Monday, June 01, 2015

Oh, the Color!

There they are, the first two tomatoes.

Yes, the one on the right is a little pale, but I was not about to let my first crop fall prey to slugs or birds or whatever. Once they start to turn color, tomatoes are ripe, but it is nice to let them hang out on the counter until the color is deep and they soften to provide the richest taste.

I love tomatoes. But maybe I love tomato plants more. I think the tiny yellow blossoms are cute, and the foliage is pretty. The smell of the vines is intoxicating to me, rooted deeply in the memory of my mother's greenhouse, where she started tomatoes from seed to sell, reserving a few for her garden and mine. When I wade in and tie my tomatoes to their stakes or cages, pruning a sucker branch here or there, tickling the blossoms to make them set fruit, the green stain on my hands and arms amuses me; watching the soap and water turn greenish as I clean up afterwards makes me smile. My tomatoes and I have had a close contact.

All but a few of my plants are in the ground. Most of them are in containers. I started with three Early Girl, known for flavor and -- earliness -- added two Shady Lady, that would be the ones in the picture to the right. Of course I made sure I had two Roma plants, for Bernie's salsa endeavors.

Then I bought two Rutgers, because the literature described their flavor as "incomparable." And because they were available, and I had some space, I found a home for a Better Boy and a Super Fantastic.

A spot was reserved for a wild tomato that came up last fall and over-wintered, much to my surprise. It formed the illustration for Anna Sykora's Piker Press article, "Crazy Tomato," and I was shocked that it made it to Spring. (It's a monster, with a scary amount of fruit and tendrils spanning four feet across, btw.)

One tomato plant made it home with me after I had a fervid conversation with a man I met at the hardware store -- he gifted me with a plant called "Delicious," a plant that has ended up on the endangered list in my garden after it failed to thrive. From its isolation ward spot near the avocado tree, it looks over at yet another plant, Container's Choice, that has a knack for vigorous growth and hiding ripe tomatoes under it's foliage.

And I was done with buying tomatoes at that point, especially since I found another wild tomato growing up near the Better Boy and Super Fantastic, the only non-container plants in the bunch.

Until the supermarket marked down its veggies, and I found a pony-pack of Beefsteak tomatoes whimpering at me. I bought a couple giant terracotta pots and another cage...

Day before yesterday, Bernie and I held a four-way taste test of ripe tomatoes from Early Girl, Shady Lady, Container's Choice, and Better Boy. Those are the cut ones in the middle, minus the Container's Choice, which was my favorite, and I ate it all before I thought to take a picture. Bernie's favorite was Early Girl. Then he made salsa from all the others.

Next day I picked another 16 tomatoes.

Today, Bernie is researching tomato paste and pizza sauce recipes.

I myself am waiting to find out what Beefsteak, Rutgers, and Super-Fantastic taste like.

And the wild ones. I love summer tomato season.

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