Stupice is as Stupice Does

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bird Tomato Garden-One of Three Beds
Greetings from the Frankensteinish North Natomas tomato farm that is the Bird Back 40 -- a place we lovingly refer to as "Disneyland for Drunks." Things are right fine in the hood as you can attest from the photo to your immediate right. Our heirloom plantings are now approaching a height of six feet and are green -- lush -- healthy and productive.

A quick check of the garden reveals the following tomato count: Campbell's 1327? LOADED. Eva Purple Ball? LOADED. Black Krim? LOADED! The notoriously cranky and sometimes unproductive Marianna's Peace? LOADED FOR BEAR!

Celebrity and Eva Purple Ball Production
Getting old yet? You know things are going well when you spot a bit of color behind a green tomato leaf -- and pulling that leaf aside reveals the wonder that is a ripening Azoychka. You know things are going REALLY WELL when you pull aside said leaf and are struck with the sight of five ripe Azoychka tomatoes.

Where in Hades did they come from and how come I didn't notice this before? Did someone put those there?

Safe to say -- the wife that is Venus and I are somewhat blessed with tomato production this year. We're off to a rather outstanding start. I've never experienced a year in the garden where there wasn't at least one loser among the bunch. Usually? There's more than one.

But not this year. Not yet anyway.

Ripening Stupice Tomatoes
The big heirloom tomato winner so far this year? No doubt in my mind. It's the heirloom offering known as Stupice. And despite my rather "stupice" play on words in the title of this blog posting -- Stupice isn't pronounced "Stoo-Piss."

This variety, one of four sent to the United States from Czechoslovakia by Milan Sodomka (source: Seed Savers), is actually pronounced "Stoo-Pee-Chay" from what I've been told. Still others have related the pronunciation of "Stu-Pick."

Pick your poison -- because this variety is anything but (poison).

Stupice is one of those rare potato-leaf tomato plants that does not produce beefsteak tomatoes. In my short experience with growing heirlooms? If you're growing out a potato leaf -- it usually means you're growing out any version of Brandywine (there are several), Marianna's Peace or numerous others that feature large and crazy looking tomatoes.

Stupice here, Stupice there, Stupice everywhere!
But not Stupice. This one is different. And that makes it special.

The first clue that I'd decided to grow something special is when every seed I planted not only germinated -- but was the first to germinate. It was the fastest growing tomato starter in the Bird bedroom-converted-tomato-nursery. It's one of several varieties that received a "haircut" before plant out. Every cutting from that plant would yield new plants that I eagerly gave away to family and friends at work.

Since I had not grown this variety before -- I did not know what to expect. I had heard from many tomato growers on the Yahoo Forum TomatoMania that Stupice was an absolute winner in many a backyard garden. But what does well back east in New England or somewhere in the Midwest doesn't necessarily transfer into great success on the Left Coast.

Crazy Stupice Production
However -- the Stupice is one of those plants that ignores all rules. It appears to do well in just about every region it's been planted -- and I can personally attest that list includes Zone 9A -- the Sacramento Territory. Although the raised bed that holds the Stupice also holds seven other tomato plants -- the Stupice has grown up and through nearly the entire bed. I'm discovering new branches that are anywhere from four to six feet away from the main stem -- held aloft by other plants in the bed (which are also doing well I might add).

My first indication that this plant was going to be a winner in the garden is when it unfurled a blossom set normally reserved for cherry tomatoes like SunGold or Sweet 100. When each blossom set resulted in a setting of four to seven young tomatoes? I knew I had something special. Stupice continues to proliferate throughout its garden setting -- putting out blossoms in every square corner of the 4X8 foot raised bed. It was also the first to ripen in abundance, beating early producers like Bloody Butcher and Early Girl.

Stupice tomatoes with cucumber and basil anyone?
There will come a time -- not all that far away I might add -- when a singular harvest of Stupice will result in a bowl of 30-40 ripe tomatoes -- with hundreds more yet to ripen. Consider Stupice to be your classic garden tomato -- in that it will produce enough tomatoes to fill every salad bowl with a bounty of production or will serve as your "snacking" tomato while you harvest others from the yard during the peak season of production.

As far as the taste is concerned -- rank Stupice with some of the best tasting heirloom tomatoes. It still can't hold a candle to the taste explosion and surprise that is a vine-ripened Cherokee Purple, Brandywine or Kelloggs' Breakfast -- but a bowl full of Stupice is a bowl full of summer heaven just the same. The one and only knock against Stupice? It's not a good processing tomato. It's about the size of a golf ball or a bit larger. That makes it a tad larger than a large cherry tomato, but it's still not large enough to be canned as a whole tomato.

But that shouldn't stop you from making a gallon or ten of fresh Stupice tomato sauce!