Monday, October 03, 2005

TMI About My Tomatoes

My Tomatoes, In Happier Days
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
What you see here are a lot of ‘Yellow Taxis,’ a ‘Big Beef’ or two, and maybe one ‘Arkansas Traveler.’ This is the kind of tomato harvest I was getting every few days in late August. Sadly, we left on vacation for nearly two weeks just as the tomato avalanche was at its peak. I gave at least five pounds of tomatoes away as we were heading out of town and instructed friends to stop by periodically and help themselves.

By the time we got back on September 18, the tomatoes were definitely on the wane, which was really too bad, because, unlike last year, my tomato harvest was excellent this year. It’s kind of a crap shoot to grow tomatoes in Portland, since it just might not stop raining and warm up until about July or so (like this year) or it might stop raining in May and the tomatoes might start developing blisters and heat prostration when the temperatures rise up above 100 º F (like last year).

This year I tried to avoid heirlooms since they performed dismally for me last year. ('Purple Cherokee'--boo, hiss; 'Brandywine'--Take your talents elsewhere.). I planned on planting nothing but thoroughly road-tested hybrids, but as it happens the only hybrid I planted was ‘Big Beef,' which in my estimation was the least successful. Flavor was acceptable but not outstanding and production was only moderate, although the tomatoes the plant did produce were pretty big and, I suppose, beefy. I had been under the impression that ‘Yellow Taxi’ was a hybrid, but apparently it’s an heirloom. Boy, did that thing put out, and early, too. I think I had my first tomato during the first week of August, which for Portland is pretty darn good. The tomatoes were medium-sized and very tasty and juicy, and I'm sure I harvested well over 100 of them.

I also planted ‘Arkansas Traveler,’ a known heirloom and potential thorn in my side. The buzz on ‘Arkansas Traveler’ was that it stood up well to heat. Of course, this year we had a relatively cool and late-to-begin summer, so the Trav suffered mightily from blossom drop, a condition that occurs when the evening and night-time temperatures are markedly cooler than daytime temperatures. I held out little hope for that freakin’ prima donna. It must have produced and dropped hundreds of blossoms. Somehow, maybe around the end of July/beginning of August it did start setting some fruit. Although I don’t think I got more than about three dozen medium to large tomatoes off the Trav, they were the absolute best. Sweet, juicy, and meaty (but not beefy--more like elk chops or saddle of hare, I’d say).

To summarize: ‘Yellow Taxi’ is a definite keeper. ‘Arkansas Traveler’ I will try again, simply because it is so flavorful. ‘Big Beef’ doesn’t make the cut because of its tardiness and the unimpressive quantity of average-tasting tomatoes it produced. Also, what an untidy plant it was—hanging sluttishly out of its cage and sending out weak, gangly branches that thought nothing of allowing ripening fruit to rest on the soil where icky worms and so forth could feast and destroy. I was constantly having to rig slings out of old pantyhose to shore that thing up, which only made the whole tomato cage/tomato plant apparatus look even more slatternly.

Final note: I am well aware that this post may be of zero interest to anyone but me, I must document my gardening successes and failures for future reference because my memory is appalling.


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