Monday, May 16, 2005

Tommy Toes

After the quasi-dismal performance of my heirloom tomatoes last year,* I decided that I am no longer buying into all the hoo-ha about heirlooms being so much better in every respect than hybrids. As far as I’m concerned, heirlooms are the Diana Rosses and Luciano Pavarottis of the tomato world. No amount of coddling and catering was ever enough for them, and they just sat there fuming and refused to put out any worthy tomatoes.

I bought some tomato starts this weekend. In contrast to last year when I spent a couple of hours researching all the heirlooms and their supposed virtues, this year I just showed up determined to get some hybrids--preferably some with the word “beef” in their name. All those beefy-type tomatoes have been around at least since I was a kid, so they must have something going for them. Here’s what I ended up with:

Big Beef. Sounds like a high school linebacker. Big and dumb and will do anything I tell it to do. I don’t expect any guff from this tomato.

Taxi Yellow. It should be Big Yellow Taxi, if you ask me, but no matter. I got this one because I've recently become a yellow tomato convert, and the name reminds me of Joni Mitchell, even though I really can't stand her voice. Not the most logically thought-out purchase perhaps.

Arkansas Traveler. OK this is actually an heirloom. I decided to give heirlooms one last chance. I liked the sound of this one, because I figured if it hails from Arkansas, it should be able to deal with dizzying heat. A quick Web search reveals that Arkansas Traveler is “incredibly delicious” and “much esteemed for its ability to produce flavorful tomatoes under conditions of drought and high heat where many other varieties fail.” The plant shall definitely be put to that drought and high heat test, if past summers are anything to go by.

It may well be that it’s not the heirlooms’ fault at all. The fault may lie with me for being delusional enough to try to grow tomatoes in a climate where May and June are often characterized by temperatures in the 60s and rain mixed with rain showers that alternate with drizzle, followed by two months of drought and temperatures ranging from the 90s to the low 100s. People keep telling me that tomatoes don’t go for that kind of a scenario.

*Click here if you want names of the prima donnas that failed to meet their obligations and here if you want to read an even more damning evaluation (salsa recipe included at no extra charge).


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