Monday, January 21, 2013

Tomato Patch seduction season?



When I think tomatoes, I think seeds, plants, cultivating, and harvesting.  Washington Post columnist Barbara Damrosch has a more attention-grabbing focus: seduction! 

I had the biggest smile of the week when I read the first sentence of her most recent column: “Seduction season is upon us, as seed catalogs roll off the presses and tomatoes—the gardener’s obsession—bounce off the pages and into our dreams.”

I smiled because, well, Damrosch got it just right.  Seed catalogs are filling our mail boxes—and tomato fans (short form of fanatics) are beginning to fantasize about mouth-watering tomatoes they’ll pick later this year.

The cover of Burpee’s just-mailed seed catalog for 2013 caught Damrosch’s attention with its photo of a perfect ‘SuperSauce’ tomato “Shown actual size!”—“The world’s largest sauce tomato!—apparently measuring about 5-inches wide by 5½-inches tall and weighing two pounds.  Page-3 text promises that “’SuperSauce’ produces gallons of luscious seedless sauce from a single plant harvest—one tomato fills an entire sauce jar.”

One plant should more than supply our yearly needs!  And only $6.50—plus shipping, of course—for 25 seeds.  What fun—and probably a lot cheaper than seeing the woman who bites off snake heads or the man who weighs 1,000 pounds at a carnival sideshow.  You can check out the Burpee catalog HERE

As usual, Damrosch speaks truth to her readers.  Postal delivery people are delivering the new 2013 seed catalogs.  Many of them feature tomatoes—our “obsession”—on their covers—with descriptions of new varieties apparently written by the best carnival barkers to entice us to “buy.”  Gallons of sauce from a single plant!  Oh, yes!  One tomato fills a jar!  Oh, yes!

We smile.  Our mouths water.  Our fingers twitch as we think of preparing Tomato Patch for May transplants.  We fantasize and dream about … tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes.  We skim through the catalog pages, toss coins to make decisions, fill out order blanks, and seal the envelopes.

Will one ‘SuperSauce’ really fill a jar?  I’m going to find out.  Every year I experiment by planting a new and promising tomato variety, and how can I ignore one that is more than promising—all but guaranteed?

And here are two other catalogs that tempt this tomato grower to nod off into tomato-picking dreams. 

The Tomato Growers Supply Company catalog indexes 365 varieties, most illustrated with stunning photographs.  The catalog also lists seeds for sweet and hot peppers, tomatillos, and eggplant.  You can check it out HERE.  I’ve already put a check mark by “Solid Gold FT Hybrid,” described as “very crack-resistant,” which could be a major improvement of the crack-prone Sungolds I’ve been growing for years.

The Totally Tomatoes catalog indexes 294 varieties, most with photographs, plus sweet, hot, and ornamental peppers, and more limited offerings such as “Salad Fixin’s,” “Egg’ceptional Eggplants,” and “Fruity Fixin’s.”  Obviously Totally Tomatoes isn’t totally tomatoes.  You can check this catalog out HERE.

Frugal Gardeners will note that prices sometimes vary considerably between the seed companies for both seeds and shipping/handling costs.  For a Sun Gold Hybrid seed packet, Burpee charges $4.95 (30 seeds) plus handling fee of $4.95 for orders of $0 to $10.00 and $6.95 for orders of $10.01 to $20.00.  Tomato Growers charges $3.65 (30 seeds) plus a flat handling fee of $5.25.  Totally Tomatoes charges $2.75 (20 seeds) plus handling fee of $4.95 on orders of up to $24.99.

Stink bug update: Entomologists predict an upswing in numbers of brown marmorated stink bugs to plague our veggies and fruit this gardening season.  CLICK HERE to read the news from today’s (January 20, 2013) Washington Post. 

And linger two minutes to read Barbara Damrosch’s article, “Tomato growing starts with picking seeds,” from the January 16, 2013, Washington Post.

4 comments:

  1. My sentiments exactly, Bob - I'm always being seduced. Re Barbara Damrosch in the Washington Post - I was seduced last year into growing Indigo Rose, but was disappointed. Gorgeous color, but "meh" on the flavor part. See: http://franklincountymgs.blogspot.com/2012/08/2012-tomato-and-other-stuff-harvest.html (scroll down - I blame the radial cracking on the massive thunderstorm we had the day before picking - not an inherent flaw of the variety) and
    https://sharepoint.cahnrs.wsu.edu/blogs/urbanhort/archive/2012/08/23/a-rose-is-a-tomato.aspx

    Cheers

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    1. Thanks, Ray, for your comment and links. The veggies in your blog photographs are stunningly beautiful. I was surprised to see the small size of the Indigo Rose tomato fruit--and all the comments in the WSU link indicating it lacks much of a tomato taste. But, hey, why not experiment with a "new" variety every year for the fun of it? My experience is that I'm usually disappointed, but I say let's not succumb to the ho-hum of growing the same-old, same-old every year.

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  2. Absolutely. We learn as much (maybe more) from our failures, as we do our successes. I had been following the OSU Blue (progenitor of Indigo Rose)saga for a couple of years now, and was hoping for more when it was released to the general market. Hopefully it will spawn something down the line that retains the fantastic color with a great flavor, too.

    It did get astonished "Wowza" appraisals from fellow congregants at church when I shared them.

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  3. Jim January 26, 2013
    Tappys Heritage from Baker Creek Seeds features excellent flavor, heavy production and the best stink bug resistance of any of the 16 varieties I've grown over the last three years. Other varieties were dead by august or had disfigured or rotting fruit but Tappys Heritage seemed to be more immune.

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