Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tomatoes love that heat: mid to late summer reflections in the backyard

While many may lament the current heat wave, the four tomato plants in my backyard are flourishing. The leaves are taking a beating, but the fruit ripens rapidly. After an evening inspection, green tomaotes that I expect to take a few more days to ripen are hanging red or yellow the next morning.

At one time, I had better knowledge of tomato varieties. After taking off a few years from tomato raising, my index has become muddled. This year I know for sure where my Big Boy and Rutgers plants are. The Big Boy is one of the more prodigious varieties and can produce one pound whoppers. The Rutgers, invented at Rutgers University for the Campbell's Soup company, produces a hearty orangish-red tomato that withstands most diseases and cracking.

I also have a yellow tomato, but I can't recall which variety. Besides adding color, most yellow tomatoes are not as acidic as red or pink ones. The acid sometimes gives the fruit a pungent taste, making many tomato-averse. I recommend a yellow tomato as a way to entice the tomato hater into the summer bliss of tomato sandwiches. I'd also start them out with a BLT rather than a straight 'mater.

I thought my fourth plant was either a Mountain Pride or Mountain Delight. However, these two are more red than pink and are considered among the most crack-resistant tomatoes. These are pink and every one I've picked so far has had some cracking, a sign of too much water intake. It has to be a drainage or a shade thing because I haven't watered in more than a month. This plant is more shaded than the other three if that has anything do with it. Nonetheless, I just cut out the cracked areas and the fruit tastes fine.

Other than the cracking, tomato health has been fine, but this morning I saw a slime trail on a bottom branch of the Big Boy. Slugs helped themselves to a midnight snack of one ripe and one green boy. I'm going to set out the beer. I'll have to position it so the dog doesn't lap it up. I'll welcome other suggestions either on slug resistance or canine beer lapping.

The mayonaise is going fast and my bread intake has increased greatly, but I've grown more partial to cooked fresh tomatoes. I've gotten my best tasting salsa this year by sauteeing the tomatoes with onion and slicing in a couple of cloves of garlic. Keep the pepper raw, throw in a few leaves of basil and give it a thirty-second ride in the blender. When you pull off the top, (make sure you've turned off the blender), you're greeted with a quite pleasant spicy steam of summer freshness. I think I'll do the same for pasta sauce, but will replace the hot pepper with sweet.

At the current yield, I'm sure I'll reach my fill as summer winds down though I'll miss them much when they're gone.


Blogger Roch101 said...

This was our first spring in this house and it turns out that where I planted the tomatoes gets plenty of shade once all the leaves are on the trees and the sun moves higher in the sky. So, I had to move them after about a month in the ground. They didn't like that and they stopped growing for weeks. Now they look to be back on track (must be the heat) and I'm hoping to pick my first Beefy Boy in a few days. The Cherokee Purples look like they are going to be of good size too, but I've never eaten one before -- I hope they are good.

Blogger Glenn said...

Shade is the enemy of tomatoes and direct sun their best friend. I am fascinated by the wide variety of tomatoes there are. I hope to one day to have enough open space to get a wide variety. I think I would enjoy raising them even if I somehow stopped enjoying eating them. I don't think I've eaten a Cherokee Purple before, but they are pretty. I doubt you'll be disappointed.


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