As you may have read yesterday, I did not start any of my own seedlings this year, unless they were direct sown things like greens and herbs and squash and cucumbers and flowers and carrots and radishes and…Ok, what I really mean is I didn’t start any tomato seeds this year. They are my pride and joy whose absence from my life left a big gaping hole. It turned out, I couldn’t bear the summer without those tastiest of summer fruits, so I bought a few plants from Love Apple Farm’s plant sale. The varieties I planted were, Amish Paste, Green Giant, Orange Russian 116, Anna Russian, Royal Plum, Michael Pollan, Paul Robison and White Oxheart. Then on a whim, Jules and I brought home a “Juliette” tomato from the Cabrillo plant sale, just because we loved the name. Alright, it was really because I’m an addict and I can’t stop buying plants but the name was a convenient excuse.
Unfortunately, I did not get photos of the tomatoes or manage to weight or measure them. I’ve been busy. It was all I could do to eat them. To make up for this, I have provided links to people who spend more time than me, immersed in the world of the tomato. They have better photos and descriptions, anyway.
Amish Gold- This is the second year I’ve grown these and they continue to be spectacular. I expect I will grow these every year. This is a cross between a Sun Gold and an Amish Paste. If you have grown either, I have your attention now. This is a small, paste shaped tomato, in a brilliant shade of Hare Krishna orange. Krishna means supreme or all-attractive, so I suppose that’s fitting. These can be eaten off the vine (they are my go to garden snack) or cooked up into a great sauce. As you may well be aware, I detest the modern San Marzanos as flavorless usurpers to the real paste tomatoes. Amish Paste is the real deal. They do have seeds (because that’s how we get baby tomatoes!) but the skins are thin and easy to eat, even when cooked. Yay! No peeling tomatoes! They are the first tomato to ripen in the garden and the last one still bearing fruit at the end of the season. They survived last year’s awful tomato weather. They thrived in the year’s 90 degree heat wave. They are a winner.
Green Giant- I was worried about this plant. It looked pretty scraggly and sparse for a long time but I think that may just be its nature. The plants didn’t produce a whole lot of fruit but the tomatoes were big and delicious. They were acidic and sweet like ripe, green tomatoes should be and had a nice texture. They were excellent slicers and every tomato on the plant ripened. My biggest beef with this beefsteak is that they are very susceptible to sun scald. Knowing that, if I were to grow them again, I would prune them less and add a shade cover (I’m lazy and cheap so I usually just use a light weight frost blanket. We also don’t usually get as many very sunny warm days as we did this summer. I don’t know who this plant will produce during one of our foggier summers. It was a little late ripening, so I don’t hold out too much hope for it.
Orange Russian 117- I’ve been trying to grow these for three years but due to the mix-ups and mishaps with the tomato labeling, I don’t think I ever did. I’m glad I tried it one more time. These tomatoes were awesome. Lots of fruit from the plant. They were a fun dual orange striped color. I’m guessing by the size that they would do fine during a foggier summer but I also don’t think the fruit I got are typical of the variety. My fruit seemed smaller and not as heart-shaped as the ones at Tomato Fest. They had little to no sun scald and the vine itself was very hardy. The fruit ranged in size from a standard beefsteak to a smaller, slightly larger than golf ball size fruit. Due to the amount of tomatoes this vine produced, they were a popular gift. I won’t grow these next year just because there are too many types I want to try but I may grow them again, in the future.
Anna Russian- Now this, THIS is what a past tomato should be. Quick, throw out your hard, tasteless San Marzanos and embrace the Anna Russian. I’ve grown this every year and it just impresses me. The plants are early producers of medium to largish, heart-shaped fruit (with some little ones thrown in for good measure) with big taste. This is the plant my sister-in-law most often raided in my garden. Can you say that about San Marzanos? No. The last time I ate a San Marzano off the vine I spat it out and vowed they from the place where the sun now stands, I will grow no more, forever. Why why WHY do we continue to grow these inferior fruits when we could eat Anna Russians (or a number of other tasty tomatoes.) I have heard the argument that once they are canned, they taste fine but if you’ve had canned sauce from tomato with taste, you will understand why I will not even answer to that ridiculous statement. Crap in, crap out. Like its inferior but popular relative, Anna Russian has lots of meat and virtually no seeds. It’s not super juicy but it has enough that the tomato has a proper texture. We eat them on salads, we eat them like apples. I think the fruit I got from Love Apple’s plants are smaller than the fruit from the seeds I get from Tomato Fest but that tends to happen with seeds sourced from different growers. *Anna Russian seeds are on sale now at Tomato Fest! Eeeeeeee!*
Plum Royal- I assume that this is a hybrid variety, based on how the plants grew. They were not marked as a hybrid, which kind of irritates me but buyer beware, I suppose. In their defense, did not pick up their extensive info sheet, which may have listed this variety as a hybrid. The plants are bright green, determinate bushes, with lots and lots of fruit. I was excited when I saw how loaded with fruit these plants were. The fruit grew early and reached full size quickly. Then, they stopped. They turned a mild shade of red but they never fully ripened. I pulled 20 lbs of unripe fruit two weeks ago and all of it tasted terrible. These tomatoes are exactly what you find in the grocery store. They look good but they taste awful. Needless to say, I won’t be growing these again. I have no link to these as I couldn’t find any good info on the internet.
Michael Pollan- I bought this variety because I love Michael Pollan like 10-year-old girls love Justin Beiber. He makes me swoon. I don’t always agree with him but his writing is terrific. Tomato Mania had said some good things to say about the plants. How the tomato tastes, I will never know. The spindly little Charley Brown plant reached 1.5 feet, had six leaves and produced one tiny, withering fruit, which caused the plant to slump against the side of its cage, where it gasped its dying words, “Tell Michael I’m sorry.” And then it was gone. I guess it was just a bum plant but I’m not willing to try again next year. Did anyone else get a chance to try this variety this year? If you did, give me a shout out and let me know how it tasted.
Juliette- I’m glad we got this little gem. This plant produced copious amounts of bright, red fruit, growing in bunches. The fruit was delicious and I did quite a bit of snacking on it while working in the garden. The small size fruit matured early and produced all summer long. It is a hybrid but I knew that when I got it. I won’t grow it again because I can’t save seeds but I would recommend it to beginner tomato growers. With some pruning, this would be an awesome balcony or porch plant, though it’s probably too big for most window gardens.
White Oxheart- I give up. I have tried to grow White Oxheart every year since I have been growing tomatoes and I have yet to be successful. I’ve been growing through all sorts of conditions so I have to say, it’s not them, it’s me. The Oxheart went the way of the Michael Pollan, but didn’t go as quickly. I tortured it for a long time. I think I will not continue to take up space in my garden with this plant. There are lots of great tomatoes out there that want to live with me.
Paul Robison- This variety is gaining in popularity, thanks to its listing in the Ark of Taste, so I almost didn’t grow it. I did it for the experience and to see if it really is as good as they say. Whomever they are. I’m hoping one day this variety will be the variety people ask if I grow instead of Purple Cherokee. If I had a nickel for every time someone finds out if I grow heirlooms and asks if I grow Purple Cherokee, I would be a rich woman. It takes all of my will not to scream, “That’s a commercial variety. You can do better! You can grow better!” Instead I calmly educate the unsuspecting shopper on the thousands of varieties of heirloom tomatoes which exist and how we have a responsibility to maintain genetic diversity. Then I tell them that there are better tasting and more fun tomatoes out there, Paul Robison being one of them. The fruits are a nice size for salads and they fit perfectly over slices of buffalo mozzarella in caprese salad. The plants were super easy to maintain and I had little to no problems with them. The taste really is all that. Man, were they good. Their listing with Slowfood is not undeserved. I won’t grow these again and not because they aren’t amazing. They are. I won’t be growing these because there are a lot of other varieties that need support. Paul Robison’s listing on the Ark of Taste assures its survival as a variety but for every variety that becomes popular, ten more varieties disappear.
January is the time to start shopping for and planting your tomato seeds. If you haven’t already bought all of the seeds you need, think about growing something totally different this year. Something you haven’t heard of before. Something you have to look up on the internet every time you type its name, because you can’t remember how to spell it.
If you can’t bear to buy a whole pack of seeds for one plant, feel free to stop by our seed swap and cocktails on February 9, at 2:00pm. We can plant a seed in a Dixie cup for you to raise on your balcony. You will not be sorry.