Sunday, March 9, 2014

Obsessing over Heirloom Tomatoes

You'll have to excuse me. After an extra-long, extra-chill Ohio winter, what's occupying my mind lately has been.... tomatoes. If there are tomatoes, it must be summer...right? They do take a while to grow, so it will be summer before they produce any fruit.

My dad grows the usual home varieties, Better Boy, Early Girl, but I'm a sucker for heirlooms. They may grow monstrous big, but they have character.

Last year I tried two heirloom varieties: Brandywine, and Yellow Oxheart. I didn't tie them up properly, so they sprawled all over; but I hope to mend that this year. I wasn't as keen on the Oxheart; I picked them because someone once gave me a 5-pound red oxheart tomato, but the ones I grew were regular-sized. All the same, the bright yellow makes a good bright contrast in salads and salsas.

There's always fun in trying new things, so I picked two new varieties I wanted to try, and ended up with three. Opalka is a meaty, hot-pepper shaped tomato, said to be excellent for sauces (and hopefully for sun-dried tomatoes, my goal!) Sun Gold is my only hybrid choice, a cherry tomato that produces fruit a month earlier than the heirlooms and regularly wins taste tests. And on a whim, a packet of seeds for Cherokee Purple because it was half off. Cherokee Purple has fans who rave about its awesome taste; on the other hand it produces irregularly.

How am I growing these? That IS an excellent question. My only south-facing window is shaded by an awning, and grow lights are expensive. I don't have a greenhouse or even a plastic row cover. There's an unused glassed-in emergency exit at my work, a former Kroger store, and I have permission to use it so long as I don't block the door.  I'm testing the glassed room for suitability, since I suspect it may overheat. After that, we'll see. I plan to encourage my coworkers to grow herbs and vegetables and swap with me.

I could have taken $20 and bought 4 tomato seedlings. Instead that $20 will start, with luck, up to 100 tomato plants. Without luck, at least 25 plants, right? That feeds a lot of people.

Wealth doesn't have to be about money. Sometimes it is about having enough to eat and enough left over to give away.

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