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Friday, August 14, 2009

tomato taste test-- part 1

for me, the sad direction our system of food production has gone in is no more evident than in tomatoes. i've had the approach of "don't even bother with the tomato" when going out to eat for years now. i mean, let's face it, they are about as appealing as pink packing peanuts, perhaps because they were created to be exactly that. but, a real tomato, ripened on the vine in the summer sun, is absolutely magical. i remember being a kid and waiting for that first red fruit for a simple sandwich of white bread, mayo, and slices of tomato with salt and pepper. it was worth waiting for.

we're lucky enough, as of our move to seattle in march, to have a couple of small garden spaces. tomatoes were priority number one! thanks to the delicious resurgence of heirloom varieties, and making it to the tilth edible plant sale at the last minute after everything had been picked over, i selected 8 varieties to try, 5 of which i'd never heard of.

my pruden's purples are almost ready, the green zebras are plentiful but rock hard, the early girls are fashionably late, and the san marzanos are recovering from blossom end rot. but here are the others!


these guys got started first. easy to grow, quick to ripen-- i harvest two handfuls a day. they are hearty, don't split or whither, but they also don't sit around for very long because they taste so good! they are super sweet, with just enough tang to give you that tingly feeling in your jaw. they are tiny orange flavor bombs. i can, and do, eat them all day long. cherry variety, .3 oz fruits. these are keepers.

speckled roman

speckled roman is a handsome paste tomato, showy in it's colorful stripes and patterns that look like someone tried to cover an oily surface with a water-based paint. i'll probably get 20 or so of these off of my one vine, though the yield would have been much better if i'd properly prepared my soil before planting. sigh. but, this is a great tasting fruit! it's rich and full of solid tomato flavor. as rob put it, "that's one good tomato." tastes great and beautiful? i'll see you again next year, signore.


by most accounts, brandywine is *the* flavor standard by which all other tomatoes are measured. i can see why. it has such a rich, dense flavor, especially for a tomato it's size. fruits weigh in over 1 lb (our biggest was just shy of 2 lbs), which i would expect to mean more texture, less sugars. but no-- brandywine almost has the flavor punch of a variety 1 one-hundredth it's size. bravo! meaty, velvety texture, few seeds, and a deep rich red all the way through. the downside is a low yield. we're getting 4 tomatoes off this vine. but, considering i've gotten 1 dinner and 4 lunches from a single fruit and still have a quarter of it left, it's hard to feel too let down. a heavyweight in every way!


glacier's appeal is that it's an early variety, able to set fruit during the cool nw spring temps. the fruits are small, about 2-3 inches, and a pretty solid red. i'm sure i'd have been pleased as pie to have these tomatoes in my garden if they were not being compared to the others. but, the flavor isn't really there, the texture is slightly mealy... i'm sorry guys. i appreciate your efforts, and it's been a pleasure to have you. but you really didn't stand a chance...

hopefully, tomato taste test-- part 2 will be possible next week!

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