Monday, April 25, 2011

Planting tomatoes (and some other veggies)

Over the years we have grown many different vegetables but there are a few kinds that seem to do better in our garden than anything else: summer squash (yellow crookneck, zucchini, etc.), cucumbers, and tomatoes. While I’m not fond of summer squash myself, my wife likes it so we always get one plant (which, I might add, produces all the squash we need). Cucumbers, on the other hand, I do like, especially in refreshing dishes like Greek tzatziki or sliced with a simple vinaigrette.

However, summer vegetable gardening for me is all about tomatoes. The Sacramento area is a major producer of tomatoes, especially for canning. In fact, one of Sacramento’s nicknames is “Sacratomato.” Our weather is just about perfect: lots of sun and heat, and low humidity. While not drought-tolerant by any means, tomatoes don’t need to be watered every day either, like lettuce and other more sensitive veggies might. I find a deep watering every 3 days or so is sufficient. Our vegetable beds are on a drip which we run every three days for 30 minutes.

This spring has been much cooler than usual so we’re actually quite late putting out vegetables. We started on Friday with a couple of squash and cucumbers, a jalapeño to go with the Mexican chile peppers I started from seed the other day, and a bunch of tomatoes.

Two of the tomatoes are commercial varieties from our local Ace Hardware garden center: Sun Gold and Yellow Pear. These are small tomatoes with a concentrated flavor that in my mind are perfect for eating fresh and for cooking (I’m not into huge beefsteak tomatoes).

Sun Gold
Photo from TradeWindsFruit.com
Yellow Pear
Photo from TomatoGrowers.com

We also planted a bunch of heirloom tomatoes a friend of ours had given us. Every year she supplies us with seedlings of rare and unusual varieties, and we love the suspense of not quite knowing what we’ll get. This year we have Amish Gold, Black from Tula, Gary Ibsen’s Gold, Japanese Black Trifele, and Oaxacan Jewel. Our friend gets her seeds from Gary Ibsen’s TomatoFest, and the photos and descriptions below are from that site as well. It certainly looks like a very interesting bunch!

Amish Gold
“Cross between Amish Paste and Sungold. Fruit has the gold color and flavor of the Sungold, the meatiness of the Amish Paste and delicious sweet/tart tomato flavors.”

Black from Tula
”Russian heirloom from Tula. Largest of the black tomatoes with 3-4", slightly flattened, oblate, dark brown to purple fruit with deep green shoulders. Deliciously outstanding, rich, slightly salty, smoky-fruit flavor.”

Gary Ibsen’s Gold
”Very juicy, 14 oz. , brilliant orange-gold globes with tropical fruit flavors with enough acid balance to guarantee a burst of tomato delight.”

Japanese Black Trifele
”Prolific quantities of 6 oz. fruit that looks like a beautiful mahogany-colored Bartlett pear with greenish shoulders. Very tasty flesh with a meaty core that produces luscious fruit all summer long.”
Oaxacan Jewel
“Beautiful 1/2 pound, yellow beefsteak tomato with red streaks throughout the fruit. Wonderfully rich, sweet flavors.”

Over the next few weeks we’ll add a few more things to our veggie beds, including beets as well as herbs like basil and cilantro which we consume in great quantities in the summer. On a hot summer day, I love nothing better than a Caprese salad, fresh bread, and a slushy blended margarita.

Here are the two beds we planted the tomatoes in. The big leafy plant in between the two beds is a rhubarb in a half barrel. It’s almost time to start harvesting it. Rhubarb compote and strawberry-rhubarb pie, I can’t wait!

110422_veggie_bed1
 
110422_veggie_bed2
 

We also planted a couple of things in a container next to the left-most of our four raised vegetable beds. It’s what my younger daughter sees from the window in her room, so we call it “her” barrel. Last week I sowed some cosmos and rudbeckia seeds (they’re already germinating), and just today we added this gerbera daisy and a strawberry that my daughter had picked out.

110422_els_barrel
 

It’s great to see this corner of the back yard finally come alive!

3 comments:

  1. Worst. City nickname. Ever.

    Those definitely are some unusual tomato varieties! For most of us in the US with a garden, tomatoes are "king". Interesting that you aren't a fan of beefsteak varieties and then list 6 beefsteaks. ;-)

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  2. Yeah, isn't it funny about the beefsteak tomatoes? That's what I meant about never knowing what we get from our friend. But I bet these unusual varieties taste better than your regular red beefsteak, which to me doesn't pack enough tomato flavor.

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  3. Yummy, those heirloom tomatoes look like they will be delicious! I wish I had a friend that would share such deliciousness with me! You are right about the most important vegetable in the garden...tomatoes!

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