Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Choose an heirloom tomato variety with Tomat-O-Match

After three disappointing seasons of tomato FAIL, last summer my mother and I gave up on the garden. One of the Ten Commandments of Gardening is, "Thou shalt know when to give up." Or at least give it a rest.

Along with hot peppers, tomatoes are supposed to be the idiot-proof plant in the vegetable garden. "Anyone can grow tomatoes!" the garden guides proclaim. Evidently not. The last few summers have been incredibly humid, even for the Deep South, and nearly windless. This does nothing to aid tomato pollination. Add to this unusual summer heat and a reduction in the number of bees around to visit our 'mater blossoms, and you have much gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair. And no tomatoes.

This spring, we're back and hoping for better luck. "Let's try heirloom varieties," I suggested. "We'll grow them from seed. Maybe they'll be better adjusted to the yard and weather when we set them out."

Mom sighed. "Well, why not?"

Believe it or not, I've had a tough time choosing heirloom tomatoes. So many different kinds, and so many variables: canning, fresh eating, or cooking; indeterminate or determinate; paste or sandwich; early yield or later yield...the list goes on. So thank goodness for Fine Gardening's Tomat-O-Match

Here are six of 61 potential heirloom tomato varieties to try!
(From FineGardening.com's Tomat-O-Match game, 19 Mar 2012).

Amana Orange and Bison look particularly hardy and interesting. Heirloom varieties were developed before the age of hybridization to stand up to harsh weather and unexpected drought, and are particularly suited to the weird weather patterns we've been seeing the last few years. I'll still ask my fellow gardeners' advice, though. A friend in north Georgia suggests Mr. Stripey. FarmGirl Susan suggests heirloom varieties like Brandywine, but adds, "Just see what works for you." 

We'll see how this goes. Tomato updates are forthcoming...

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