Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tomato Time

When the dogwood blooms, it's time to order the tomatoes.
I have trouble making decisions when I'm faced with too many choices and so the easiest solution is to let somebody else pick. So last night, I pointed my browser to White Flower Farm and placed my tomato order, selecting their six heirloom package for an unbelievably high price of $41, plus shipping, some crazy $16.

I'm sure all the other gardeners out there, who have carefully collected their seeds from other gardeners and sowed those seeds six weeks ago under indoor lights with superb humid conditions, and who have now growing tons of superior plants that are just waiting to be planted as soon as the fear of frost ebbs away in May--I'm sure those gardeners are shocked.

But I can't grow from seed. My seeds usually ignore every one of my entreaties to come up out of the soil. And if they do grow, they usually die, either drowned by my waterings or scorched by my lamp.

So I am the perfect chump for the $41-plus-shipping nursery crook. Now with that confession out of the way., I can hardly wait for their arrival because I've researched each variety and with each note that I made in my planting journal, I could taste centuries of gardening seasons already as if I was picking them now.

Here what's coming my way:

The Riesentraube has been in American gardens since 1856 when the Pennsylvania Dutch brought them up. The fruit grow as if they are more bunches of grapes than tomatoes, delivering bundles of plum-sized delights with prolific efficiency.

I grew the Green Zebra last year, impressed because Alice Waters likes to offer it at Chez Panisse. It's not too large and bears fruit late in the season. I had it down in the back garden, but planted too close to another tomato variety and it clearly needed more room, because it bolted all over the place. So I'll give ample space this year and stake it better.

I also grew Black Prince last year on the deck in full sun and it did well. Both the raccoon and I got to taste of its mahogany fruits. It can withstand cool climates, having coming from Siberia, so maybe the heat  and humidity of DC offers some challenge, but it was in the package, so I'm working with it.

In honor of the Civil War sesquicentennial, the mid-season beefsteak Missouri Pink Love Apple, which hung on the vines of our great grandparents in the years the country tore itself up over states rights and slavery, will take pride of place this summer in my garden.

The Medal Yellow, according to the catalog purveyor who named it in the 1970s, is the "sweetest tomato you ever tasted. The yellow with streaks of red makes them very attractive and a gourmet's joy when sliced."

And the Orange Strawberry looks to be a gynormous tomato, larger than a handful and which will need lots and lots of support to hold up its heavy, heavy fruits. The Putterer

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