Tomato Tasting: ‘Fantome Du Laos’

Tomato 'Fantome Du Laos'

Tomato ‘Fantome Du Laos’ AKA ‘Ghost of Laos’

Ah, ‘Fantome Du Laos’, how quickly you captured my heart when I first happened upon your picture online!

Joking aside, I really did fall head over heals for this tomato when I first read about it. What got me to try to seek out a seed source for this variety (which wasn’t easy by the way – the only two sources I found commercially were American and wouldn’t ship to Canada) was actually the story that was associated with it, I hadn’t even seen a picture of it until after I had finally got my source (the wonderful Dan & Val). This once again illustrates that when it comes to history and story of a tomato, quite often that will be the deciding factor for me.

You see, I like ghosts (hold on, this is leading to something…). I don’t actually believe in ghosts, but I love ghost stories, ghost movies, and even those really crappy ghost hunter type shows (mostly because I love to see panicky people wandering around in the dark screaming at nothing, I know, I’m kind of a sadist).

What does this have to do with this tomato? Well this tomato got the name ‘Fantome Du Laos’ for a reason. The story is, this old Laotian heirloom will glow in the dark when ghosts are near. Seriously, that’s the story! So I had to get it. Come on, a ghost sensing tomato? Tell me that’s not hilarious. So the name literally means ‘Ghost of Laos’. See, all those French classes went to some good use.

Growth Notes

I’m starting to feel like a broken record here, but with the hard season we had, this plant was pretty diminutive this year. Now that’s not to say production was small (the plant was actually loaded with fruit), but the actual plant only got to 4ft. Maybe it’s only supposed to get to 4ft? I don’t know, there’s not much growth info available on the net, so I’m just going to assume that it didn’t grow large because of the weather. This is a regular leaf, indeterminate plant, and kept going right up until frost. Production was still really good for me, and the plant when put outside actually didn’t burn too badly, and bounced back very quickly, all within the span of about 1.5 weeks. Production was also good, getting about 4-4.5lbs on my one plant. The first three fruit of the season were big, about 4″ in diameter and weighing in at about 1lb each. Subsequent fruit was smaller, about 2-3″ in diameter, and about 170g (6 oz) to 283g (10oz) each. This tomato seemed quite resistant to heat, and water rationing. None of these fruit cracked, split, or had any sort of growth issues on the fruit at all. I had a whole batch of perfectly formed white fruit. It took about 85 days from transplant to harvest.

The Look

There’s no doubt about it, this is a beautiful tomato, and because of its colouring, quite unusual as well. Fruit is creamy white/very pale yellow, with white flesh, and darkens to slightly more off-white/pale yellow as it ripens. It definitely stands out in the tomato patch. Fruit ranges in shape from the more uniform oblate beefsteak tomato shape, to an irregular curved shape (like the photo illustrates at the top). There was absolutely no green shouldering, and colouring was quite uniform over the whole fruit.

The Taste

Alright, so we’ve had great growth, and a great look. So how did it taste? Well, it’s a white tomato. Are you familiar with other white tomatoes? Ya, that’s pretty much how it tasted. There’s not a lot of flavour in this one. Add some salt and you get a bit more bang, and it does enhance the flavour a bit. The downfall of those beautiful white tomatoes is that they’re actually quite bland. If I ever find a white tomato that isn’t bland, I might just die of shock. Damn you ‘Fantome Du Laos’, I wanted you to taste as good as you looked! Why do you taunt me so?

Because of its lack of flavour, but its juicy content, this is really a fresh eating tomato. Don’t bother preserving it (or at least I didn’t). The great thing about these tomatoes is that they’re long keepers, which is really their main selling point. I had another grower tell me they successfully kept theirs in a cold area of the house until February! Mine didn’t quite make it that long, we ate the last one a month after it was picked, but it was still nice and fresh tasting. Now, no matter how bland a garden tomato is, it’s still better then those pieces-of-crap “tomatoes” you buy at the grocery store that actually taste like cardboard. So, even though it’s not full of flavour, it’s better then the alternative during those winter months when you can’t just run outside and pick fresh tomatoes.

The Verdict

The fact that this tomato grows so well, is quite hardy in my area, and is such a long keeper, makes this one worth growing again for me. I know, it doesn’t taste super awesome, but you know what? That’s okay. There are other benefits to this tomato. If it wasn’t a long keeper, I probably wouldn’t grow it again, but the fact that it does keep clinched it for me. I might try actually growing this one in a pot next year, I don’t know if I want to devote in-ground garden space to it, but we’ll see come next season.

Also, to tell you a truth, I’m still a sucker for the tomato that can detect ghosts. Move over EMF detectors, this tomato is the new wave in ghost hunting!

Originally posted @ Populuxe.ca in November, 2009

Tomato Tasting ‘Orange Strawberry’


Tomato ‘Orange Strawberry’

This tomato was the absolute super star of the garden this year. Big, showy, screaming “look at me!” with ever fibre of its being all summer. The seeds were sent to me by fellow tomato nut-job and enthusiast Sheena, from Ontario. This ended up being one of those “on a whim” tomatoes I started and eventually planted. Most of the yellows I grow, with the exception of ‘Yellow Pear’ and ‘Dr. Wyche’s Yellow’ are usually whim tomatoes. See, yellow tomatoes are really hit and miss. A lot more misses I find. They’re usually really bland and overly sweet, and for a girl that likes an earthy acidic tomato, they usually end up falling into the “waste of space” category for me. But, the sheer size and good things I had read about this tomato convinced me to give it a go.

I’ve previously written about this one in the blog, but here I’m going to distill and summarize everything I saw and learnt about this plant over this season.

Growth Notes

Excuse my french, but holy shit! Okay, so I had read “needs heavy staking”. Ya, I’m a pretty good staker, I stake all my tomatoes, so I pulled out a 2×4 to stake this one. The 2×4 ended up breaking under the immense weight of this tomato over the season. No, I’m not kidding. The weight of this plant, actually broke a damned 2×4″! So first thing’s first, and I’ve discussed this at length already about our hot, dry summer that went from 10C to 30C literally over night, causing most of my plants to burn to crisps. This tomato? It didn’t burn. At all. Maybe one or two lower leaves got a little crispy, maybe. Over the course of the summer, this plant routinely grew 8-18″ per week, but on average it was about 10″ per week. The second it got REALLY hot, the thing shot up like a weed. I couldn’t believe it. Torrential downpoars, crazy wind, really hot dry weather, then really hot humid weather. Whatever nature threw at this plant, ‘Orange Strawberry’ took with grace and dignity. Nothing could phase it. It eventually got to about 7ft before the 2×4 broke, caused the plant to topple over, and snap off its top. I have no doubt it could have gotten up to 9ft if it hadn’t broken the 2×4. The strange thing is, I’ve talked to other people who have grown this tomato, ranging in area from Toronto, to Vancouver and all across the country. Nobody else has said theirs ever got over 6ft. So I don’t know what it is about my particular area (which is a really strange and specific microclimate), but this tomato loves it. And no, I didn’t use some crazy voodoo or fertilizer. It got the same treatment the rest of my tomatoes get – mushroom manure, and fishbone meal. That’s it. There was no cracking, no catfacing, no weird growth of any kind, just huge production (especially for the fruits’ size) of perfectly formed oxheart tomatoes. This is a later maturing variety, it took about 85 days to get to my first harvest.

The Look

This tomato is true to it’s name. It’s orange, and it’s strawberry (or oxheart if you prefer) shaped. The fruit are huge, the smallest one I had I believe was 8oz, the biggest was 20oz, and on average, they were about 16oz. Beautiful fruit, perfect grower, by about midseason I knew this one was a winner and I said to myself “if this one tastes as good as it grows, it’s going to be a regular for me”. The inside is absolutely solid, very few seeds or juice.

The Taste

I first tasted this tomato with trepidation. Knowing how the majority of orange/yellows tasted, I didn’t want my love of this tomato to be shattered by crappy taste. So gingerly I cut it up, and took my first bite. Oh, I was so relieved! I’m generally not a huge lover of yellows because they’re so sweet. I like a tomato with good acidity to it. While ‘Orange Strawberry’ is sweet, it has a lovely complex flavour with a fruity undertone. It wasn’t bland, it wasn’t boring, it was delicious. I wolfed down the rest of the 1lb fruit immediately.

Because it’s so solid its great for making a sauce, but it definitely can’t be spiced like a normal tomato sauce because of its low acidity. Me? I just ate them as they came, I had a ton of other tomatoes for making sauce, this one I reserved just for fresh eating. Don’t even bother with the salt. Pick, eat like an apple, enjoy.

The Verdit

It’s really, really hard to find a tomato that will go gangbusters on me in this climate. There’s a handful that do really well, but ‘Orange Strawberry’ outpaces them all in sheer size and force of will. Definitely this is a regrower for me. Next year I know to use at least three stakes (I might do a florida weave on just this one, but I haven’t quite figured out that one yet), and give it a lot more room because I didn’t know how crazy it grew so it was a little crammed up against the corn and other tomatoes. Delicious, good grower, big showy plant. Love it, it’s my new super star.

Originally posted @ Populuxe.ca, November 2009

Tomato Tasting: ‘Black Sea Man’

Tomato 'Black Sea Man'

Tomato ‘Black Sea Man’

Ah, ‘Black Sea Man’. Be still my beating heart. I don’t quite remember where my original seed was sourced from a few years ago and how I first came upon this tomato. If I had to guess, I’d probably say Gayla originally sent me some seeds, but I can’t be positive. However, ever since I received these seeds, this tomato has been one of the standards in my garden.

The stories behind this tomato are varied. It’s possibly the same as ‘Chernomor’ which literally translates “Black Sea Man” from Russian. This tomato may or may not be an heirloom, but it most decidedly is Russian, and it is delicious. See? I tell you, those Russians know about tomatoes. I don’t know what they do over there to them, but it’s magic. I’ve never met a Russian tomato I didn’t like.

Growth Notes

Aug 11 - Tomato 'Black Sea Man' I’ve grown this tomato faithfully in two different climates – the easy going temperate climate on the coast, and the markedly harsher, hotter, more volatile climate in the Kootenays. In both locations, it’s always done extremely well, this is a very adaptable tomato. Coupled with the fact it’s an early variety in my mind says it’d probably do well anywhere. I’ve heard of it grown everywhere from cool short climates to extremely hot balconies. In the ground or in pots, it will thrive (and that’s speaking from experience). For a determinate, it gives a lot, but asks very little. I must admit, 2009 was the best year I’ve ever had with my determinates, which sounds strange because a good portion of my indeterminates didn’t do well. Not sure what that was about. Either way, since 2006, this has been a faithful and giving tomato in my garden. In 2009 I got 5.5lbs/plant. Considering what a hard year that is, that ain’t not bad. This is not one of the tomatoes that absolutely will not crack, but if it does it’s usually only under the most extreme circumstances – like after a torrential downpour after a period of water rationing. Even then, you only get the smallest of cracks near the top of the fruit (as pictured in the first photo). The first two or three fruit of the plant are usually about 340g to 450g (12-16oz), but then the subsequent fruit is more in the 250g range (about 10oz). ‘Black Sea Man’ requires heavy staking as the fruit produce, otherwise the whole plant will flop right over and break under the fruit’s weight. This tomato usually takes about 65 days to reach maturity.

The Look

I love this tomato for all its green shoulder, misshapenness. The first few fruit are usually a pretty uniform beefsteak shape, but then whatever reason, the remaining fruit are usually a bit more misshapened – most likely due to the fact that they’re all just growing up against one another. A black tomato, the fruit will get darker the more sunlight it has. If you don’t like green shoulders, steer clear of this one, as the fruit will always have green shoulders. I personally am a fan of the green shoulders, so there you have it. Inside it’s your typical beefsteak, medium sized cavities, average amount of juiciness. Nice meat, and not the juiciest tomato ever, but still with a good amount of it.

The Taste

There’s a reason why I grow this tomato every single year, and not only because of the ease with which it grows in different situations. I have noticed however that with more sun, and deeper colour, the flavour is definitely more rich. I like to use this one as a slicer for sandwiches, or cutting it into chunks and throwing it into a salad. Eating fresh off the vine with just a little salt is always delicious as well. Since it’s a nice meaty tomato, I’ve successfully used it in sauces as well to add a lovely rich taste. It’s a great all purpose tomato, I haven’t found a use that it isn’t good for (yes, I’ve even canned them with success!).

The Verdict

Well, the verdict was obviously made back at the end of 2006 after I grew this tomato for the first time – it’s been a staple in my garden ever since. I love the varieties that I know will do well in pots with a bit of mistreatment (I’m definitely not as consistent with container watering as I am with the plants in the ground), and this one can tolerate just about everything. The great thing with it being a determinate, you can let it grow for the rest of the season as an ornamental (I love the look of tomato plants), or you can rip it out and plant some leafy greens in its place when the plant is finished fruiting. Will I grow again? Most definitely, and I recommend this black tomato for anybody who’s growing in containers, cool climates, or rough hot climates. It’s adaptability is amazing.

Originally posted @ Populuxe.ca in December, 2009