|Remains of the Bird 2011 Heirloom Tomato Garden|
It's a slice of heaven. It sure is. That taste. That texture. That wonderful, tangy surprise of a summer fruit is all but a distant memory now. This is the current state of the Bird tomato garden in late November. Fairly sad isn't it? They are still producing here and there, which is one reason why I haven't torn them out yet and moved on.
It's hard for me to admit that the season is over. What is coming off the vine now cannot compare, in any shape or form, to the tasty treats that the wife that is Venus and I enjoyed earlier this summer. But it's also loads better than the tomato shaped rocks you'll find in your local produce department these days.
At some point -- the 2011 summer garden will be removed and I will be forced to admit that it's all done.
I'm just not quite there yet. If you live for backyard gardening like I do, winter is a lonely time indeed. But, before this garden is indeed removed and plowed under, it's high time we look back to the summer favorites from 2011. There are some new entries on this list. As with any summer tomato garden, some varieties did well and others -- well -- better luck next year!
|Eva Purple Ball Tomatoes|
1. Eva Purple Ball: This was a new entry to the Bird Back 40 home for wayward heirloom tomatoes. I'd heard about this variety from other growers across the country, but again, what does well in New England or Arkansas doesn't necessarily translate into guaranteed success on the Left Coast. Growing heirloom tomatoes is a crap shoot anyway. Some do well, some not. Put this one in the "Did Very Well" category. A single bush yielded 50-80 gorgeous slightly pinkish, slightly purplish large tomatoes, some very close to the 1 lb. range. You'll find this tomato in our salsa, tomato sauce and whole tomato canning efforts from this summer.
2. Marianna's Peace: After a rather poor showing last season, MP bounced back in a rather eye-popping fashion this year. Our plant was susceptible to some early Blossom End Rot (BER) problems during the spring, but those vanished as the weather warmed. MP is one of the best tasting heirlooms I've ever tasted, and it wasn't unusual for this vigorous plant to set four new tomatoes at once. That's always a good sign.
3. Black Krim: One of the tastiest offerings in the field of black (or purple) tomatoes. When a single Black Krim bush delivers a bushel of 40-50 tomatoes? It's a good year.
4. Stupice: If you can describe Stupice with one word? It would have to be WOW! Outstanding production from a variety that wins in backyard gardens from East to West and all points in between. Stupice sets tomatoes in large clusters, much like small cherry-sized tomatoes. They grow to about the size of a golf ball or larger. Not the best processing tomato due to size, but perfect for salads, snacking in the yard, or fresh salsa creations (fresh Rooster's Beak?). If you have room for just a few plants in your yard, I highly reccommend this productive variety.
5. Campbell's 1327: I don't know if I'll ever be able to thank the person who saved this variety from the brink of extinction, but they deserve some sort of recognition. Once the standard-bearer of processing tomatoes used in Campbell's Soups, it was tossed aside and abandoned for those hard-as-a-rock processing tomatoes that can withstand bruising on bumpy trips down long country roads from farm to processing plant. Campbell's 1327 is one of my "Reliable Reds," and produces bushel after bushel of round, red and ripe tomatoes that are blemish free and tart on the tastebuds.
1. 1884: Seeds for this variety were provided at the last moment by Sacramento gardener Nels Christensen. I can see why he's partial to it. 1884 delivers large, meaty red tomatoes that reveal a surprising orange-colored flesh once they've been sliced open in the kitchen. A wonderful processing tomato and perfect slicing tomato for those big barbequed turkey burgers that deserve a big slice of tomato on top. Originally discovered in 1884 by a Mr. Williamson in the debris after the big flood in Friendly,
West Virginia, this variety will find home in the Bird Back 40 again.
|No Brandywines in This Bunch!|
4. Azoychka: This is one of my favorite Russian heirlooms, and after some rather encouraging early season production, Azoychka started to produce golf-ball sized tomatoes that were really nothing to write home about.
|Processed Tomatoes Ready for Winter Storage|
5. Bloody Butcher: I'm surprised this one landed on this list because Bloody Butcher is normally a wonderful, early-season producer. Not this year. It didn't produce early. It didn't produce late. It didn't produce much at all, and BER took most of them.
And there you have it. Although these 15 varieties represent half of what we grew in the Bird Back 40 this year -- these are the varieties that stood out the most in terms of production or disappointment. Other varieties that at least deserve an honorable mention include Caspian Pink, which grew well in the in-ground test bed and produced some very tasty tomatoes late in the season. Cherokee Purple is yet another treasured variety that did moderately well, as did Kelloggs Breakfast, Beefsteak, Druzba, Lemon Boy and Jubilee.
As 2011 begins that slow slide into 2012 -- all that's left are the memories of last year and the promise of what is to come.