Thursday, 21 September 2017

Tanja's Top Ten Tomatoes 2017

Time for the annual 'Best Tomatoes Of The Year' blog post. Seems like this year it came on faster than ever!

This gardening year certainly had it's challenges... Spring was wet and cool, bees were scarce due to the weather, causing many of the earliest tomatoes to be lumpy and bumpy from poor pollination.

Then summer came along with a real bang, was really hot and really dry. Some tomatoes ended up with tough skins or green shoulders in the high temps.

So, although it was certainly not the best tomato year, there are some varieties that never seem to disappoint. 

Though I must say, all of the greenhouse grown tomatoes were fantastic this year. They were truly thriving after the new shade cloth 'roller blinds' went up. Thank you to BC Greenhouse Builders for those!

Tomatoes will go sterile in too much heat, so the shade cloth was a real blessing. Stayed warm and sunny in there, but not stifling hot. Also saved on water and the power bill, as the fan was not running all day long to try to keep the heat down. 

Anyways, on the fun stuff... which tomatoes were the best ones this year? Here they are, in no particular order...

PLUMS AND PASTES  (The roma style ones for canning)

1. Wonderlight aka Plum Lemon (indeterminate)
The very best producer of all this year. Plum Lemons grow in large clusters along the vine and each cluster consists of 2 dozen or more tomatoes! Absolutely amazing amount of fruits.

They are meaty, as with all romas, so make a wonderful thick tomato sauce. We throw ours in with the reds and blacks, all colours go into the stewing pot together, but one could make an amazing looking golden tomato soup, jazzed up with a swirl of pesto or sour cream.

2. Ludmilla's Red Plum (indeterminate)
This tomato was grown in the greenhouse this year, grows tall indeterminate vines, and makes big, juicy, plum tomatoes. Plums are the perfect canning tomato, grown for sauces or canning, plus salsas, salads, or fresh eating. Plum is just another name for roma style paste tomatoes, but are rounder and bigger than the one I typically think of as a roma.

I have been growing Ludmilla for about 6 years now, and even though she has rarely made it onto the top ten list, she's always a really good, consistent producer of tasty big tomatoes. So, while this year was a less than spectacular tomato year in general, Ludmilla was as reliable as always. Deserves to be on this list and in the garden, too.

3. Ropreco (determinate)
What can I say, this tomato is always one of my best producers. I know she gets on the top ten list often, but she truly deserves to be there. Lovely, firm, roma style tomatoes cover the entire plant from early in the year to late in the season, with most of them ripening in late summer, perfect for canning season.

4. Martino's Roma (determinate) 
I just love the curvy shape of these paste tomatoes. While the bush did not get as tall as it usually does, due to the hot and dry, it was covered in tomatoes. As you can see from the picture, they were absolutely perfect, not a blemish on them. Meaty and prolific, great for canning.

Can you believe it? Four of the top ten are roma style tomatoes this year! Not bothered by BER (Blosson End Rot), they all produced well, tasted great, and kept on producing from June till now. Amazing.

Cherries and Grapes

5. Green Grape (determinate)
This lovely 'green' tomato was the best producer of the cherries this year and really surprised me with the large amount of tomatoes put out on a determinate shrub. The fruits are amber rather than green, when ripe, and very sweet tasting. This one will be on my must grow again list, the flavour is what makes it a keeper.

6. Droplet (determinate) or Chadwick's (indeterminate) ....
This one is a toss up this year. Chadwick's was out in the garden, produced loads of nice, big cherry tomatoes throughout the season that are juicy, yummy, not overly sweet. Droplet was grown in the greenhouse, produced really well, also, and was juicy and sweet. Cannot decide which one I prefer so going to leave it as a tie ; )

Beefsteaks! (My personal favourite to grow)

7. Gold Medal (indeterminate)
Huge! I do mean huge tomatoes! These guys had a wee bit of cracking at the top, but very little considering how large the fruits grew!

They are a bi-colour tomato, tops are this lovely golden colour and bottoms are a rosy red. So beautiful to look at. Best of all, they have a fantastic, juicy, sweet flavour, and are mild with low acidity ... So they not only look great, they taste great, too.

8. Kellogg's Breakfast (indeterminate) 

I had not grown these beauties for many years and have no idea why they fell off the grow list. Maybe they did not sell well as they are orange instead of red? No idea, as they are truly worth growing. Mid-sized beefsteaks, such a pretty looking tomato. Orange inside and out, juicy and sweet. Thinking it is the perfect tomato to pair with apple smoked cheddar grilled cheese sandwiches ; )

9. Black Krim (indeterminate) 
Such perfect looking tomatoes from the Black Krim! So many tomatoes were lumpy and odd this year, but these dark beauties were round and pretty. No hard green shoulders, lumps, or cracking, just pretty much perfect in every way. As with all black/purple tomatoes, the flavour is deep and rich, the dark roast of the tomato world.

Slicers, the go-to tomatoes

10. Green Zebra (indeterminate)
Sister tomato to the Green Grape, has the same sweet, delish flavour. Always comes as a surprise, as one would expect green tomatoes to be tangy or tart, but instead these are sweet and yummy. One of the very best tasting tomatoes in the potager, and looks great in a mixed tomato salad, too.

It was not a fantastic year for the slicers this year. They all did okay, but nothing to write home about... or to include in the top ten. The best producers, other than Green Zebra, were Mountain Princess, Sasha's Altai, and Early Annie. All of whom have been on the top ten list in years past, just did not quite hit the mark this year.

 Happy Harvesting! 


Thursday, 7 September 2017

September Garden Ramblings

September came in with a bang! Whoa, has it ever been hot out there. Then came the smoke from the forest fires, turned our skies a creepy yellow colour, but also cooled things down a couple of degrees.

While it is not feeling much like fall weather here on the island yet, we all know that it can change in the blink of an eye... bringing on the fall rains and risk of late blight.

So, what is going on in our gardens this month? Lots! This is harvest month, the month when everything seems to ripen before our very eyes. Tomatoes go from green to red in a matter of days, cukes and zukes go from small to ginormous almost overnight.

Canning, freezing, curing, storing, baking, stewing, brewing ... How to keep up with all this glorious bounty? And... what a wonderful problem to have, eh?

- Take the tops off of your brussel sprouts this month, if they are not sizing up decently by now. The top looks like a wee cabbage, twist or cut it off to put the growth into the sprouts rather than the plant.

- Remove most of the foliage from your squash to help ripen the fruits. Vine ripened is always yummier!

- Plant more veggies into the cleared out areas, wherever there is room!

For more information and an in-depth post about what to do with the rest of your wonderful harvest, I am sharing last year's September blog post with you all here. Everything you need to know... when to harvest each veggie, how to know when they are done, and what to do with them all. Please see HERE for that post. 

If you would like even more September harvest ideas, please go to the archives and you will see many, many year's worth of what-to-do's and how-to-do-'ems ; )

What veggies to plant from seed in September?
You can still plant some things from seed, as long as you plant soon.
- Beets
- Collards
- Corn Salad aka Mache
- Greens, like arugula, mustards
- Lettuces
- Mesclun
- Pak Choi
- Radishes
- Spinach
- Turnips
- Winter radishes, like China rose, Daikon, Black Spanish

What to grow from transplants... 
Is getting to be borderline time for some starter plants, but as one never knows how the fall is going to go, I say.. take a chance and plant all kinds of things. If we have an early winter, you will have lost just a few bucks, but if we have a nice, long Indian Summer, you have everything to gain! Last year, our fall here on the island was long and wonderful.

Sure bets from starter plants are..
- Arugula
- Cauliflower
- Collards
- Greens
- Kale
- Lettuce
- Leeks
- Mescluns
- Pak Choi
- Spinach
- Swiss Chard
- Turnips

Getting close but worth the chance...
- Broccoli
- Brussels sprouts
- Cabbage
- Kohlrabi
- Onions

Garlic, of course! 
Garlic can be planted anywhere from mid-September through till early November. I do mine in early October. Click here for a planting how-to.

For more information... I have blogged about garlic for many years, just pop the word garlic into the search bar and you will gets post upon post of information.

Add some colour! Autumn is here! 

Replace those tired, burnt out summer plantings with autumnal hues, giving your front stoop a fresh look, a new start to go with the start of fall.

Plant asters, pansies, mums, heather, ornamental cabbages and kales, grasses to sway in the breeze, violas in pots and baskets. They will last for weeks and even months.

Spiff up your autumn! 

Happy Autumn! 

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