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Posts Tagged ‘heirloom’

If you haven’t already received your stack of seed catalogs, get online and order yourself a bunch!! I have a bunch gathering dust as I am *gulp* not buying seeds this year. I might get around to reading some just for recreation later in the season.

So, yeah. I’m not buying new seed, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be trying any  new varieties. I’ve got a couple newbies waiting in the wings, don’t worry. The reason? With a new baby I’ve got to streamline my life. That means working with what I’ve got and just growing the basics. And only growing what I can handle, which is a lot less than I’d like probably.

But on the other hand, that doesn’t mean less produce. In fact, we’ll be rolling in produce cause I just bought our family a CSA subscription! Wheeee! This is the first year I can afford it, and luckily I remembered before they were sold out. In case you don’t know what a CSA is, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture and basically means you prepay for a share of veggies (and sometimes fruit, eggs and poultry), grown by a local farmer and pick up your said produce weekly. Sound good? Look here for one near you.

I’ve signed us up for this one. It is a great farm that I’ve been ogling for 1 or 2 years already. It’s about a half-hour away but I can pick up my share of goodies at our local farmer’s market. Bring on the variety! They grow tons of stuff I have had no luck with like broccoli and carrots. Plus I’ll be able to make delicious organic vegetable purees for my baby in lots of different non-store flavors like parsnip, eggplant, and kohlrabi. And try lots of new recipes!

This farm also does fun farm activities too, which are included in the cost of the share. So Corin’s birthday will be spent having a fun hayride! They also do canning classes and bonfires/camping. And the farm owners have a baby boy only a few months older than my daughter. They could have farm related play dates 😉

CSAs mean everyone wins! It helps the farmer financially, and gives the client the benefits of gardening without the work. And it’s organic. 🙂

A friend's CSA share from mid-season.

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I selected this variety due to Amy Goldman’s glowing recommendation in her book. Of the few oxheart types she covers, she declares this variety to be the earliest, most productive and tastiest of all the oxhearts. That made it a winner in my eyes and I had high expectations.

These tomatoes had cracking on the shoulders. Size/weight were decent--this one is 12 oz.

The Description from where I got my seed:

This is an outstanding pink oxheart variety that distinguishes itself with extra high yields and richer flavor than most other pink oxhearts. Fruit weighs at least 10 ounces and may grow up to 1 lb. or more. Shaped like a heart, these tomatoes are very juicy and flavorful while being meaty with few seeds. Expect fern-like foliage that is typical of oxheart varieties. Indeterminate. 85-90 days

I apologize for this crappy photo--my camera is on the fritz, but you can at least see the heart shape of the tomato.

First Impressions:
This might be the only pink variety I’m growing this year, huh! No, wait I’m doing Giant Belgium too. But this is the first ripe pink of the year. I forgot what tomato pink looked like: it’s really pretty 😉

I’m not sure why my first tomato has so many cracks! It could have been due to the heavy rains and irregular watering schedule, but my other tomatoes haven’t done this so I’m not sure if it’s a variety thing. The oxheart shape is certainly unique and fun looking, but limits the sandwich-sized slices you can get from one.

Japanese oxheart makes a meaty tomato slice.

Sliced, the true meatiness is revealed. There’s so much meat there’s hardly any room at all for seeds or gel. Saving seeds from this type would be a real challenge as it’s practically seedless! The slices are very juicy too, even with the low amount of gel.

My taste review:
Don’t hate me when I say this tastes kinda watered down. Sure it’s a balanced taste with real tomato goodness (the gel isn’t even necessary to get a deliciously sweet tomato flavor) there just isn’t enough of it! The skin is thick.

On a sandwich: Darn. Even with two slices on my turkey-BLT this tomato doesn’t add anything to the sandwich. It just tastes too watered down to contribute much flavor. It was also very juicy, leaking water all over my bib-napkin and plate (yes I wear a bib: I’m 9 months pregnant at the moment).

Other uses: We diced the leftover slices as a topping for our spicy tacos. They were very good in this application, providing a great cold, mild counterpoint to the hot spicy meat. So these might have redeeming value as fresh salsa tomatoes.

Plant Growth & Health:
I grew just one of these due to losing two of them soon after transplanting. I was really looking forward to seeing the ferny foliage but was disappointed. It honestly looks just like any other regular leafed plant but with smaller leaves.

Health was just average, and this plant didn’t get very tall. Fruit set was lower than expected, but the size of the fruits is decent.

Will I grow again?
I don’t know yet. This might make a good sauce tomato if production was better, cause the skin can come off almost without blanching first. And few seeds mean you could skip straining sauce if you don’t like seeds (I personally don’t mind seeds, but leaving the skin on is a mistake I won’t be repeating in the future).

The tomato pictured is the ONLY tomato of this type to escape getting eaten by critters. For some reason the Japanese oxheart was my only variety to get eaten and they ate large bites out of all of the other tomatoes: some were reduced to mere skins and calyxes. I don’t know what ate them, but I guess they were tasty!

End-of-Year Stats:
# of Plants___Days to Maturity___Days Off____Yield_______Yield per Plant
__1____________83____________-2________14__________14

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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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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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