Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tomatoes...The Real Thing.....

If you all remember, early this year, I took the plunge and planted tomato seeds in order to raise my own plants. I had poured over the heirloom seed catalog and decided on Arkansas Traveler, (a large red tomato), Yellow Oxhearts (very large yellow tomato) and finally Cherokee Purples ( a medium size dark red/purple tomato). The Cherokee Purples were the ones I was most excited to try. It's been years since I raised a nice consistent tomato crop and I hoped that going 'back to the basics' might make a difference.

After much drama, I finally managed to get most of the zillion seedlings I planted (note to self, plant fewer seeds!) into the ground. Somewhere in all the fuss and muss, I lost track of who was what, and was just grateful they were finally transplanted into the garden. There they sat for a month, looking pained and frail. Then suddenly they took off. Their initial fragile appearance lulled me into not putting up tomato cages. Big mistake.

Needless to say, it's a jungle out there in the 'mater patch! Not only is growth rampant, the bugs have been just, well, beastly this year. From tomato worms, to stripped beetles, red mites, ants, grasshoppers and I swear squash bugs (on the tomatoes!), the fruit has suffered. It's a race to see who can harvest the tomatoes first. Usually 'they' win.

However...I finally got my first Cherokee Purple! Woot! In the first picture it hadn't quite peaked out at ripeness yet. It is also sitting next to my one harvested tomato from the "Russian Dark" plant that I got from the fiber fest. The Purple is on the right, and the Dark on the left. Look shockingly similar don't they? Unfortunately I didn't get to sample the Dark as it went bad before I even realized it. I have saved seeds from both though.

This next photo shows all three varieties that I have so far harvested from the seedlings I planted. (The cherry tomatoes are from a plant I bought). The little green pear shaped one in the middle, is actually a red tomato--I got in a hurry, thinking it might be an odd shaped 'oxheart'. In my mind these look suspiciously like Romas...oh yes they do. And the little just bigger than cherry tomatoes....are those suppose to be Arkansas Travelers...or what?? Very odd. I still have bunches and bunches of big green tomatoes coming on, as well as a ton of these Roma looking things, so maybe the other two varieties will 'show up'? Can they cross pollinate and cause this kind of variance? It's a mystery. I'm very happy though that I've gotten a few of the Purples.

So, (drumroll please) yesterday I decided to taste test my first Cherokee Purple. Oh my. I have never eaten such a juicy, rich tomato. Full of sweet, full bodied flavor, it was amazing. I gave one to my folks and they felt the same way---they said it was 'meaty' and 'tasted like tomatoes used to taste'. Wow...I think these babies are worth all the trouble I went through. I do see why Tomatoes have become these bland, pale creatures though. These wonderful heirlooms would never last as their shelf life is very short. The tomatoes that are shipped must have tough skins and the ability to stay 'crisp' in order to make it to the shelves in the store. I wonder if the hybrid varieties that we grow aren't along the same lines. While they are still miles better than a store bought tomato, the flavor is very mild compared to this heirloom tomato.

I will never look at a tomato the same way again..... ;-)

This picture has nothing to do with Tomatoes. I slipped up on Sage while he was taking one of his five million a day baths, and kept whispering --"don't turn around Sage, don't do it" He couldn't stand it of course......He had to turn around.


Vicki Lane said...

The Cherokee Purples are my favorites for sure!

Pat in east TN said...

I've heard several people rave about the Cherokee Purple, Vicki included, so guess they'll be on my list next spring.

Tammy said...

Vicki, I had heard the name before, and that interested me, then hearing you talk about them really spurred me on. I'm so glad I did. What lovely and delicious tomatoes! Pat, I'll be saving seed, if you want to try and grow plants.. I'd be happy to share, just let me know!

Deborah said...

I've never met an heirloom tomato that I didn't like! Actually any homegrown tomato will taste better than the store-bought because they're vine riped. The ones in the store are picked green because they're shipped so far. Then they gas them to turn them red. It's no wonder they don't taste like tomatoes.