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Archive for August, 2011

Cherokee Purple Tomato

Does anyone else sing “Cherokee Nation” every time they think of this tomato? Of course you have to sing it, “Cherokee Purple! Cherokee Pri-ide! So proud to live! So proud to dine!”

These are a unique tomato: I’m still not sure if they are actually a “Black” tomato or not! They don’t quite have the characteristic burgundy outer coloring of other blacks, as they are much more pink. It’s probably safe to say they are only black on the inside–since there is Cherokee Chocolate that has the darker burgundy skin of other blacks. Cherokee Green also exists for those who like green-when-ripe types (me! me!). And there’s also Spudakee, for those who prefer potato-leaved plants (not me!).

The Description from where I got my seed:

Very productive plants bear loads of 10 to 12 oz. dusky rose/purple fruit with deep brick red interiors. The tomatoes are absolutely delicious with a pleasantly sweet and rich flavor. With thin skin and soft flesh, the fruit is somewhat perishable, but they taste so good they will be eaten quickly anyhow. Heirloom from Tennessee. Indeterminate. 80 days

Cherokee Purple tomato makes amazingly meaty slices!

First Impressions:
My first tomato of this type is a siamese twin with two distinct lobes with lots of scar tissue in between. It was from a megabloom, so it is probably against type. Later tomatoes will be much more round in shape.

When I sliced it open (after carefully removing the scar tissue), I was very surprised by how juicy, how deeply colored, and how very meaty the slices look. They actually look like beef cutlets on my plate! Beautiful!

My Taste Review:
Yummm! Biting into these slices is oh so good! They are incredibly balanced, even for the first tomato off the vine. They are soft textured and very juicy, with skin that’s a bit thick but acceptable. Very smooth mouthfeel with just the right amount of sweetness and sour. They do taste a bit watered down, however.

On a sandwich: We had these with my newest favorite sandwich, the turkey BLT (aka turkey club). They were very good! A bit juicy (drippy), but the tomato’s sweetness was enhanced with the contrasting salty and savory flavors of the turkey, cheese and bacon.

Plant Growth & Health:
This is where the bad news comes in. These plants are already supposed to be shorter than other indeterminates, and they are. But they are also scrawny and they were the first to start to get yellowing of the lower leaves (common mid to late season here). Then there was the fruit set. I’ve got one fruit growing on each of two plants. So two fruits. Two. And I just ate one.

That means fruit set is terrible during the crucial month of July–also the hottest month of the year. Terrible.

Will I grow again?
I don’t know. The fruit set is so bad, and other tomatoes taste just as good or better with better plant health and fruit set. I’m saving seed to keep my options open, but I will probably just hold on to the seeds for trading with.

End-of-Year Stats:
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield_______Yield per Plant
__2____________83_____________3________12__________6
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Unlike other recipes that call for coating in flour or breadcrumbs and deep fat frying, this recipe is a great lower fat alternative and can be made on the grill as well.

The prep is a lot simpler as well, so you don’t have to make poppers for hours on end. And you can make as many or as few as you want, leaving no extra ingredients (such as prepared filling or batter, etc). Just freeze left over bacon for later use, and refrigerate any unused cream cheese.

Ingredients:
jalapeno peppers
bacon (I prefer turkey bacon): one slice for every 2 whole peppers
cream cheese (can use low fat neufachel), chilled
salt

Directions:
Cut bacon slices into quarters so as to wrap 4 pepper halves with one total slice of bacon. First cut in half, then slit lengthwise. Set aside.

Prepare your peppers by slitting them from stem to tip (lengthwise). My purple jalapenos will turn green after cooking. Leave the stems on, if possible. De-seed and de-rib using a grapefruit spoon, or a small tongs.

Salt the open pepper halves sparingly. Fill the pepper halves with straight cream cheese using a spoon.

Then wrap with a quarter-piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick.

Fry in a frying pan or grill on low heat. Start with the cream cheese side, then flip to the jalapeno side. The cheese will not come out as it is chilled when you start and you flip them before they can start melting. Flip them when the bacon is starting to crisp on that side. Alternatively, you can broil these. Put in a broiling pan and cook on high heat until the bacon is crisp, about 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat when bacon is crisp on both sides. Let cool slightly and remove the toothpicks. Remind your guests to avoid eating the stem.

For a hotter popper, leave some ribbing and/or seeds behind. Otherwise, these should taste deliciously mild. You can also use extra thick onion dip or flavored cream cheese spreads instead of plain cream cheese for a different flavor profile. Have fun experimenting but keep it simple or you’ll never make them again 😉

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I selected this unusual variety to do some cross-breeding experiments with. Being as purple is my favorite color, I was pretty curious to see for myself a tomato with true purple coloring, even if just in splashes. The taste of these wasn’t a factor when I chose to purchase my small allotment of seed for an exorbitant price.

This tomato plant was pretty consistent in making 6-8 oz tomatoes, with the occasional runt (above).

The Description from where I got my seed [edited]:

This stunning tomato is a vibrant, tangerine-orange with shocking true purple splashed in various amounts over its upper half. This is one of the few domestic tomatoes that have true purple pigment, although research is being done with wild purple tomatoes. These have a nice sweet, mild and fruit-like taste that makes them good for snacking or cooking. Fruit weighing 4-10 ounces were produced in abundance and tended to get more purple as the season progressed. 80-90 days. 

First Impressions:
I’ve never grown a truly orange tomato so I was happy that the coloring was a true tangerine. I can see the tiny blotches and pin pricks of true purple among the green shoulders. And I was very happy to get 3 ripe at once–a rarity in my garden and especially at such an early maturity. I’ve been having the best luck this year with early tomatoes–I’m pretty giddy about it 🙂 The green shoulders almost disappeared after a few days on the counter.

OFPS makes a great tomato slice.

Sliced, the tomato reveals a perfect tomato slice, with lots of juicy orange flesh. The flesh is a consistent deep orange throughout, unlike yellow tomatoes which might have orangey skin but yellow flesh.

My taste review:
Wow, so delicious! This was a mild tasting tomato, but not as mild as other yellow or bicolors I’ve tasted. It is a very balanced taste with an ever-so-subtle fruity flavor. The texture is soft; it is not really mushy or mealy, but very tender. The gel is pretty loose, spilling onto the plate. The skin is thick.

On a sandwich: I had these slices on a cheeseburger. It was very mild but good. It would probably do better in a plain turkey sandwich or an old fashioned tomato sandwich (aka Mater Sandwich).

Plant Growth & Health:
I grew just one of these but gave it the best shot I could at making purple smudges. I read that these need lots of heat and sun to make the purple pigment, so this plant got a front-row seat in my garden and seemed to love the heat wave throughout July. (cont)

Close up of the purple smudge. This is really good purple color considering it is one of the earliest tomatoes on the plant.

While it isn’t the tallest plant, it is pretty bushy and happy. The joints of the stems display the purple pigment and it had purple pigment as a seedling too, making identification easy.

Fruit set was really good too, making this a great variety for heat tolerance. I guess getting the true purple smudge is a total crap shoot, with the odds stacked against you. Other reviewers all say pretty much the same thing unless they are in the southern half of the country. I don’t know how Amy Goldman grew these with such beautiful purple smudges in New York state!

Will I grow again?
I didn’t want to. I wanted to do my cross breeding and be done with it. But since my varieties didn’t all bloom at the same time, and we had a huge rain the day before I tried to collect pollen, and a heat streak that lasted the whole July (heat kills pollen), I might be forced to try again next year.

That said, while I’ll be growing it again for breeding purposes, I’m looking forward to growing it again for the taste. Juicing these would probably be tongue-tingling. The plant does have some excellent traits for my breeding experiments however, so I am pleasantly anticipating some great crosses in the future!

End-of-Year Stats:
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield_______Yield per Plant
__1____________73____________-12_______27__________27

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Red Brandywine Tomato

When first starting out in the world of heirloom tomatoes, one is likely to come across a most famous variety, “Brandywine.” The problem with Brandywine (pink, potato leaved) is that it has a reputation for setting low numbers of fruit. And since it is often grown as a first heirloom type for beginners, Brandywine serves to mar the reputation of all heirlooms as having low yeilds. Bummer.

This variety, however is the original original Brandywine and it is red and regular leafed. I selected it because I wanted to avoid the low yields of it’s pink counterpart and potato leaved varieties don’t do as well in my garden. Also I want my pasta sauce to turn out red this year where as the pink varieties tend to make my sauce orange.

Amy Goldman also has a beautiful full-page spread of this variety in her book, The Heirloom Tomato. That article alone was enough to convince me to grow this variety.

Red Brandywine tomato makes for lovely slices!

The Description from where I got my seed:

This is a version of Brandywine that offers red fruit with luscious old-time, red tomato flavor. Plants have regularly-shaped leaves and are extremely productive, bearing long harvests of these 10 to 16 ounce fruit. Heirloom from the late 1800’s. Indeterminate. 80 days.

First Impressions:
I honestly grew this variety last year as well but never got any fruits before first frost. The ones I did get ripened on the counter and so I never did a review of them–obviously the taste wouldn’t have been as good as vine-ripened.

My first tomato of this year is beautifully oblong and mildly fluted. It was from a megabloom, so it is against type. Later tomatoes will be much more round in shape. I loved watching it ripen on the vine. The tomatoes start off white and gradually turn to yellow, then orange and finally a deep red.

Slicing it reveals the flesh to be rather firm for a beefsteak. You can almost hear the knife crunching through the meat. The tomato is nicely beefy with a fair amount of seeds and gel. Great red color throughout.

My Taste Review:
These taste rather similiarly to how Giant Belgiums tasted last year. They are beautifully juicy and tangy but with low sweetness. The skin is thick. I’m hoping later tomatoes are a bit sweeter–that would make them an ideal tomato.

On a sandwich: we had these on turkey bagel sandwiches as well as turkey-BLTs and the slices tasted good. They were acceptably tomatoey without being too overwhelming.

Plant Growth & Health:
These are the 2nd happiest plants in my garden behind Malachite Box. They are big and lush with greenery. The fruit set could be better, but that’s the case with all my varieties this year–dumb blossom drop! They seem to like the growing conditions way better this year than last. They also responded great to my staking whereas last year I let them sprawl–to my disappointment.

Will I grow again?
I will evaluate at the end of the season. I really like that these plants are healthy and happy. The taste is good so far, so we will see!

End-of-Year Stats:
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield_______Yield per Plant
__2____________70___________-10________17__________8

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While these huckleberries are easy to grow, you'd need a lot of plants to get a decent harvest.

I was so excited to grow these for the first time. A plant I can grow and harvest berries from in just one year, how novel! I researched for a while on what variety of Huckleberry to choose and finally decided on this one, that claims it can be eaten raw as well as cooked–important for future gardens when I have a little one running around.

The Description from where I got my seed:

 (Solanum nigrum) Sweet purple berries are great fresh or cooked. They are much like Wonderberry but are larger in size and give heavier yields. Very easy cultivation; start seeds and grow like pepper plants, just 75 days to harvest.

First Impressions:
When the description read “they . . . are larger in size and give heavier yields” I assumed they meant the size of the berries. They don’t. They mean the size of the plants. The berries are super tiny–like elderberries. And my plants didn’t get very big either. The largest one is still less than knee high and I’m only 5’2″.

Another problem is that the fruit doesn’t ripen all at once. So when you only have 4 plants less than 2 feet high you get maybe 20 berries per harvest. That might fill a teaspoon. The picture above is 3 harvests worth. Not kidding.

My taste review:
Raw, these berries taste fresh and sweet but are on the bland side I can see why most people cook these a little with some lemon juice.

If I had enough to cook, I would do it.

Plant Growth & Health:
While my pepper plants got decimated by slugs (again!), these plants were left unscathed. They grew very much like pepper plants and put out teeny white flowers that made the small dark purple berries on cute clusters.

The plants are healthy but short. And yields of berries are way lower than I was expecting. I thought they’d be absolutely loaded with fruit but instead they make fruit very similarly to the way pepper plants do: about one fruit cluster per stem intersection. In order to actually get enough to do something with (i.e. make a pie or some jam) I would have had to plant a hundred of these plants.

The reviewer who said her plants got to be 7′ high is not the average, but the rare exception in my opinion. Way to get my hopes up . . .

My subsequent harvest was way bigger, see?! I have small hands--this might be 2 tbsp full.

Will I grow again?
What am I supposed to do with a tablespoon of berries? I might add them to some yogurt or a single portion of fruit salad. But seriously? Considering the yield, and that they need garden space to grow, I seriously can’t plant them again. Unfortunately.

End-of-Year Stats:
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield_______Yield per Plant
__4____________60___________-15________-_____too small to measure

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Ever since I learned of the existence of black tomatoes, I have been on a mission to find one that I like. So far only two have been tried: carbon and black cherry. The carbon was too bland for me and the black cherry‘s main fault is that it is a cherry. While Purple Calabash is not a beefsteak tomato, I couldn’t resist adding this to my seed list. I thought that from it’s description and reviews that it is the least like a black tomato while still looking like a black tomato I could ever hope to get. It is supposed to be very tart, often described as “assertive.” This could be a tomato I could really get creative with.

Purple calabash tomatoes are ruffled and beautiful!

The Description from where I got my seed:

This is the most truly purple tomato we know, not just pink-purple, but it is deep purple-burgundy. It is also uniquely shaped, extremely fluted and almost ruffled in appearance. Fruit is flattened, about 3 inches across, and flavor is described by some as distinctively winey and rich. Indeterminate. 80-90 days

First Impressions:
I am a sucker for ruffled tomatoes. These are a bit smaller than I usually like to grow but I couldn’t resist them due to other traits. They have the typical black coloring: a rich mahogany with dark green shoulders.

Slicing these retains the cute scalloped edges--well, for the most part.

Slicing into one reveals the brick red interior and juiciness. For such a small tomato, the juice was just pouring out. It also has very loose gel, with gel and seeds falling out of the slices’ cavities.

My taste review:
Wow, interesting. While the slices are extra juicy, this might make them taste kind of watered down. It is rather on the tart side, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it sour. It is more tangy and tongue tingling. The skin is thick. [I know I normally say the skin is “a bit” thick–this skin is thick.]

On a sandwich: We had delicious turkey club sandwiches with these slices. While the tomato was robust enough to stand up with such competing flavors as the smoked turkey, bacon, and cheddar, it isn’t an instant favorite.

A bowl full of purple calabash tomatoes

Plant Growth & Health:
This variety should consider itself super special because I’m growing three of these plants instead of my usual two. Reason being I lost a couple Japanese Oxhearts and needed to fill the space. These plants are right in the middle of my other plants in terms of size and health. I haven’t had any problems with disease and leaf curl is still manageable. The fruit set however, is way ahead of the rest of the pack which means this variety is more heat-tolerant than the others. If it turns out to be a really good variety for making sauce it could make this an essential variety for my future gardens.

Will I grow again?
I’ll have to wait and see about getting enough to make sauce with and reevaluate. Since they are so juicy, I don’t think they’re a replacement for paste types as of yet. For fresh eating, I think I’ll wait and see if the flavor changes later in the season (as in gets a little more balanced).

Cooking with these is difficult because the flesh is so juicy, when you peel off the skin there’s hardly any flesh left to cook with! Amazing yields though, even though most of those are really small.

End-of-Year Stats:
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield_______Yield per Plant
__3____________65___________-15________69__________23

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This is my first new variety of the season. I loved Green Giant tomatoes so much, I decided to try out another green-when-ripe type. This one is different than Green Giant in that it has amber skin when ripe, making judging when one is ripe a much easier task. This first tomato was from a megabloom. My other megablooms fell off due to blossom drop, but this one survived and made the first ripe tomato of the year.

This is the largest tomato I've ever grown. It's also one of the earliest: 1lb 14 oz in 65 days!

The Description from where I got my seed:

 The translated name means “Malachite Box,” named after the lovely green boxes that are made from this mineral that comes from the Ural mountains and other areas. This early, light-to-olive green, medium-sized tomato has succulent bright green flesh that is very flavorful and tasty. Plants are productive even in the north, as this variety was developed at Svetlana Farm in Russia, and it has been tested in Siberia! Our grower likes to make a unique green ketchup from this variety. 70-85 days

First Impressions:
I was surprised by how beautiful this tomato is. I picked it at the first sign of amber but let it sit out a few days before we had a chance to eat it. The skin continued to turn colors, until I finally sliced it open. It is mottled light green, dark green, light yellow, amber and light orange in mottled stripes and swirls. Very unique looking.

Upon slicing it open, I was again surprised by how darned juicy it was! Juice was pouring out with just the slightest pressure of my knife. The tomato flesh is incredibly meaty with little space for seeds and gel.

The inside of the tomato is a pale green and is very meaty.

My taste review:
O.M.G! My taste buds might be dulled from a long tomato abstinance but this tomato tastes so good! It is perky with a slight acidic taste, but a subtle fruitiness too. A balanced flavor. I’m curious if later tomatoes will taste sweeter. On a sandwich: we had cheeseburgers with slices of this tomato and it was the most delicious hamburger I’ve had this year. It was so juicy and perky I was so glad I put on two slices, he he.

Plant Growth & Health:
I grew two of these plants and they were the first seedlings to take off and become big healthy plants. With one other variety, I’d say these were the happiest tomato plants in the garden. They have no disease and very little leaf curl. And the tomatoes didn’t split even after a heavy 3″ rainfall. After the megabloom, I only got one other fruit on that plant and 3 fruits on the other. However all my plants are suffering from blossom drop and have very few fruits overall. We’ll see how many I end up with at the end of the season.

Will I grow again?
Yes. I have a soft spot in my heart for green-when-ripe types. I took a risk growing this type over Green Giant and I’m glad I did. They are healthy happy plants, and make beautiful fruits that are just delicious. I’m not sure yet if I’ll use them in cooking due to their color, so we’ll see.

End-of-Year Stats:
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield_______Yield per Plant
__2____________65____________-5________31__________15

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