Thursday, August 25, 2011

For next year: Tomato post-mortem

Going back over this season, some thoughts for next year:

This year, I started planting seeds in March, a bit late I thought then, but I think it all worked out. I have planted as early as December. While it is nice to get an early start, we can get weather too cold for the tropical-ish tomatoes. Another consideration re: seed planting: I would like tomato ripening spread out over the summer but, alas, this is the reality of growing crops, even as small-scale as my adventure. As it was, this year, I had a ripening glut in the first three weeks of August.  I think it would be good to plant a few in January, a few in February, a few in March and no later.

What would I plant next year? I will stick with cold climate tolerant tomatoes but with a few exceptions. Definitely the Sungold will be back, even though it is a hybrid, not an heirloom. What an overachiever! I would also make sure it had more room and more support since it grew like the monster plant in Little Shop of Horrors. I would like to have two, maybe one planted earlier, one planted later.

Definitely more Black Krim. This is a gorgeous cold climate tolerant heirloom producing the type of tomatoes that look beautiful in sandwiches. I only had one plant; next year, I would love to have at least two, perhaps planted a month apart.

I still like Momotaro, even though it is a hybrid. Two would be nice.

I had six Japanese Black Trifele, all ripening at the same time. Next year, I would prefer fewer, perhaps two. The Japanese Black Trifele do well here, one block from the beach, very prolific with smallish pear-shaped tomatoes.

I still have dreams of growing Brandywine's Sudduth, definitely not a cold climate tolerant tomato. It did well one year but never again. Growing Brandywine's Sudduth is my little attempt at being Don Quixote. I still like to dream.

I have a small plot so eight to nine tomato plants is about it, I think. I had twelve this year, a bit too much.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How the Mortgage Lifter Tomato came to be

I haven't grown any Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes but I have heard of it over the years. Here's a transcript on how it came to be.  Apparently the true name is Radiator Charlie's Mortage Lifter Tomatoes. Radiator Charlie was a fellow who invented his own way of creating new strains of tomatoes; he did this without the benefit of a formal education.
BYLES: What I did I took ten plants and put them in a circle and put one in the center.

YOUNG: McCormack has studied this part of the tape carefully and says Byles invented an unorthodox but elegant system.

McCORMACK: Well, he started with four varieties of tomatoes and he placed a tomato called German Johnson in the center of a ring of 10 tomatoes. All these tomatoes were the largest seeds he could find in the country at the time. So, he would go around to the other tomatoes, collect pollen in the baby’s ear syringe, then squirt it on the flowers of the German Johnson. Then he would save seed. After seven years, he felt he had a stable tomato with all qualities he was looking for, and once he was satisfied with that he never worked with any other tomato plants, did any other plant breeding. But he really ran with it after he developed it.

YOUNG: Ran all the way to the bank. Turns out Radiator Charlie Byles had quite a knack for marketing, and sold tomato seedlings for a buck apiece—a lot of money for a little plant in those days. He sold enough of them to pay off the mortgage on his house.

BYLES: I didn’t pay but six thousand dollars for my home, and paid most of it off with tomato plants.
I don't know if they would work in our location, one block from the beach. But I found the story fascinating.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Urban farming taps our sense of creativity and flexibility

I love seeing articles like this Bloomberg piece on local food and urban homesteading.  And what caught my attention was how urban farming seems to tap into our inherent sense of creativity. One company is growing lettuce in recycled shipping containers. Cities are buying land for community gardens. Parking lots are being replaced by orchards.
Designer lettuce will soon bud under the flight path of the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta. An orchard is taking the place of a parking lot in Davenport, Iowa. And homeowners near downtown Denver are turning lawns over to farmers like Sundari Kraft, who plant, weed, water and harvest crops from their yards in return for a share of the bounty.

“People are sick and tired of mowing and fertilizing,” said Kraft, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading,” in an interview at her Denver home. “We have a stack of applications, enough to double what we do now.”

So what do you think is driving this? I think there are a myriad reasons but the most compelling for me, out of many, is the desire to have control over what I eat. Being able to harvest my own tomatoes and berries is not only an accomplishment, it tastes better than what I can get from the grocery store. Certainly this isn't purely out of economics because I put in quite a bit of my time into growing my veggies.

So what are your reasons for going local?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sungold peaking

Last Saturday, I picked approximately 250 Sungold cherry tomatoes, truly the peak of the season. For all of July, I got 203 Sungold. For this month, I have a total of around 650 Sungold picked. This is close to the end of the season especially as we are getting the cold and foggy weather normal for being one block from the beach. Actually, I'm getting a bit tired of counting the Sungolds and ready to quit counting.  I'm really not that obsessive. Really. However, the Sungold is definitely going to be coming back next year.

My favorite recipe is to halve them, drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil, salt them, scatter garlic chunks, and then to roast them in the oven at 250 F for about three hours. We put them on top of cream cheese on a bagel, in salads, or eat them as is.

The Jimmy Durante tomato and something else

Why am I getting these strangely formed tomatoes this season?
Here's the Jimmy Durante momotaro tomato. Or maybe it could be a manatee.

What do you make of this one?

These go into the same collection as my tomato elf.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Beefsteak ripens

These were from Ferry-Morse seeds labelled "Beefsteak" and nothing else. I thought there are many types of beefsteak tomatoes, so this must be a generic beefsteak. However, whether this is due to our beach weather or from growing them too late in the season, these grew to be smallish tomatoes. I don't know if I'll grow these again.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It was a California adventure

I believe in taking a break from even my beloved little veggie garden. So here are a few quirky shots I took from our little break this last weekend. We took a few hours to go to the adjunct theme park next to the place where the mouse lives.

Always difficult to pass up chocolate. This time, however, it was the irreverent packaging that caught my eye.
So I sat down to eat my ginormous dinosaur-like turkey bone when I looked up and saw this. What would you think they are used for? My answer at the bottom of this post.
I enjoyed the smoothies here and we returned for seconds. The lady behind the counter said "You're back?". Someone had fun with tiling the outside of the place. Mind you, I wouldn't have this in my kitchen, too busy, but I liked how the fork and spoons were incorporated in the mosaic.
Answer: what you use when you run out of traffic jam.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Finally the Momotaro ripens

This is one of my favorite tomatoes, the Momotaro. I grow it even though it is a hybrid, as opposed to an heirloom tomato, so I must grow it from seed I buy. My source is Kitazawa Seeds, a wonderful Oakland based seed company specializing in Asian plants.  I've been told I could use the seeds from the second generation tomato by a local grower but I'd rather not chance it. While the Momotaro is technically not considered a cool weather tolerant tomato, I still find it grows okay though not great here, one block from the beach. I bet it would probably grow better in a warmer area, such as more inland, but I do get a few tomatoes that look like this. Momotaro is a low acidity tomato with a beautiful pinkish hue.
There is a Japanese folk tale associated with the name Momotaro. It is about a boy who arrives inside a large peach.  Certainly the Momotaro tomato does resemble a large peach. The boy is a gift who brightens the lives of an elderly childless couple. One day, the boy, named Momotaro or peach boy, decides he must go on his journey, much like the hero's journey that Joseph Campbell wrote of, to face the ogres somewhere far away. Along the way, Momotaro finds helpers: the pheasant, the dog, and the monkey. When they reach the ogres, they work together to defeat the ogres. The ogres give up their treasure of gold to Momotaro. Momotaro returns home to his parents with the gold. Now they can live happily ever after.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Uli Westphal veggie photos

I came upon Uli Westphal's amazing photographic work via an article about his Mutatos project. These are rather unique veggies, to say the least. And Mr. Westphal has quite an eye for them. Click here for the individual photos.

It makes me wonder what he would have done with my tomato elf.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The cherry tomato mystery

Anyone out there with any info on this?
I try to pick my Sungold cherry tomatoes when they are ripe else they do split while on the plant. But one mystery I have found is that the Sungold cherry tomatoes seem to split after I pick them, even when I leave the calyx on.

 I googled to see if anyone had an explanation for this.  There's plenty written about splitting cherry tomatoes while on the plant but not much on the splitting after they are picked.

Probably 'possum

I'm late posting this but wanted to get it out anyway. You would think in an urban community garden setting that there would not be much wildlife. I believe that is true for the most part. However, last month, I got a late night visitor. I don't know precisely what this visitor was but the visitor did leave its scat. My googling indicates this is likely to be opossum because the scat was left in leafy quiet area of my garden, under the largest tomato bushes. It is too large for rabbit, rat and mice. I didn't see any tracks, however.
possum scat

More info on opossums

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My tomato elf

Who do you think he looks like? There's definitely a face I can see with a sharp nose in this Japanese Black Trifele. We have been trying to figure out who he looks like but so far no consensus here at casa de arugulatoo.
Here's how it looks fully ripe.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Black Krim ripens one block from the beach

black krim 7 22 11
The next season, I think I will grow more Black Krim and fewer Japanese Black Trifele. Both are Russian tomatoes, cold climate tolerant and perfect for a garden one block from the beach. Both have wonderful flavor, smokey and deep. But I like the larger tomatoes that you can get from Black Krim. The Japanese Black Trifele did ripen earlier, wonderful really when you are starved for home-grown tomatoes, and I did get an abundance of tomatoes per plant but the Japanese Black Trifele tomatoes are smaller.
black krim 7 25 11
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