7/20/05 Vol. 2 #20

How long can this month and weather go on?  A whopper of a storm last night with copious lightning, I just hope that the electric fence charger didn’t get fried with one of those strikes.  The silver lining to the month of July is that it is the best part of the of tomato season and we are at the peak this week and last.  While many folks are asking about when the pepper roaster will come out (not during this hot weather I can assure you!) I always say we have to get through tomato season first.  Sometimes they say “I didn’t know you grew tomatoes?”  Crest fallen I remind them that we grow just a few varieties that they should try.  Tomatoes and their many varieties, colors and shapes were my first vegetable obsession before peppers.  We have grown tomatoes for market since 1986 but just reds with a few cherries and pink German Johnsons because that was what everyone grew around here.  In the early 1990’s we started reading about heirloom tomatoes and started growing a few varieties in 1994 including Cherokee Purple (what a find!).

People often wonder why we grow so many different kinds.  Tomatoes are more than just about flavor.  The range of colors on the plate, the amount of juice, the textures, all contribute to the experience.  People also like different flavors or levels of acidity, or the chefs like to match certain varieties with certain dishes, like wine.  Over the years we have worked on finding the best tasting and producing varieties in each color group.  Then we rely on both our market customers and restaurant chefs to guide us as to what they really like.  For many years we were trying to find a high and low acid variety in each color as well.  Many folks ask for a high acid tomato so we have tried to find them.  I have come to believe that while flavor especially acidity does have have a great deal to do with variety, the way we grow those plants can over ride those genetics at times.  Peoples memories of how tomatoes tasted from there grandmothers garden can also be deceiving but in general I would say that in days past, in the south, the tomato plants didn’t grow as vigorously as we can get them to grow now.  In another correlation to wine, we may do too good a job in building our soils and growing the plants so that they don’t “hurt” enough like grape growers like to refer to wine grapes that make the best wines.  We have grown at least fifteen “high acid” red tomatoes and every time they don’t taste any more acid than our standard red Big Beef (an excellent tomato).  So the active search for a high acid red has ended.  I am sending out our Tomato Guide as a separate attachment.  Let us know what tomatoes you like and how they fall in our listings of flavor.

Picture of the Week
Just a few of the varieties, clockwise from bottom, pink and red Italian Oxhearts, Red Zebra, Big Beef and Early Pick, German Johnson, Cherokee Purple, Paul Robeson, Striped German, Orange Blossom, Sun Gold and Italian Red Cherry
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