The Aunt Tomato Discourse

This week, I’ve been busy lamenting the end of summer:

“…the crickets…”

“…the Dark Days of August…”

“…no waves…”

I even tagged my Hydrangea post with the words “eternal rest.”

Sadly, nothing says the end of summer like tomato plants.  Even if the vines are bowed down low with ripe, fat tomatoes, the leaves are starting to wither and fall off.  Some of my tomatoes are ripening on what looks like twisted sticks.

I started my seeds too early, I didn’t keep good records of what I planted, and I wasn’t thoughtful about the plant types I grew.  In spite of these things, I had a decent tomato harvest this year.  Some things were better this year than last year and vice versa.

I like to grow “indeterminate” tomatoes.  These are climbing varieties that need to be staked, trellised, caged and pruned; they produce fruit over an extended period of time and act like a vine instead of a plant.  They’re like upright cucumbers, sort of.  They can get quite tall.

I also select “heirloom” seeds, so I can save them if I get apocalyptically motivated.

Following is a summary of Aunt Tomato’s 2012 tomatoes and a few thoughts about each of them:

Halladay’s Mortgage Lifter
Three generations of Kentucky farmers named Halladay can’t be wrong.  These beefsteak tomatoes are big; most fruits are about 2 pounds.  They are ugly.  They are meaty and delicious and make excellent BLT sandwiches.  I’ll grow these tomatoes again next year.  How can you not like a tomato called “Mortgage Lifter?”

Amish Paste
This mid-sized tomato is tasty and excellent for making tomato sauce.  Once again, I planted too many this year because I imagined myself preserving gallons of tomato sauce.  I’ll grow them again, but 3 or 4 plants will be just right.

I went to the Maine Agricultural Trade Show in 2010; Johnny’s Selected Seeds had a booth and they were giving away 10-seed packets of this organic heirloom breed.  I finally started a few this year (3 year old seed) and they were lovely to look at and good to eat.  They produced a lot of fruit on sturdy vines.  Johnny’s catalogue describes them as “sunny orange fruits with full tomato flavor” to which I say “absolutely true” and “on the list for 2013.”

Tommy Toe and Mexican Midget
Both of these tomato plants produced cherry tomatoes; I couldn’t remember which was which when I planted them.  They were very similar in size, texture, and taste.  I was surprised that they did not produce much fruit and they did not have a memorable flavor.  I will not grow these tomatoes next year.

These grape tomatoes are my favorites to grow and I only had one plant this year, tucked away in my secret garden.  Last year, I planted four plants and it was too much because Riesentruabe is a heavy producer.  Uncle Bob loves them and next year, I will make sure to plant some of these in my home garden, just for him.  Riesentraube is also my “object lesson” of choice.  I like to bring them to work or as hostess gifts and say “see, I grew these and you can too.”

Silvery Fir Tree
This plant is the only “determinate” variety I’ve grown.  Seed Savers Exchange describes it as a “traditional Russian variety with distinctive carrot-like silvery-gray foliage” and “does well in hanging baskets or on patios.”  Sadly, they didn’t do well on The Coop’s patio or in my Hampton Victory Garden raised bed.  Last year, they did passably in my home garden.  I’m out of these seeds now and won’t be reordering.

While not every type of tomato was perfect, I had a variety of types, ranging from beefsteak to salad to canning and I’m going to save some Riesentraube seeds for next year.  I learned a few new things and I’ve got some things to think about this winter.

I’m going to knock it off on the “end of summer” stuff right now.

How were your tomatoes this summer?

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