Friday, 25 March 2011

Tomatoes: roll call (part 2)

Continued from part one...

Incidentally, if you were wondering what indeterminate/determinate means, and what the "X days" figure is, I'll quickly explain. A determinate tomato grows into a bush, to a preset size, and no larger. It does not need pruning to control growth. An indeterminate tomato is a sprawling vine, that can grow two or three metres in a season. To concentrate the plant's energy into fruit production, it is customary to remove side shoots and stop the main shoot once it reaches a set height (say, 6 feet). The days figure usually refers to the time between planting the tomato in its final position (in a pot, grow bag, or into the garden soil) and the first ripe fruit. It's good for estimating harvests, in association with average final frost dates (as tomatoes cannot survive frost, they aren't planted out until it's past, unless you have a greenhouse).

Orange Strawberry
I should probably be calling this German Orange Strawberry, but there was a little confusion over the name when I was choosing seeds. Unsurprisingly, it's a strawberry-shaped orange tomato, though it can vary (often it's flatter). A late beefsteak, maturing after 80-90 days (though recommended for outdoors). Indeterminate and vigorous.

Purple Cherokee
photo by observing life
A classic American heirloom with a good reputation for flavour. It's worth pointing out that terms like "black", "pink" and "purple" are rather misused when applied to tomatoes; these ones are typically a dark red, but can be quite variable inside - as can the overall shape. A bit fussier than modern types, but allegedly worth it. Indeterminate. 80-90 days.

This is one I tried to grow two years ago. My sister passed me a load of heritage seeds that were past their best, and although most did well, not one of this variety germinated. I ordered some more last year, but never planted them - my main motivation was a recipe for tomato wine she'd included, something this variety is renowned for. My experience so far hasn't filled me with hop - only one of the first pot of seeds germinated, and the second pot took much longer than any other variety, producing just three. Today, however, that first seedling was joined by eight more - all appearing overnight! So it's a slow starter - let's hope it makes up for it later on. Huge bunches of bright red fruits (up to 50 per truss). Indeterminate. 70-80 days.

Another descriptive name, this is a small, pale yellow-cream cherry tomato that's highly rated for flavour. Some confusion as to whether it can be grown outside - I won't take the chance. Indeterminate; I couldn't find a figure for days to maturity.

Sub Arctic Plenty
I ordered these last week simply because they are the earliest-maturing variety available. An unexciting appearance - medium-sized, round, red - but they offer the chance of harvesting ripe homegrown fruit by midsummer's day, even though I only sowed them a couple of days ago. I'm thinking of trying my hand at cross-breeding, using this one and one other - with the hope of producing an early, but less boring variety. Determinate. 51-60 days (some sources say even quicker).

Summer Cider
With this one, I was swayed by the name. Some varieties of tomato have names so evocative, I am prepared to take a chance on that alone. Actually, this is quite a recent variety, developed in the Netherlands at the end of the 1990s, but it looks more antique: large, bulging yellow fruits with a blush. A dense beefsteak type. Indeterminate. 80-85 days.

Sun Belle
Another one left over from last year. These are very unusual-looking, pear- or bottle-shaped little fruits, ripening to bright yellow. Apparently a very old variety, but I couldn't find much else about it - I'm assuming it's indeterminate, but I have no idea when it will ripen.

Super Marmande
The champion of last summer. I bought a single plant (see this previous post for a picture), and it grew so large I could hardly manage it. A handful of huge, ribbed fruit per truss, pale red when mature. The flavour was excellent - a simple tomato tart I made for friends with these was heavenly. I had to grow it again, as it produces both quantity and quality. Recommended for outdoor growing, though I'll chance one under "glass". Indeterminate. 75-80 days.

Okay, so again I admit, I am growing a lot of tomatoes! But some may not thrive, some may not ripen, I may lose a lot to blight (thankfully the last two years, it came very late in the season - after I'd had my fill of fruit). But it sure is exciting!

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