Posts Tagged ‘heirloom tomatoes’


Heirloom Tomatoes

Just for a change from winter scenes, here is a photograph of part of the 2016 tomato crop, taken on September 28th. We still have a goodly supply of homegrown tomatoes in the freezer.

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Yesterday was a quiet day, and I decided I would get my tomato seeds started. I’m not a devoted vegetable gardener, and for the most part, I just direct sow seeds in the garden in the spring, or else purchase started plants at local nurseries. There is usually a good selection available once garden season begins.

Tomatoes are the exception. I like to experiment with unusual or heirloom varieties and therefore start my own tomato seeds. I purchased some at my local Seedy Saturday event, and others I ordered from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I’ve never ordered from Baker Creek before and thought I’d give them a try this year. They put out an impressive catalogue.

My little seedlings do tend to get more leggy than plants you can purchase at a nursery, but I just plant the stems a little deeper, or in a shallow trough, and they’ve always done okay. This year, I have 8 varieties, representing an assortment of colours from purple to green to orange. Here’s my list:

Green Giant
Kellogg’s Breakfast
Nebraska Wedding
Blue Beauty
Captain Lucky
Pink Brandywine
Cherokee Purple
Ozark Sunrise


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Seedy Saturdays are seed-exchange and gardening events that pop up all across Canada in early spring. Maybe there is a Seedy Saturday near you! For a listing of events and more information visit Seeds of Diversity, linked here.

I didn’t really need any seeds. I placed a catalogue order that covers most of my needs. However, the weather was inviting for a drive, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see a wonderful phenomenon: hordes of excited gardeners coming together to talk and buy seeds and get ready for another year in the garden. Finding a parking spot was tough. At some displays, you had to wait your turn to belly up to the seed packets and seek out your favorites. Besides seeds, there were also vendors selling organic products and garden supplies.


Of course, I couldn’t pass up the chance to pick up a few packets of seeds myself. I get a kick out of growing an assortment of tomatoes and I got three to try this year. Captain Lucky, the packet says, is an indeterminate, potato-leaf, mid/late season tomato with green/yellow/pink medium to large fruit. Cool! Nebraska Wedding is a yellow/orange tomato that I have tried in the past and liked. Information online reports that: Nebraskan brides were given seeds of this tomato as a wedding gift. It was said to have been brought from MN by pioneers in the late 1800s via covered wagons. And it thrived in cold, windy Nebraska.” And finally, Ozark Sunrise, which is described as a beautiful anti-oxidant-loaded purple beauty.

I also got some Lemon cucumber seeds to try. They were recommended by Alain at Roche Fleurie Garden. You can check up on Lemon cucumbers here. All in all, it was a fun outing.


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Most of the tomatoes are ripening now, which is a good thing because the temperature dropped to 4 C last night. Frosty nights are drawing near. It wasn’t a great year for tomatoes here. I think this was due to the rainy summer we experienced, with a paucity of the hot, sunny days I associate with tomato season. Still, we have enough to enjoy for a few weeks.

The dark tomatoes are Indigo Rose. They were on the small side, but perhaps in better weather they might have been bigger. This new variety was bred at Oregon State University for the antioxidant potential of the purple anthocyanins in the fruit. It is very plum-like, both on the outside and when sliced, with an orangy interior. It is open-pollinated, meaning you can save the seeds for next year.

The orange tomato is Indian Moon. This variety produced attractive, blemish-free fruit, but I only got a small number of tomatoes from my plants. For an orange tomato, I preferred Persimmon, which I grew a couple of years ago and reported on here.

The red tomatoes are Sub-Arctic Plenty. I grew them last year too. I had a better crop last summer, but the plants still did pretty well this year. I wrote about Sub-Arctic Plenty here.

The green tomato is Michael Pollan. It’s an indeterminate developed from Green Zebra. For a novelty tomato, I thought it did pretty well. It can be hard to tell when green tomatoes are ready to pick. These got a bit of an orange glow when they were ripe. It adds a nice shot of colour when sliced with other varieties on a plate.

Proving that taste is a personal thing, I liked the Michael Pollans the best, and thought the Indian Moons were a bit bland. RailGuy, on the other hand, liked the Indian Moons best and thought the Michael Pollans were bland. Go figure. You’ll have to grow them yourself and decide what you think. All together, they did make a very pretty, colourful platter.


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When I offered a slice of a yellow tomato to my 84-year-old aunt, she lifted it suspiciously to her mouth and gingerly took a little nibble. Her eyes flew open in surprise and she exclaimed “It tastes like a tomato!”

Well, yes. Even a rainbow of tomatoes still taste like tomatoes, though some are more tart, others sweeter, some are juicy and some are more pulpy. Which tastes best is strictly a matter of personal preference. I’m not really sure why I get a kick out of growing a variety of heirloom varieties, except that it is fun to collect them all together for a colourful plate of tomato-y goodness at the end of each summer. Don’t they look great?

Sub Arctic Plenty

This year, I would have to give the award for Pick of the Crop to Sub-Arctic Plenty. My two plants produced dozens of attractive, small-to-medium sized, brilliant red tomatoes. The fruits were juicy and tasty and the first tomatoes were ready to pick several weeks earlier than other varieties.


Here are the plants at the end of the season, still loaded with fruit. Legend has it that Sub-Arctic Plenty was developed by the U.S. Military for use by troops stationed in Greenland! Hmmm. I don’t know where that tale got started, but a more likely version is that Sub-Arctic Plenty was developed at the Canadian Agriculture Research Station in Beaverlodge, Alberta. Sub-Arctic Plenty was selected from the backcross (Fireball x BEF 56-7) x Fireball, and was tested at 30 locations across Canada before being introduced to Canadian gardeners through Dominion Seed House in Georgetown, Ontario, and Lowden’s Plants and Seeds in Ancaster in 1972. (R.E.Harris, Can. J. Plant Sci. 52: 119-120 (Jan. 1972))

White Queen

Another prolific producer was White Queen. You can see the plant behind Sub-Arctic Plenty. White Queen produced many large, beefsteak-type tomatoes of good quality. In 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden, Carolyn J. Male writes that White Queen has an absolutely outstanding yield, and my experience confirmed that. She further observes that White Queen is fruity and sweet, and not bland like other white tomatoes. Here, I would have to disagree. They may be better tasting than other whites, but compared to other tomatoes in the garden, I did find them bland. Still, my two plants produced a bountiful crop that were great for soups and pasta dishes.

Chocolate Stripe

Chocolate Stripe produced quite a good crop in spite of a rather unfavorable location in the garden. The medium-sized fruits varied in colour and were pleasant if not outstanding in flavour. Chocolate Stripe might be worth trying again in a better location.

Emerald Evergreen

Emerald Evergreen produced a dismal crop of just a half-dozen tomatoes. I’m not sure why they didn’t do better, but again, it might have been a poor location. I would like to try this one again because the tomatoes that were produced were great. They have a very nice appearance on the plate and were the sweetest tomatoes in the garden this year, very pleasing.

Black Pineapple

Black Pineapple, above, and Black Krim, below, both produced modest crops of pleasant but not outstanding tomatoes. So that’s it for the tomatoes of 2012. Can’t wait to try again next year!

Black Krim

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After several beautiful, mild, snow-melting days, I decided it was time to start my tomato seeds. I’m not a big seed starter. I can usually satisfy my modest need for vegetable seedlings at local nurseries. Except for tomatoes. For the last several years, I’ve experimented with heirloom varieties and have really enjoyed the results. Two years ago, I tried a package of mixed seeds and was encouraged by their success. Here’s a report here. Last year I tried a few different varieties and was especially impressed with Persimmon and Jaune Flamme.

So this is my third year for starting tomato seedlings. In previous years, I’ve just used sunlight, but this year I broke down and bought a grow light to extend the day for the little greenlings. I know, just an ordinary fluorescent fixture affixed in an appropriate location will do the job, but I liked the convenience of this compact stand. This afternoon, I planted 4 seeds of each of 8 varieties. Okay, little seeds, get growing!

Here are the varieties I planted: Black Krim, Black Pineapple, Brandywine Red, Chocolate Stripe, Emerald Evergreen, Purple Prudence, Sub-Arctic Plenty and White Queen.


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At Last! Tomatoes!

My tomatoes are finally beginning to ripen! They’re a motley crew. You’d never mistake them for supermarket tomatoes, mostly red, mostly round, mostly blemish free. No, these tomatoes come in shades of purple, brown, green, yellow and even red. They’re large and misshapen, small and globe-like and everything in between. They have scabs and cracking. But most of all, they’re delicious!

I started these tomatoes from a packet of mixed seeds labelled Rainbow Blend. The label reads: A sensational blend of assorted Heirloom tomatoes. Varieties such as Black, Pink, Red and Yellow Brandywine tomatoes. Add to the Brandywine tomatoes some Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, White Wonder and a beautiful orange, like Nebraska Wedding and you have an Heirloom pack that can’t be beat! Well known for its size and rich flavour. Great for salads, canning, soups and sandwiches. Indeterminate variety.

The problem with a mixed package is that you can’t say for sure what variety any particular plant is. A few are easy to pick out, like the Green Zebras but others are just a guess. Still, it has been fun to see such an assortment. With a garden, it tends to be feast or famine. While waiting for the tomatoes to ripen, we were tomato-less. Now, just a week later, there is a veritable deluge of tomatoes waiting to be picked and eaten or stored.

The biggest difference I notice between these tomatoes and the tidy supermarket specimens is how juicy the homegrown fruits are. The supermarket ones are very firm, with only a small amount of liquid. These garden varieties, in contrast, are full of juice, more like the tomatoes I seem to remember from years ago. In any case, we have been enjoying tomatoes with every meal! Pictured below is a plateful prepared simply, just sliced and sprinkled with freshly chopped basil and crumbled feta. Mmm Mmm Good.

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