Monday, January 30, 2012

Tomatoes! Tomatoes!

I have a hard time deciding what tomatoes to grow each time I browse a seed catalog. The choices are overwhelming and I have to limit myself to three cultivars. Otherwise, I tend to lose track of what I've planted.

I'm one of the few people in Seattle who has successfully grown tasty tomatoes despite our mild summers. My trick is planting them in the front yard where I get maximum southern exposure. I don't worry about making a raised bed for them. They're planted right next to the shrubs and perennials.

When selecting a cultivar, I chose those that have short maturity rates; keeping it close to 75 days. Anything that takes 80 days or longer is not worth it. They will never ripen in time for those summer salads and you'll be seeking tomatoes out at the farmers' market instead (not a bad alternative, but still!). I also grow smaller fruited types since there's less tomato to ripen. I tried Purple Cherokees and others that were large heirlooms and they never ripened causing major disappointment.

Here are the ones that have caught my eye for this year:

From Adaptive Seeds: Wheatly's Frost Resistant. First off, who could go wrong with a name like that?! It definitely sounds like it's meant for our climate. Sixty days to maturity and although not exactly frost resistant, it does fine in cool weather. It's also a grape/cherry type fruit.

Also from Adaptive is Grappoli d'Inverno. It's not meant for fresh-off-the-vine eating, but is claimed to be a good roasting tomato. Up to 70 days until maturity, the vines are semi-determinate which means they are less rangy than their indeterminate counterparts. They claim that they are good for cold storage and are tied in bundles called ristras for the winter. I want to try this tomato just so I can make the ristras! We'll many to choose from.

The other seed company I would like to order from is Osbourne Seed in Mt Vernon. I'm not sure if I'll go with them since it seems like they cater more to farmers (understandably) and less to those with small city lots. I may just do it anyway and share seed with friends.

There are three tomatoes that I would like to try from Osbourne. Sweet Hearts because they claim to be the best tasting cherry tomato they have trialed. The ripe fruit isn't dropped (I can't say that about the Black Cherry I had last year) and they're crack resistant. Also 65-68 days to maturity. Sounds good to me!

Solid Gold was suggested as a good pairing with Sweet Hearts and I like a contrasting yellow cherry to mix in salads. Seventy days to maturity and are claimed to be vigorous plants with a heavy yield. Plus, who doesn't want to be a Solid Gold dancer?

Viva Italia is my last tomato I will have to decide on. It takes 76 days to mature so pushing the upper limit there for me. But, I love a Roma tomatos and have tried them in the past with not so much success. These are determinate plants and are described as being compact and yielding more fruit. I may just have to take on the challenge!

So much to think about, but I'll need to figure it out quick. It's almost February and I'm feeling the pressure to get my orders in!

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