Welcome back to another TomatoMania Monday! Scott is here with the results of his Tomato Derby. In case you didn’t know, the Derby was a race! A tomato race. He was out to see which varieties would fruit first. The original Tomato Derby post can be found here. GREG
We Have A Winner!
The wait is over and yes, it’s officially tomato season! Finally!
I turned green with envy recently reading about tomato festivals down south. The season there is in full swing but cooler weather in the west has kept our season at bay for a couple weeks longer than expected.
The good news is that it looks to be a great season. Our plants are loaded with fruit and just this weekend we picked Derby tomatoes!
The first of our early contenders to come through with ripe fruit is…STUPICE, the Czech heirloom! We should change the name to “Old Reliable”. The plant doesn’t really look great, which is oddly different from last year, but we picked two this weekend and there are over 25 other fruits well formed and ready to ripen in the next few weeks. Since they’re growing in containers they’re due a light fertilizing this week, so perhaps it will perk up as it delivers the rest of its crop.
The second to turn color is JENNY (pictured at top of post), the small orange hybrid. (Greg, you’re growing this one too…picking yet?) The plant is tall, lanky and covered with fruit. It’s officially a cherry but the fruit is slightly elongated and some are a little larger on the blossom end. The taste? Phenomenal. Bright and sweet and so fresh. We tasted one or two just as we picked them and enjoyed the flavor. But the ones we brought in and left on the kitchen counter for three days? Amazing!
So remember to pick and then WAIT just a little longer. I think you know that tomatoes continue to ripen off the vine, which is why commercial growers can pick them up to three weeks before they ripen and truck them all over the country. And we get that great cardboard taste we’re so used to in January!
Picked when it turns color the sugar balance in the tomato is almost there. A cool spot in your kitchen or pantry will help it ripen fully (without the risk of critters enjoying it before you do) and give you exponentially better results on the tongue. It’s so hard to do that this time of the year but try a before and after experiment of your own. Be sure to pick a couple days before that special dinner party so that you can have perfectly ripe and tasty fruit for your salads or main dishes. If you don’t suffer squirrel, bird or raccoon invasions regularly leave the fruit on the vine until it becomes slightly soft and you’ll get the same results.
The rest of the derby field is performing quite well. I’m really excited about the sheer amount of fruit that’s inevitable though I’m nervous about ground squirrels finding them before I can pick. A quick look this morning reveals the third place derby finisher, the cherry called GARDENER’S DELIGHT. Large trusses of cherry fruit are ripening more or less at once, which is both beautiful and practical.
Others in the field:
Golden Mama – Loaded with fruit. There must be 75 small ovals ready to turn yellow any minute.
Scorospelka – This Russian shows larger fruit than most of the others and there are layers and layers of fruit on a very compact plant. A great early choice for those of you growing in small spaces.
Sprite – Another small plant with lots of almost pear-shaped cherry tomatoes. This one, alas, is labeled Prairie Fire. It’s a perfect match for the Sprites we have in other parts of the garden. Every year we do have mismarks but we love them anyway and this one is way early.
Early Hybrid – Nice looking fruit, the plant looks amazing. Slightly elongated fruit but no color showing yet.
Champion – This reliable hybrid will be just that. A large plant covered with fruit.
Matina – Another lanky plant that’s very open, with not a lot of leaf cover. Potato leaf style is very attractive and perky.
Two other cherries, Bi-Color Cherry (orange) and Mexico Midget (red) are also showing color in our ground plantings. Hundreds and hundreds of flowers all across the tomato garden predict a very good season, we’ll keep our fingers crossed.
Enjoy the first treasures of your season and let me know how it’s going. I’d love to hear what’s working (and not working) in your gardens. E‑mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with updates!