Annual Fundraiser & 2012 Grow Outs

Over the next few days the grow out list for the varieties being grown out for 2012 will be updated. It’s just a blank page now, so check back within the week to see what will be grown this year!

Also, the yearly fundraiser is now going on! Every year I put seeds up for sale that were grown the previous year to help fund projects for the following year. This seed bank is quite a costly undertaking at times, and every little bit helps! I currently have five varieties up (some in shorter supply than others), with more going up over the next 24 hours. Stay tuned to this page, and please consider purchasing some seed to help keep this seed bank growing.

More updates coming shortly!

Tomato Tasting: ‘German Cascade’

Tomato 'German Cascade'

Tomato ‘German Cascade’

Here’s my thought process when I see tomato seeds for sale.

1. “Oooh, what’s that?”
2. “Well I’ve never heard of this…”
3. “I guess I better buy it.”

So as one could imagine, I have quite a variety of tomato seed floating around.

This tomato I had bought on a whim. I had never heard if it, nor had the interweb apparently, since when I got home and tried to google it I found absolutely no information available. I couldn’t find a colour, any growth info, I couldn’t even find if it was a cherry or not. I asked around, nobody else had seemed to heard of it either. All I had to go by was what was said on the seed packet:

Good taste. Good producer. Stake.

Ya, seriously not much to go on. But I’m a sucker for a mystery (especially a tomato mystery) so I bought it.

Aug 6 - Tomato 'German Cascade'

Growth Notes

Now I must preface this by saying that ALL the tomatoes had a tough year. Besides a few (and those entries will be coming later) the wacky weather really took a toll on the plants. It literally, over night, went from a high of 10C in the end of May, to a high of 30C. No amount of hardening off could have prepared them for that (and I am rigorous with my hardening off – sounds a little dirty, doesn’t it?).

That being said, this tomato got burnt back pretty badly (as did about 90% of my ‘maters, so this year a lot of judgment on growth is “how well did this bounce back?”). However, it did bounce back, but it took a while. About 4-6 weeks to bounce back enough to actually start producing, so it made it a little difficult for me to judge whether this is a mid or late variety. When it did bounce back, it produced, well, not great. Only a few tomatoes came out. However, by the end of the season, of course when it started to frost, this plant REALLY got going. Tons of fruit just exploded. I reckon during a more stable year (temperature wise) the production on this plant is fantastic.

The Look

The colour of this tomato is your absolute classic red. Even most red tomatoes don’t have this vibrancy of colour. But what really caught my eye was the unripened colour. I’d never quite seen an unripened tomato with this shade of light-limey-jade-green before. They looked like little jewels on the vine.

It’s definitely a pretty tomato, and even in my bed of wild and wacky tomato colours, this one routinely caught the eye of people taking a look around.

Fruit ended up being about 1.5-2″ in diameter, somewhere in between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball. Perfectly round, and very uniform. They average about 60 grams a piece.

The Taste

I had a lot of tomato taste surprises this year, but this one takes the cake. I hadn’t expected too much from it. Mostly because I hadn’t heard anything about it, so why would I expect much? When something like “good taste” is written on a seed packet without any description of that taste, I guess I just don’t think it’s going to be that outstanding. Especially with its smaller size.

Holy crap, was I ever wrong.

I have never tasted a red tomato like this. Ever. And I’m not entirely sure there are any words in the English language to properly describe this flavour. Rich is immediately the first word to pop into my head. It is an extremely rich tomato. Not just rich, but with complex flavours. It’s acidic, but sweet, but earthy all at the same time. It’s almost a flavour you’d expect from the best of the best of the black tomatoes.

You know how a really fine expensive Scotch has a really peaty earthy flavour? That’s almost what this tomato reminded me of. But, you know, without the booze.

I must put a disclaimer here though. Mr. B, my partner (in crime) often partakes in the tomato tastings with me. He did not like the flavour of this one. And it’s not as though he’s opposed to earthy rich flavours (he’s the Scotch lover in the house). But he did liken this tomato to “dirty socks”. I, however, did not get that at all. But this appears to be one of those tomatoes that really clicks with your pallet – or you hate it.

Recommended uses: because this tomato is quite juicy, it’s a great fresh or juicing tomato (if you’re so inclined to make tomato juice). I tried putting a few in a sauce but the juice definitely made the sauce quite thin.

The Verdict

This plant had a tough year, and I wasn’t too impressed with how long it took to bounce back from being burnt, or in fact, how badly it got burnt while other tomatoes in the garden did a lot better under the crazy weather situation we had this year. However, the rate at which it finally did start producing near the end of the season convinced me that this is a good producer, although not entirely too heat resistant.

I was just about to give up on this tomato before I tasted it. The taste alone is enough to convince me to give it another go. I will definitely grow it again next year.

Originally posted @, October, 2009

Tomato Tasting: ‘Tsygan’

Tomato 'Tsygan'

Tomato ‘Tsygan’ aka ‘Zigan’ aka ‘Gypsy’

The seeds for this tomato were sent to me by Dan & Val, two lovely folks who live a few hours away from me and have one of the most wonderful gardens I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.

This is another one of those tomatoes that I had not planned at all to grow this year, but I read what little there was to read on the ‘net about this one, heard it was good for hot weather, that it didn’t crack too much, and that it produced like crazy. I definitely didn’t need any more convincing then that. Plus, I’m never one to turn down the opportunity to a) try a new variety; or b) try a new black variety.

This is another Russian open pollinated commercial tomato. I’ve come to realize that anything with “Russian open pollinated” or “Russian heirloom” in the description I will probably love. Those Russians sure know how to breed good tomatoes.

Tsygan/Zigan is the English spelling for the Russian name for this tomato, which is sometimes translated into its English ‘Gypsy’. Sometimes you’ll also find it misspelled ‘Gipsy’. Why don’t more people have spell check?

Aug 29 - Tomato 'Tsygan'

Growth Notes

If you’ve been following this blog at all, you’ll know we had a tough summer. Hot, dry (moreso then usual even), plants being burnt. Just check through some of the earlier entires.

So how well did this one bounce back from being burnt? Really well actually. In fact, there wasn’t too much to bounce back from. A few of the lower leaves burnt and fell off, but that didn’t stop this plant from growing. One of the first to start producing for me this year, and definitely my first black to produce and ripen. The plant was vigorous, and had a sprawling habit. I don’t really trim my tomato plants, so this one kind of went all over, it required some pretty heavy staking. It didn’t grow to the 6+ft other people had reported it grows to, mine only got about 4ft and topped out there.

Absolutely loaded with fruit, it’s a really heavy producer. It didn’t mind the heat, in fact it seemed to relish it. When the temperatures picked up to over 30C, it sent out flowers like crazy. Cracking was minimal, no catfacing, nothing major. The only time it cracked was when we went from super hot, to torrential downpour within the span of an hour (which happened a few times this summer – ah, gotta love that semi-alpine environment).

The Look

I like a tomato with green shoulders. Don’t ask me why, I just do. This tomato definitely has green shoulders, although with increased heat these subside quite a bit. The fruit is black/brown. The more heat you have, the darker the skin gets. Fruit weighed in about 100-170 grams each, some were more egg shaped, some were more rounded, but definitely more oblong then globular in shape. About 2-3″ in diameter.

The Taste

Here’s another one Mr. B and I disagreed on (see ‘German ‘Cascade’), although not quite as much as ‘German Cascade’. I loved the flavour of this one. It was nicely acidic, which is something I love in a tomato, and still had the earthy flavour you expect from a black. It wasn’t quite as hit-you-in-the-face with the earthiness as some other blacks are (like ‘Purple Prince’ or ‘Black From Tula’, let’s say), but I thought it was lovely. It also had just a little hint of saltiness to it, which I really enjoyed. Mr. B said it was one of the more bland blacks we had grown (and by “we” I mean I do the growing, and he partakes in the eating). I would use the term “more subtle” then bland.

We ate this one fresh, used it in sauce, and canned it. It worked well for all of those purposes. I think this one would make a great juice as well.

The Verdict

This is definitely one of those tomatoes I will grow religiously from now on every year. See, it’s hard to find a tomato that not only doesn’t mind the hot, dry (yet somehow still humid…) weather we have here. Water restrictions are par for the course, and a lot of tomatoes will just flail under those conditions. ‘Tsygan’ not only lived but thrived, we got tons of fruit. In a better year I wouldn’t be surprised if we got 15-20lbs of fruit per plant.

The fact that it’s an earlier variety (about 70 days), it produces like crazy, it has a lovely flavour, and it’s indeterminate have all won me over. Sure, it might not be the absolute most flavourful black in the world, but it seems to be a lot more resilient, something which I definitely need in this climate.

Originally posted @, October, 2009

Tomato Tasting: ‘Dr. Wyche’s Yellow’

Tomato 'Dr. Wyche's Yellow'
Tomato ‘Dr. Wyche’s Yellow’

Earlier in the year, when I was first doing my grand list of tomatoes to grow (which eventually grew to some 33 different varieties with varying success over the course of the summer), this one popped out at me. Generally, I stay away from the yellow/orange tomatoes. Let’s face it, sometimes they can be really hit or miss. More often they’re miss. I have had one yellow that’s been a mainstay in my garden over the past few years, and that would be ‘Yellow Pear’ (which is the only cherry as well by the way). But the flavour and the story of ‘Dr. Wyche’s Yellow’ really suckered me in. It varies a bit depending on where you’re reading the information from, but here’s what it said on my seed packet, and seems to be the most common story told (bought from the wonderful Cottage Gardener website):

There was an actual Dr. Wyche, who owned Cole Brothers’ Circus and fertilized his gardens with elephant manure. He apparently had the most luscious gardens anyone had ever seen. He developed this particular cultivar & donated the seeds to the Seed Saver’s Exchange.

Dr. Wyche was apparently one of the earliest members of the SSE, and when is carnival overwintered that’s when he gardened. How could I say no to a tomato that sprang out of the carnival?

Growth Notes

Aug 2 - Tomato 'Dr. Wyche's Yellow' This is one of the tomatoes that got burnt back a moderate amount, took a few weeks to recover, but near the end of the season it was really going strong. Unfortunately with the burning back and the weeks added onto its growth, there were a LOT of green tomatoes that didn’t get harvested. This summer it took about 90 days to mature, rather then the 80 it’s supposed to take. But even with all that, I got a great harvest. The plant produced about 3.5-4lbs for me. And that’s not including all the green ones that ended up in the compost.

The plant topped out at about 4.5-5ft, although I’ve heard they can get much taller (in the 6ft range) so I know the burning did stunt this ones growth a bit. It’s a sprawler, branches were everywhere, this one likes a lot of room to grow.

The Look

The fruit ranged in size from about 225 gr (8oz) to 450 gr (1lb). They’re flattish and extremely non uniform in shape, which always endears a tomato to me. With a few exceptions, what’s the point of growing something that looks like you can pick it up at a grocery store?

Although it’s called a “yellow” tomato it’s really much more of an orange in colour. The inside is beautiful, much different then the standard cavities you see in tomatoes. This one looks almost more like a pomegranate inside, with random holes scattered all about the place.

The Taste

Now, I’m an acidic tomato person. I love the way an acidic tomato bites into your tongue. This, is not one of those. They have very little acidity, and usually that would turn me off a tomato, but I absolutely adored this tomato. When I took my first bite, my eyes lit up in shock. This is a sweet tomato, but it is not mild by any sense of the word. This tomato has a really complex, fruity like flavour, but still with a good amount of that tomatoeyness that we all love. All the hype about the taste of this tomato totally lived up to its flavour in reality. Sweet, tomatoey, rich, and complex. Absolutely delicious.

I can’t think of a better use for this tomato then eating it fresh. One slice and you can cover a whole piece of bread. We just chopped them up as they were ripening and ate them just like that. No salt, no nothing. When you taste a tomato like this, all you can do is think back on George Costanza’s pontificating as to why the tomato never made it as a hand fruit.

The Verdict

This is one of the surprises of the season for me. I would have liked a little better growth – a taller plant, fruit ripening a little earlier in the season. However, I know this season was hard and I’m willing to bet the shortness of this plant, coupled with the need for a long(er) growing season was due to the initially burning. The taste is what really floored me, and it was good enough to me to keep me coming back. Just writing about it now, after all of my Dr. Wyche’s have gone, my mouth is starting to water thinking of that flavour. Only about 10 more months to go until I can eat them again…

Originally posted @, October, 2009

Tomato Tasting: ‘Tlacolula Ribbed’

Aug 29 - Tomato 'Tlacolula Ribbed'

Tomato ‘Tlacolula Ribbed’

When I went to school I studied archaeology, specifically of the Pre-Classic and Classic Maya, and even more specifically, the trade routes and agriculture of those areas. So what does this have to do with my tomatoes you ask? A lot actually. Every season I grow quite a few different heirloom plants that hail from parts of Mexico and Central America because of my interest in the agricultural plant life of the region. ‘Tlacolula Ribbed’ was my latest tomato addition.

Tlacolula de Matamoros is likely where the name of this tomato came from, and is a city situated in the state of Oaxaca. Tlacolula, as one might expect, is a Nauhatl word. The exact translation doesn’t seem to be too clear, but it is usually attributed to meaning “place of many sticks” or “twisted thing”. The latter could very well apply to this tomato.

While this tomato isn’t literally twisted, it is of a characteristic heavily ribbed/pleated shape that quite a few tomatoes possess that come from in and around this region of Mexico. When I see a heavily pleated tomato, I must have it. I’m a sucker for the pleats. And when I learn a tomato is traced back to these areas of Central America? That’s the clincher.

Growth Notes

Aug 2 - Tomato 'Tlacolula Ribbed' I actually planted two of these this year. Unfortunately, neither of them produced like gang busters for me, but I think I know the cause of this. The first plant was placed in the second back yard garden. This spot at the very peak of summer only receives 6 hours of sun a day, and more commonly, 4-5 hours. I planted this here more as an experiment then anything. Why would I place a tomato that hails from a hot and sunny location in a garden spot that only gets a few hours of sun a day? No idea, I thought it’d be an interesting experiement.

The second plant I put out much later, in June, but in the brightest and hottest of the three veggie beds I have. So, I planted it late, but gave it ideal conditions (I suspected, based on where its from).

The plant in the back, as you might expect, didn’t suffer any burning because of its sheltered location. So that was a bonus. The second one I planted had been outside hardening off for the past month, so when it finally got planted in June, it didn’t get burnt either. The tomato in the back grew slowly, but it grew. This variety seems to be at least somewhat tolerant of shade, although I didn’t get many fruit from it. The one in the front, because I planted it out later, of course matured much later, and I also didn’t get many fruit from that one. However, when most plants were suffering at the height of water rationing and hot summer heat, this one was thriving. The plant in the front took off under these conditions, growing about 12-18″ in one week. Seriously. I actually measured.

Of course, one would expect that a tomato like this would grow well under these conditions. However, the fact that the one in the back yard produced leads me to believe that if you had an extended growing season (I’m thinking in the realm of 120-130 days), but no sunny spots, you could plant this tomato in a shadier location and still get a good harvest from it.

The Look

As previously mentioned, this is one of those lovely awe-inspiring heavily pleated/ruffled tomatoes. My mom characterizes these as “looking like peppers”. This one reminded me quite a bit of ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’, except it was more red then pink. Fruit was smaller then the Zapotec tomato as well, getting about 3-4″ in diameter and weighing in at about 8-10oz each (as opposed to Zapotec’s 4-6″ in diameter and 1-1.5lb weights). They are another hollow tomato, but once again, not quite as hollow I found as Zapotec Pink Pleated.

The Taste

So how did it taste? You know, I wasn’t too impressed much to my dismay. It was alright. Mild would be the term that I use. There was a little bit of your good old regular tomatoey flavour, but it was mild. Nothing really stood out at me too much. One can’t help but compare this one to ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’ and when it comes to flavour, Zapotec definitely wins out over this one.

This is a good fresh eating tomato. Despite its red flavour, it’s low in acidity, so it’s good for people with stomach problems who don’t want to limit themselves to whites, yellows, and orange tomatoes. It’s great for stuffing and then baking, although because of it’s mild flavour after it’s baked you don’t get a ton of tomatoeyness to go with whatever you’re cooking.

The Verdict

Unfortunately, depsite how lovely this tomato looks, I probably won’t grow it again. I was a little let down with the lack of flavour, and in terms of the ‘Tlacolula Ribbed’ vs ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’, I’ll have to go with the Zapotec. Tlacolula’s mild flavour just wasn’t enough bang for my buck. Zapotec grows better in my region, has more flavour, and is bigger. Tlacolula was an interesting grow for me, but unfortunately, it looks like it’ll be the last year for it in my garden.

Originally posted @, November 2009