There is much discussion and writing by gardeners in this month of February concerning seeds and seed catalogs. The dreams of the next vegetable garden give way to seed orders and, soon, seed starting. Choosing the correct varieties of this year's squash, cucumber or tomato is all important. The disappointments of last year's crop are still fresh in one's mind but there is the knowledge borne of experience that this next season will be different. Some crops will thrive and some will disappoint. Last year's crop succumbed to late blight as did the tomato crops of many of my fellow New Englanders.
'Who knows' from 2009
I have commiserated with many others in my region who had a challenging gardening season in 2009. It was cool and wet and most of the warm season crops were not up to their usual prolific performance. I did enjoy fresh potatoes though and fortunately they did not contract the late blight. Each season brings with it a unique set of conditions in the form of weather, insects and diseases. No two seasons are alike. I suspect that we will be in for a bit of dryness this coming season but, who knows. For the past three seasons I have planted a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes. I am cutting back on these. I will still plant a few but I am going for quantity this year. My first heirlooms were quite a disappointment. They were pretty but they bore just a few fruit per plant and the flavor was not impressive. I realize that my gardening skills will come into question here and perhaps rightly so but I have had success with tomatoes in the past in the years before 'heirlooms' were in vogue. Ten years ago it was new hybrids which boasted disease resistance and greater productivity which caught the attention and purchasing power of gardeners. There should be a balance. Don't most of us want both quality and quantity? I do believe in promoting genetic diversity and saving heirlooms. Again, balance is called for and it will be implemented in this next garden. Who has the time or space to plant that which is less than productive?
This picture represents a good portion of the 2009 crop. See Tucker's expression? He is less than impressed. It is diverse group. I will plant 'Green Zebra' again. It is juicy,tart, and a good conversation piece with it's broad bands of green stripes.
I will plant 'Sungold' and 'Mortgage Lifter'. 'Mortgage Lifter' is huge, pinkish red and one slice makes a sandwich. I am just not impressed with 'Black Krim', 'Brandywine', 'Cherokee Purple' or some of the other varieties I have tried. They just do not produce a lot of fruit and I qualify that by adding 'in my experience'.
In addition, the taste is 'Ho Hum'. I actually am starting to believe that tomatoes respond to specific soil characteristics just as grapes respond to the soil in which they are grown. 'Terroir' . I am sure all my tomatoes' flavors are a direct result of 'terroir'. It is either that or the difference in taste buds from gardener to gardener that explain the claims by some gardeners of superior flavor of the above mentioned varieties. After a bit of research, I have ordered 'Early Girl', the old standby, which is early and prolific, 'Glory' which is a hybrid of two old heirloom tomatoes which claim thin skin and abundant fruit set, and 'Legend' which is early and resistant to late blight. I would love to hear what your experience has been with tomatoes, terroir, and abundance. I am open to your suggestions as to your favorite varieties.