The Letter of the Day is G; “G” is for the Tomato, Green Grape and the Pepper, Giant Szegedi

Green Tomatoes and White Peppers

Green Grap

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My description on my website: These are the first, fully ripened green cherry tomato. I adore these. Fruits are delicious, juicy and sweet and burst in your mouth. They turn a lovely golden green when ripe and are wonderful straight from the vine. Mix with Sweet Million and Sungold cherry tomatoes for a rainbow infused salad. Use for a large container planting on your deck.

Determinate, 70 days

My Notes: So many people have no idea what they are missing when they bypass these little ping pong sized beauties in favor of a more traditionally colored cherry tomato. Pop them in in your mouth and they will surprise you with a flood of sweetness. Wait until they are a golden green. The plant is well behaved and will do well in a large pot. Aunt Ruby’s German Green is another tomato that wows with it’s sweet, winey taste and it can get pretty big.

Giant Szegedi

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My description on my website: Originally from Hungary, this variety is very hard to find in the United States.

Short, fairly compact plants produce good yields of very crisp, thick walled, very sweet peppers that average 4 inches long.

Fruits start out white and slowly turn yellow, then orange, and finally red at maturity. Fruits hold well on the vine and it is very easy to pick white, yellow, orange and red peppers at each picking without any stage sacrificing taste or crispness.

They are wonderful on vegetable trays, in salads, or in cooking. This variety does very well in cooler regions of the country where other pepper varieties struggle.

My Notes: I love the white peppers and em excited to try this one. I’ve grown Albino Bullnose before and it is apleasure watching it turn from white to red on the same plant. White Lakes is also a white/cream pepper.

The Letter of the Day is F: “F” is for Tomatoes, Fiorintino (Costoluto) and Fireworks

Fiorintino

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My description on my website: A fantastic old Tuscan Heirloom variety with dark red skin and juicy delicious flesh. Shaped slightly flattened with fluted shoulders. Fruits are typically about 8 ounces, with a smoother shape than the heavily ribbed Costoluto Genovese. The flavor is high in sugar with excellent acid, making for outstanding taste that’s wonderful fresh or made into sauces. Fusarium resistant too!

My Notes: These were prolific and most were of a medium size. The taste was pretty good too. I liked to cut their tops off and stuff them with chicken salad. The fluted edges really stood out. Great for cooking and salsa.

Indeterminate, 80 days

Fireworks


My description on my website: This is one of the largest, earliest red slicing tomatoes available, and it has excellent flavor. Fireworks is an exceptional variety. Its bright red fruit are 6 to 8 ozs., round with a pointed tip, and borne quite heavily on vigorous plants.

My Notes: One of the earlies that is an indeterminate and a larger tomato which is unusual for an early tomato. Jetsetter and Siletz are all a good size. I will be growing it in my garden for myself this year. I had so many customers who raved about it’s size and taste that I need to see it for myself!

Indeterminate, 60 days

The Wonderful World of Tomatoes (And Some Peppers) My A to Z Theme

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Does anyone REALLY know how many varieties of tomatoes there are in the world? I am going to hazard a guess that no one does. I do know that there are hundreds and hundreds of tomatoes, with different colors, shapes, uses, flavors and growing habits. New hybrids are always on the forefront.  I even developed my own – “Mister E” which started as a mystery, but is now one of our favorites.

I raise  tomato and pepper plants using organic methods and sell them every April and May. This year I have 1300 pepper plants (41 varieties) and about 6500 tomato plants (154 varieties). Not only do I sell, but I like to educate people about growing their own food. during this A-Z Challenge I will showcase some of the tomatoes I grow and hopefully have the time to throw in a few peppers.

Now, you probably want to know what my credentials are, what makes me an “expert”. Read on…

I started my gardening journey as a child – my parents had a HUGE garden, and grew Early Girls, Beefsteaks and Roma tomatoes as well as other vegetables and plants. While I loved seeing things grow, I did not like weeding, although my mother claims I actually enjoyed it!

Eighteen years ago – the dark ages to some of you – I started gardening again in Spokane. I started with the standard varieties, but soon became bored and searched for others. Oh, the seed catalogs wooed me with their glossy pages and colorful pictures and tantalizing descriptions of tomatoes I had never even heard of. I started ordering tomatoes with names like Mortgage Lifter, Green Zebra, Orange Russian, Ananis Noir, and Sungold. I was in heaven and as every good gardener does, I planted the entire seed packet.  Usually 25-40 seeds with almost 100% germination! What was I going to do with all my tomato plants?

That first year the excess plants were put in the driveway along with a coffee can as a money box and a sign inviting folks to buy them. People loved them and were as happy as I was to try the different kinds of tomatoes. From there I started doing a local garden show – “The Garden Expo.” In a sense, I have grown with them. I started with one booth and a small greenhouse when it was a small show. Now it is a regional event held at the local community college campus, with 15,000+ customers anticipated this spring, and I have 3 greenhouses growing 6,500 tomato plants, 1,300 peppers, and some herbs. If you make to Spokane on Mother’s Day weekend, stop by on Saturday; my 4 booths are located just beyond the entrance.

Since I started my business, I have researched and grown all kinds of tomatoes – heirloom, patio, early, etc. This year we are planting over 154 varieties! I will be highlighting many of them in my blog in the days to come. I have also developed my own garden soil mix and determined the best fertilizers and additives to get great, tasty tomatoes. I became a Master Gardener for six years to learn more, and also to teach others. Now, my husband calls me the Garden Master, but I am not sure if that is because he thinks that I know a lot about gardening, or because I am always putting him to work in the garden!

Each year we grow something new and learn something as well. Do I know everything? No, but I am always learning and I like to share with others what I know. My next challenge is figuring out how to ship my plants – I have had a number of inquiries from across the United States for plants.

In truth, I never intended to become The Tomato Lady. However my customers came up with the name and I liked it so much that I registered it with the state. When I am not in the garden, I am a graphic artist and I am married to a talented illustrator (We have to do something in the off-season!) We designed the logo and marketing materials.

I hope you will enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy sharing it with you. Feel free to also check out my website, TheTomatoLady.com and Facebook page, https://www.Facebook.com/theTomatoLady. God willing, we will continue the journey into tomato gardening together.

The A to Z Blog Challenge

I just signed both of my blogs up for the A-Z Challenge. Coming up with topics will be harder for my Flowerchild Designs blog than my Tomato Lady blog.

If you are at all interested in learning about different varieties of tomatoes I would suggest you follow my Tomato Lady blog. I have plenty of material for that one. I will showcase 26 tomatoes, possibly more for each letter of the alphabet. You will be amazed how many varieties there are.

Of course, i am convinced that some heirloom tomatoes are called different names while still being the same tomato. For instance, Hillbilly from Georgia may be the same as Old Flame from Iowa. Just called a different name. It depends on what region you live in. Families have been saving seeds of their favorites for many, many years. Color, markings, maturity date, taste and texture all contribute to identify the variety.

On the opposite side, I’ve grown Hillbilly for several years and each year, they are different. It depends on whether the seeds came from Tennessee or Arkansas. Brandywine is another that has different characteristics depending on the region it comes from and who grew it. Sudduth, Landis, Platfoot, Quiesenberry are all words used to describe the various strains. If you are intereseted in learning more about the Brandywine, here is a link to a site detailing the history written by Craig LeHoullier.

http://www.webgrower.com/information/craig_brandywine.html

I hope that makes sense. Hope to see you reading me!

Tomato Terms: What Does It Mean When I Say…Early, Main and Late Season?

ImageSiberia This might be the earliest tomato ever – only 7 weeks from transplanting to table. Capable of setting fruits at 38 F on sturdy dark green plants. The fruits are bright red, 3 to 5 oz. and bunch in clusters. Also good for a patio. Determinate, 48 days

Along with these words usually comes a range of days in which you can expect to start eating tomatoes. (The days are from transplanting not sowing the seed).

Where I live, it can be colder in some areas than others. For instance, Deer Park, is about 10-15 miles north from Spokane. It has predictably colder weather and earlier frosts than we do. Their growing season is a lot shorter than ours and we aren’t geographically that far away. Cheney is colder plus they always have a lot of wind. Different growing conditions is a small area.

After reading my descriptions (www.thetomatolady.com) on my tomatoes or peppers, one of the things my customers ask is if it really will be ripe in 45 days or 60 days. I have to be honest with them and say I can’t give a definitive answer. There are so many variables involved in growing a garden. Weather, soil temps, amount of watering and fertilizing, where did they site the plant and variety.

The biggest one is  the weather, which we have no control over. Last June, it seemed like it rained avery day and was cold. That will keep plants sitting there, in the ground,  just waiting. (The only good thing about that is the plant is working on root development so that when it gets warm they have a good foundation to shoot up). I think I remember having a light frost in early June.

I would like to change my descriptions to early, mid, late and really late. It’s true that a Siberia or a Fourth of July will produce fruit before a late season variety such as Orange Russian or a Gold Medal.

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Gold Medal These are fabulous, reminiscent of Big Rainbow. A Ben Quisenberry tomato. Wonderful, 1-1/2 lb., yellow and red bi-color beefsteak tomato with pink marbeling in blossom end, thin skin and luscious sweet, well-balanced flavors. Indeterminate, 85 days

That being said, I have seen some early varieties (48-60 day) that are only about 2 weeks earlier than a 70-75 day tomato. There again it depends on a lot of variables.

It must be nice in the South where have you a longer growing season, if you have to wait longer to get them into the ground it’s ok because you won’t get a frost until November.

There are many ways you can extend your season. Some years  if you wait until all signs of frost are gone you won’t have any tomatoes. At some point you have to get them into the ground. Especially if you live in an area the gets an early fall frost.

I will discuss some ways in later posts

Tomato Terms: What Does it Mean When I Say . . . Heirloom?

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Many gardeners agree that heirloom tomato varieties boast greater flavor than the hybrids. After all, there is a reason they’ve been around for so long. In general I agree although I’ve had some tasty hybrids such as the cherry tomato, “Sungold” and “Sweet Treats” a larger pink cherry tomato, which is fabulous. 

While hybrid plants typically yield a crop that is uniform in both appearance and timing, heirlooms produce a “mixed bag” harvest. The harvest may come in less predictably, and produce size can vary greatly even on the same plant but it is still worth the real estate that they take up. Heirlooms, especially the larger ones, can be prone to cracking and cat facing which is not their most endearing quality but beauty is skin deep in my book. I have never found a beauty queen tomato, perfectly round, consistently red that can compare with a fat, juicy, sweet slice of, say, “Aussie” or “Rose” on my BLT!

Heirlooms typically come with a story that is as wonderful as the flavor. The Amish heirloom tomato Brandywine yields fruit with an unbeatable flavor in shades reminiscent of a glass of Cabernet. Mortgage Lifters paid off a man’s house in the depression years. Nebraska Wedding is an old Great Plains heirloom whose seeds were given to newly married couples to help them start their lives and start their farms together. Amana Orange takes its name from Amana, Iowa. Paul Robeson, a Russian heirloom tomato was named after the operatic artist who won acclaim as an advocate of equal rights for Blacks. His artistry was admired world-wide, especially in the Soviet Union. 

Tomato Terms: What Does it Mean When I Say . . .Heirloom

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Tomatoes in picture: Black Prince, White Queen, Aussie, Gold Medal, Black Truffle, Costoluto Fiorentino and others.

Whether you call them “Heritage” or “Heirloom”, these are still the varieites you will want to grow for taste. Heirlooms come from seed that has been handed down for generations in a particular region or area, and hand-selected by gardeners for a special trait. 

Heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated, which means they’re non-hybrid and pollinated by insects or wind without human intervention. How experts define heirlooms can vary, but typically they are at least 50 years old, and often are pre-WWII varieties. 

In addition, they tend to remain stable in their characteristics from one year to the next. What that means to you is that you can can save the seeds and if they don’t cross pollinate they will come true. Your “Aunt Ruby’s German Green” tomato seed will produce an “Aunt Ruby’s German Green” next year. Tomatoes are self pollinating and if you want to be relatively sure they haven’t “crossed the road” bag the flowers after you hand pollinate them or plant them away from other tomatoes. Remember that wind, bees and other things can pollinate the flowers. too

Many gardeners …to be continued

Tomato Terms: What Does it Mean When I Say . . .Hybrid vs. Open Pollinated

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Hybrid: These tomatoes are made from crossing two varieties which have characteristics that you want to save in their offspring such as earlier maturity, better yield, improved flavor and disease resistance. Good examples are Juliet, a beautiful, little red grape shaped tomato and Sungold, probably the best  cherry tomato that will ever pass your lips. (The tomatoes in the cover picture at the top of my blog are Sungold). Early Girl, Celebrity and Carmello are other hybrids. An F-1 Hybrid means it is the first generation between two different parents.

While you can save seed from it, be advised that it will not come back as the same thing you grew the first year.

Sometimes folks ask me if hybrids are GMO. They are not and I will devote a post on it later.

Open Pollinated: These are tomatoes that have the same parents as themselves. You can save seed and they will come true. All heirlooms are OP and have been saved for generations because of superior qualities like adaptability to a local area and flavor. Heirlooms are another post also.

More Interesting Trivia

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More Interesting Trivia

Indeterminate tomatoes can grow very tall although not as big as the one at Epcot Center. I’ve seen pictures of a twenty foot tomato plant but I believe it was grown somewhere warm in the south. Indeterminates will grow continuously unless killed by frost or disease.

The world’s largest tomato tree was grown in the experimental greenhouse at Walt Disney World Resort. It produced over 32,000 tomatoes in the first 16 months after it was planted, and holds the record for the most tomatoes in a single year, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Huang, from Shenyang, China, discovered the plants in Beijing, China, and after meeting with scientists responsible for those plants he brought the seeds to Epcot. The plant’s single vine grows tens of thousands of golf ball-sized tomatoes which are harvested and served at restaurants across Walt Disney World Resort. According to what I’ve read, It is grown conventionally in a container not hydroponically. Remember too, that it is grown in a greenhouse with constant attention and lots of fertilizer, most likely beyond the scope of the home gardener, even with a greenhouse.