, if it is disease resistant, especially for powdery mildew, that is a good thing.  Tomande meets all three of these requirements.  It has the flavor and looks of an heirloom, but with the yield and disease resistance of a modern hybrid.

This tomato is new to the line-up this year.  According to the seed catalogs’ propaganda, early bearing, intense flavor, potato-leaved with large clusters of abundant tomatoes.  It is an heirloom from Germany.  I picked it because it looked pretty, I liked the name and it was an early producer.  Then I went and planted it in the second flight, go figure. 

San Marzano Redorta

I planted this tomato for the first time in 2011.  I had planted the smaller San Marzano tomatoes before with mixed success.  For those of you not that familiar with the San Marzano, it is the premier tomato grown in Italy for making marinara or paste.  Take a trip to an Italian specialty grocery or deli and you will pay a fortune for canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy.  Now don’t get me wrong, the San Marzano tomatoes from Italy really do taste great.  I just feel they are not worth their lofty price tag.  The San Marzano Redorta is an heirloom from Tuscany, Italy.  It is named for a mountain in Bergamo, Italy.  This tomato is a San Marzano on steroids.  It is big, 7 to 8 inches in length, meaty with almost no juice and all meat.  You cook a couple of these babies down for marinara sauce and you don’t have to worry about your sauce being thin.  We canned a bunch of these last year.  I make a very bright marinara with the San Marzano Redorta we canned in 2011 when I make pizza.  I make a very good pizza and these tomatoes make a great marinara.

This is one of my fantastic, pizzas with San Marzano Redorta tomates made into a marinara for the pizza.

Cory’s Grandpa

This tomato has a lot going for it. It has been in the line-up for years, and will always be there.  It is a good producer of large beef steak tomatoes that are multicolored with beautiful coloring of yellow, green and red (think rainbow, but only prettier).  It tastes absolutely fabulous with lots of juice and flavor.  You put some mozzarella on one of these tomatoes, some basil and a sprinkle of olive oil you have a meal that will not leave you hungry.  But the best thing about this tomato is that it has a great story. 

In years past, one of my daughters dated a young man by the name of Cory.  My daughter and Cory have long since parted ways, but when they were going together, this young man knew of my passion for tomatoes and brought me seeds from his Grandpa’s prized tomato.  When Cory gave me the seeds, he recounted this beautiful, multicolored tomato that his Grandpa had grown for years.  It was prized within the family and treasured for its beauty and taste.  I operate on the premise that talk is cheap, show me what you got.  The first year I planted this tomato, I planted 2 or 3 of them. It was a good thing, because only one made it (I wasn’t as talented as I am now and my tomato growing was hit or miss).  This tomato was so beautiful and so tasty, it was a hit and favorite.  Cory’s Grandpa has passed on, but his tomato will live in my garden for as long as I am growing tomatoes.

Vorlon Update

This is a very good tasting tomato.  With a name like Vorlon and the story behind it, this could stay in the line up.

Monday, June 18, 2012

June Maintenance Mode

June is an anticipatory middle month. The early spring blooms have burnt away to allow the mid season blooms a place in the sun: large sprays of roses, colorful salvia, yarrow, lavender, and other assorted butterfly-loving flowers. The early wildflowers have recently been removed to may way for the squash and pumpkin. The tomatoes are flowering and bringing forth hard, green fruit. There are no tomatoes to eat just yet and I hope today's sunshine is evidence of more warmth to come.

This odd lull in the garden has left me with only the simplest of tasks, mainly deadheading. Many would ask: Why cut the blooms off a flowering plant? Truth be told, a gardener who removes the almost spent blossom encourages the plant to produce a bevy more of them. I have deadheading my roses down to a scheduled science. On days I water (usually Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday) I remove spent and on the cusp of spent blooms and remove leaves infested with orange rust. I think I will be forever doomed to fight orange rust, but I find that if I attack in short battles over the course of time, I have more success (and more beautiful roses) than if I try to wage an epic battle once a month. As with all work in a garden, it is a war of attrition, the pests and blight never truly defeated but rather staved off for another day. Deadheading isn't just for roses; I use the tactics on annual flowers, lavender, salvia, and yarrow. The tactic does not seem to work on jasmines; they bloom profusely, then like a switch, shut down for the season, leaving me to miss their lovely scent.

The Yellow Pear (left) is taller than me!
Other simple June task include (as always) weeding, watering, and checking for powdery mildew and treating it, THE EARLIER THE BETTER. And yes, I am shouting that last provision. I didn't treat my yellow crook necked squash early enough and now I am afraid they cannot be salvaged (into the dumpster they go)! The tomatoes, zucchini, and pumpkins will take their medicine on a regular basis. There are many options to choose from at your local nursery and many of them are organic. Weeding is still necessary but begins to lull after the end of the spring rains. I am fighting spotted spurge and spider grasses rather than thicker stemmed varieties such as dandelions. Weeding is another war of attrition, the more weed-free the garden, the less likelihood of weed seeds spread far and wide. But vigilance always, for the next infestation is on the wind.

Butterfly Garden
Watering responsibility requires keen observation in June. The overcast marine layer of “June Gloom” blots out the sun in the mornings (and sometimes all day). I still usually water 3 days a week, but I skip a day as needed if the ground still looks damp. Over watering can kill just as much as under watering, and it brings a higher risk of powdery mildew.

My happy place

After puttering in the garden in the cool weekend mornings, completing these smaller tasks, I can afford to relax in the afternoon, sipping an iced coffee underneath my new patio canopy. I enjoy whiling a way an hour or two reading my gardening magazines or watching the birds, waiting in anticipation for the tomato crop to turn to the magic colors of ripeness: red, orange, yellow, and purple.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Papi Tomato's 2012 Line Up - First Wave

The first tomato in the 2012 line up is the Michael Pollan

This is a returning tomato to the line up first planted in 2011. It is named after the famous author, Michael Pollan, known for his books on food, gardening and environmentalism. The plant was very prolific with beautiful green tomatoes of smaller size and great flavor. During the harvest of 2011, we had used up all of our canning jars and we had so many of the Michael Pollan tomatoes that needed to be used, that we made a big batch of green pasta sauce.  The sauce ended up tasting great, but looked kind of funny.

Here is a picture of the Michael Pollan tomatoes from last year.

The second tomato in the 2012 line up is the Vorlon.
For those of you that are not sci fi aficionados, the Vorlons were a race of alien people populating the universe in the Babylon 5 science fiction series.  I loved that show, but then I love nearly all science fiction shows.  I saw this tomato at Tomatomania in the spring and had to try it.  I hope it does well as I would love to add it to my tomato line up in future years.

The third tomato in the line up is the Black Seaman. 

This is another tomato from Tomatomania. The name of this tomato is so NOTpolitically correct that I had to try it.  Political correctness is not my strong suit.

The fourth tomato in the the first wave was supposed to be a Brandywine.  It was a gift from my daughter.  As it began to grow, it was obvious, it was not a Brandywind.  It turns out to be a container tomato that is small and compact in size.  I am not a fan of container tomatoes, but more on that in a future post.  It is just now starting to show some red tomatoes.  They better taste good, or it will get replaced in the line up.

I expect to have approximately 20 different tomato plants for the 2012 tomato growing season.  Watch for future blog posts on the rest of the 2012 tomato line up.

Papi Tomato