Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Tomato Starting Day!

Here's a picture for a little bit of motivation. This is the harvest from September 3, 2007

Well, I've put it off long enough. It's time to start some tomato seeds. Last year, I started my seeds on March 28. That seemed to work out perfectly. The plants looked nice and healthy and ready to take off. Starting tomato seeds too early will result in bigger transplants, but that's not always what you want. Conventional wisdom says to remove any flowers that have formed before you transplant seedlings to their permanent location. The thinking is that the plant will put it's energy into spreading roots and not put it's energy into forming fruits at that early stage. Is it true? I dunno. I just go along with that method and so far, it's worked for me. Since I planted out only 6 weeks after starting seeds, those 6 week old seedlings were just on the verge of forming flowers, and did soon after plant out.

I know just what you're thinking now, what types of tomatoes are you going to grow this year? Am I right? I am aren't I. Well, I don't have an endless supply of room for growing tomatoes, so I must limit what I grow, unfortunately for me. I have a dream of having as much room as I want to grow whatever I want someday, but that day, is not today. And I have a feeling that, if I did have hundreds of plants, well, that would be more work than I really want to do. But who knows, I may just surprise us all and run off to become a tomato farmer some day.

Some of my seeds* came from a farmer in Napa, CA, Brad Gates at Wild Boar Farms. He has actually introduced quite a few naturally crossed tomato varieties he's discovered in his fields. I had heard of Brad, his farm, and his tomato breeding a while back. He's the breeder of the Berkeley Tie Dye tomato, which I think is the most wide spread of his tomatoes. This tomato is red, gold, and green striped with green flesh with pink blush. Now if that isn't a wild tomato, then I don't know what is. While hubby and I were in Napa we ate dinner at a restaurant called Celadon and hubby ordered the heirloom tomato salad. Well, turns out Brad is one of the suppliers to the restaurant. So I'm thinking we've already sampled some of his own grown tomatoes. What a small world.

Okay, so here is my tomato list. Seems this year, is the year of the striped tomato.

Berkeley Tie Dye*- green-yellow with orange-red stripes 8-12 oz average
Pink Berkeley Tie Dye*-heavy producer dark pink purple with green stripes that turn silver metallic (that I'd like to see)
Beauty King*-Large yellow beefsteak with deep red stripes. Fruit over 1 lb.
Pruden's Purple-dark pink, delicious flavor similar to brandywine, but earlier. 10-16 oz fruit.
Aunt Gertie's Gold-1-2 lb rich gold fruit. One of the best tasting yellows.
Kellogg's Breakfast-1 lb. orange beefsteak tomatoes (like orange juice), that are thin-skinned, meaty, have few seeds and a fantastic sweet, tangy flavor.

Small Fruited:
Red Zebra-huge amounts of 2 inch red fruit with yellow stripes.
Sungold-very sweet orange cherry tomatoes, fruity taste. Our favorite.
Yellow Submarine- a better tasting yellow pear.
Green Grape-3/4- 1 inch fruit, yellow green when ripe. Full of flavor, sweet and juicy.
Sprite-red grape tomatoes, in a smaller plant.

Banana Legs-yellow paste type 4" long x 1 1/2".
Purple Russian-long plum shaped purple/red 6 oz. Good fresh, in sauce or canned.
Roma-the old stand by for paste. 3 inch red plum tomatoes.
Viva Italia- paste type tomato, red plum shaped, perfect for sauce.

Now I know, I really don't need five different small fruited (cherry/grape/silver dollar sized) type tomatoes. One sungold plant would probably provide more than enough fruit for the entire season. However, I just can't help it. I like seeing all the different colors in a basket together. So what's a girl to do? I just can't bring myself to cut anyone from the list.

When I opened my pack of Beauty King Seeds for the first time on seed starting day, it was completely empty. Oops! I was so bummed that I might not get to grow that one this year. It's striped and productive (so I've read) so I was really looking forward to that one. I emailed Brad and he sent me a new pack of seeds right away. They're coming from California, so I know it will be a while before they showed up. I hadn't planned to grow Kellogg's Breakfast this year, but since I didn't have any Beauty King seeds to start, I started some Kellogg's Breakfast instead. Now I'm thinking, that when those Beauty King seeds show up, I will want to start them as well. I guess I'll just have to make some room somewhere. Most of these varieties are new to me this year. Some I had at least tasted at the tomatofest, so I know that I should like the flavor. I just can't wait until the day I am harvesting once again. This time of year, I have visions of baskets and baskets of tomatoes lined up in the garden as I harvest.

I was a little delayed in posting this. So I already have a progress report. Sungold was the first to sprout only 3 days after sowing the seed! Sprite showed up the next day too. In the past, I've had many tomato seedlings show up in 4 days, but 3 is a new record for me. The funny thing is, last year, I had a hard time getting my Sungold seeds to germinate and these are from the same pack. Just the luck of the draw I guess.

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