Tantalizing Tomatoes

I confess I have self-control issues when it comes to choosing tomato varieties. Okay, spouse is laughing at me, because, let’s face it — I have self-control issues when it comes to choosing any plant variety. I want them all. But it’s worse with tomatoes.

I blame the seed catalogs. They arrive in late December/early January when the days are dark and cold and the ground is frozen. Full of pictures of plump, ripe fruits and glowing descriptions of their flavor and productivity, how can I resist?

My impulse control issues escalated after spouse built the greenhouse — an entire room designed for growing plants. We enlarged the vegetable garden to what I realize in retrospect were probably ridiculous dimensions. I justified it by providing a summer supply of produce to nearby kinfolk without garden space.

And I went a little nuts when I ordered tomato seeds that first year. I think I ended up with fourteen (it might have been sixteen) different tomato varieties. Because I was accustomed to the less-than-optimal germination rates of my pre-greenhouse days, I planted eight seeds of each kind.  Of course, almost every single seed enthusiastically germinated. You do the math. That’s a lot of tomatoes.

I was able to give away some seedlings, but I couldn’t bring myself to compost the excess. I planted all of them. Everyone we knew that year enjoyed our bounty. We carried tomatoes to work, where they vanished from breakrooms in mere minutes. We gave some to food kitchens. We made tomato sauce and froze it. And we ate tomatoes every day, usually twice a day.

Since then, I have gradually exerted more self-control, and this year, I only ordered seven different kinds of tomato seeds. I’ve also learned to rely on near-100% germination rates, so I only sow four seeds of each kind. We plant out two of each variety and give the excess seedlings to friends. I know — that’s still fourteen tomato plants. Baby steps, but still, steps in the right direction.

This year’s varieties are Early Goliath Hybrid, Big Beef Hybrid, Sweet Treats Hybrid, Viva Italia Hybrid, Italian Goliath Hybrid, Ferline, and Purple Russian. The first four are repeats from previous seasons. We’ve decided we can’t live without them.

Purple Russian is also a repeat from last year. This tomato breaks my rule against growing heirloom varieties, and its lack of disease resistance did bring them to a relatively early demise. But before the plants succumbed, they produced the most amazing deep purple plum tomato fruits we had ever devoured.

Spouse wanted to try Italian Goliath, because it produces later than the Early Goliath we’ve enjoyed so much. Goliath is actually a series by a tomato breeder, and we’ve come to trust the brand.

Ferline is a total unknown. I chose it because the catalog description claims it is highly resistant to the late blight fungus that usually plagues my crop as summer begins to wane. I’ll let you know if it lives up to its hype.

And in case you’re wondering where I find all these varieties, you should know that entire seed catalogs devoted to tomato and pepper varieties exist to tempt you. Links to two of my favorite sources are below.  But when you find yourself ordering a dozen or more varieties, don’t blame me. You have been warned.

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  1. Brrr! And Greenhouse Updates « Piedmont Gardener
  2. The Consequences of my Obsession « Piedmont Gardener
  3. Dream Time « Piedmont Gardener

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