There is something special about tomatoes. They complete a garden and epitomise summer. I’m not sure if it is the fragrance the plants emit from the moment they emerge from the seed raising mix and I love to run my hand over the small army of tiny seedlings in order to get a burst of this scent of summer in the early days of spring. It is also good for the plants to be touched in this way as it strengthens their stems and prepares them for life on the outside when they will get buffered about by the breeze. It could also be that there is a depth of flavour found in a home grown tomato that is rarely found elsewhere. Add to that the intensification of the flavour brought about by it being moments old and still warm from the sun when gobbled up greedily.
There will always be tomatoes in my garden – which is just as well as there are over 100 varieties available to the seed growers of New Zealand and I have space in bed 7 for 20 and possibly space for a few more if I’m creative with some of the more casual beds I have. So this is the fun part – decided which ones to grow.
Normally I plant them in alphabetical order – because I like it that way and it helps me to remember which is which. One year I grew them in groups – all the cherries together, all the cooking ones together and all the large beefsteak style ones together and while it was convenient I found myself going back to my old ways the following year. Besides It’s not that difficult to tell the difference between and cherry and a beefsteak.
With so many options available, I have found I tend to shy away from the ordinary. Last season the red round tomatoes were clearly in the minority. I found the garden filled with the deep purples and bright yellows and the flavours from these were by far superior to tomatoes found on shelves illuminated by fluorescent lighting.
Now most of the tomatoes grown in my garden are destined for the freezer – going in whole and unwashed – just as they are when they come in from the garden. It couldn’t be easier. Come mid winter, just run them under the tap, slip the skins off and pop them into the casserole to melt in with the rest of the ingredients. So a lions share of the plants need to be a kind that isn’t too juicy and large enough not to be a fiddle when preparing a dish. But I also like to have some cherries to nibble on and to perk up salads with a tomatoey zing. And of course you can’t go passed a large sandwich sized tomato that will fill a piece of bread or burger bun in one slice and even go so far as to hang over the sides!
So the question remains – which ones?
After much deliberation, I have decided on – and in alphabetical
- Armish Orange Sherbet – I grew them last year but the season was so poor I can’t remember what they were like.
- Artisan Blush – which is an elongated cherry with a yellow and pink colour and aparently great flavour. This one is new to me and I can’t wait to try it.
- Black Cherry – I threw a load of these into the freezer last season and noticed when defrosting them to use again they leached a deep purple colour, which means they should be full antioxidants and so its gotta be good for you!
- Black Krim are slightly smaller than the Purple Cheroke and have a similar flavour and I love them!
- Brandywine Yellow – great for burgers and have a lovely version of the tomato flavour. To be honest I can never get over the fact that each of these tomatoes all taste like tomatoes but at the same time taste so different.
- Green Zebra – I grew it last year but didn’t give it a fair chance because the weather was so horrible they took forever to ripen – but it was also hard to tell when they had ripened as they were green..
- Grosse Lisse so we have an ordinary style tomato to remind us of what a proper tomato should taste like.
- Linda’s Lemony Tomato – these seeds were generously given to me from the family of a relative who had saved them for the next growing season, but unfortunately cancer got in the way and they were never planted. It is a lovely legacy to be able to grow these each year and remember Linda. I don’t know what the original variety actually was but she was right to save these ones – they are really nice.
- Mortgage Lifter because it would also be great on a burger… imagine how pretty it would look to have a slice of red Mortgage Lifter on top of a slice of Yellow Brandywine in the middle of a home made burger! Oh I can hardly wait for that opportunity.
- Oaxacan Jewel – looks amazing with a red and yellow marbled affect and the flavour is amazing. This has to be one of my favourites – but then I’d be hard pressed to pick just one. Definitely in the top 5.
- Orange Banana – I grew these last year and really enjoyed them and they looked cool. The season was so harsh I really didn’t get a chance to enjoy them to the full.
- Oxheart – a good big meaty cooking tomato. I’ve grown this one for a few years and it is a solid producer with few problems.
- Purple Cherokee – they have such a lovely sweet tomatoey flavour – they have a permanent spot on my list and high up on that list – definitely top 5 material.
- Roma – just for the cooking – and possibly to sundry. It has quite a dense compact habit and different from the other tomatoes I often freak myself out thinking what is going wrong. Each plant has there own quirks and once you figure that out you can relax and enjoy the plant for who it is.
- San Marzano are great paste tomatoes – but these go straight into the freezer so I can use them how ever I need to in my winter cooking
- San Marzano this is in here twice because I’ll grow two of them for my winter cooking.
- Sweet 100 – because you can never have too many sweet snacks while working in the garden
- Tangella – as I got the seeds from Heritage Food Crops Reseach Trust and this variety has been tested and contains tetra-cis-lycopene which is a more easily absorbed form of lycopene than found in modern tomatoes. It is also a prolific producer and they taste amazing – whats not to like?!
- Tula – or using its proper name Black from Tula this Russian tomato has been described as ugly, but who am I to judge when their flavour is exquisite.
- Zapotec – Ok this one is a bit of an indulgence and is new to me. It is from the same region as the Oaxacan Jewel which I love, and it has a fluted beefsteak appearance, but I picked it because it starts with Z and so I can say I grow tomatoes from A – Z!
And with that my tomato choices for the season have been laid down. I just need to check my seed stocks, get more if needed, and then patiently wait for the time when a small green fragrant army can arise in my greenhouse and fill my garden with hopes and expectations of a fabulous and delicious season.
Come again soon – we still have the final push for the planning stage and with the weather momentarily looking ok, I can get a feel for the spring – I can almost smell it.
Sarah the Gardener : o)