January 7th, the date we ate the last fresh tomato of the 2021 season! It was only after I diced it up to put on tacos that it dawned on me that I should take a photo of the final tomato, a “Chef’s Choice Orange” that was still luscious and juicy after being picked before an expected frost in mid October. It was the last tomato of the many that were simply picked, put in a single layer in an empty growing flat and set in the unheated garage. Our outdoor temperature was 1 degree F on the morning of the 7th, so it’s probably a good thing that it was the last, although there is still a flat of “Sweet Apple Green” bell peppers out there that look fine.
There won’t be as many tomatoes in the potager this year, but if I could only grow one, it would probably be the prolific grape tomato “Juliet.” She definitely needs a tall support, but if kept watered and given an occasional feeding “Juliet” produces baskets of delicious 1 1/2″-2″ red tomatoes that are not watery, but firm and sweet. They are D’s favorite to eat fresh, and my favorite for canning as diced tomatoes because they are so meaty and hold their shape in the canning jar. Mid-winter, we open a jar and spoon them onto our tacos or salads and they nearly taste fresh.
Of course, “Chef’s Choice Orange” is a must as well because it’s my favorite slicing tomato. I prefer an orange or pink tomato over a red one (and it’s not just color) because of lower acid content. CCO is extremely prolific, seldom bothered by disease and produces fist-sized gorgeous fruits throughout the entire season. It does need a sturdy, tall support; not some wimpy wire tomato cage.
“Polbig” is also a must because it wins the “Early Tomato Comparison” each year despite new contenders. It seems to tolerate cooler soils, fluctuating temperatures, spring deluges and high winds better than any others. A medium-sized red tomato with good flavor, I’d grow it even if it weren’t such an early producer. It does sometimes get blight, but because it starts so early, and is determinate, the plants are usually ready to come out about the time the blight shows up. By then, the CCO is producing so that’s fine and the space can be used for other crops.
I can a lot of tomato juice because D likes to drink it for breakfast. The old stand-by “Rutgers” is the one I usually grow because it is reliable, determinate and produces a lot of tomatoes at once. When I want to can salsa or marinara sauce, “Yaquii” has been my choice for the past couple of years. It’s a large, firm “plum” type tomato. This year, I’m adding a plant or two of “San Marzano” just to see what all the fuss is about.
The final tomato in the plot is a “Sun Sugar,” which is one of the sweetest cherry tomatoes available. It’s a gorgeous 1″ orange ball, just perfect for munching on when I’m working in the potager all summer. I throw a few of those in with the CCO when making the best gazapacho (orange of course!) on the planet. I’ve looked through my photos and apparently I didn’t take any of “Sun Sugar” but you won’t have any trouble finding it in your catalogs.
That’s my “Six on Saturday” and the tomato news from central Indiana. It may surprise you to know that little Indiana is second only to BIG California in tomato production and processing! We know our tomatoes!