Tomatoes Still “King” of Home Vegetable Garden
Tomatoes—those luscious fruits that we slice and dice to top off the perfect burger, sandwich or salad—have forever been “king” of the home vegetable garden. There have always been contests among top local growers to see who can harvest the earliest and who can grow the largest tomatoes, and this spirited competition is likely to continue as a part of home gardening ad infinitum. There’s just something about growing tomatoes that seems compulsory if you want to gain any official accreditation in the ranks of home gardening, and most of us simply can’t resist that urge! Even gardeners who don’t normally plant and grow their own vegetables, seem to find space in amongst the shrubs of the home landscape to plant tomatoes. So we heartily recommend that your favorite tomato variety seeds be at the top of your 2015 order form.
On those hot summer days of our youth, our most favorite lunch menu often consisted of just one item—the “plain” tomato sandwich—which featured the simplest of ingredients lists: two slices of whole-grain bread, real mayonnaise, salt and pepper, and enough juicy-ripe tomato slices to drip out all around the edges and soak through the bread. In our way of thinking about Southern cuisine, it didn’t get any better than this! We tended to favor our dependable gigantic heirloom Pink Brandywine for sandwiches and burgers, as one thick slice was all that was needed to more than cover the bread. But then again, we could be equally content with the likes of Beefsteak, German Pink, Mortgage Lifter, etc., etc., etc.
We always preferred to have several different larger varieties each year for fresh eating, canning and freezing. Variety diversity helps protect against a bad year for one or more varieties to insure that you still have plenty of fruits for harvest and preservation. In addition to our very large heirloom specimens, we also grew mid-to-large-sized varieties like Better Boy, Marion, etc., for fresh eating, and the meaty Roma for our sauces and salsas. Then we always enjoyed the “grape, cherry and pear” smaller sizes for salads or to eat like candy right off the bush. Here again a diverse mixture of the tried-and-true heirlooms together with the latest hybrids makes for a more dependable harvest.
As always, tomatoes continue to be “king” in our 2015 seed catalog, with more than 150 varieties offered, including our featured Big Zac Hybrid for those of you planning to grow the biggest fruits in your neighborhood, tipping the scales on average of 4-6 pounds. For those aiming to pick the first vine-ripened fruit, we have at least a dozen possibilities to choose from, with the addition of our new Early Choice Hybrid. We also have extensive variety listings for many of the “old-timey heirlooms with old-fashioned flavor,” including new offerings Georgia Streak, Mrs. Maxwell’s Big Italian, Buckbee’s Abraham Lincoln and Black Pineapple (Ananas Noire), and to balance the diversity, we have the home garden best of our more modern hybrids with naturally-bred pest and weather resistance, with the addition of Heirloom Marriage Genuine Hybrid and Burpee Super Beefsteak VFN this year.
To cater to our gourmet chefs out there, we are adding the Artisan Series of cherry tomatoes, especially bred for “big, pure-tomato flavor and delivered in unusual shapes and unique colors.” Choose the Bumble Bee Mix for round cherries or Tiger Mix for striped, elongated, cherry-sized fruits, all crack-resistant on indeterminate plants that bear prolifically for the extended growing season. If you want to grow some of both strains, simply order a packet of Artisan Mix, and we think you’ll agree that these are some of the “prettiest tomatoes ever” to complete that perfect plate presentation, coupled with an award-winning taste. For beautiful, mid to large-sized gourmet hybrid fruits, we invite you to plant our exclusive Blue Ribbon Hybrid Series, which includes Early Blue Ribbon Hybrid VFF, Original Blue Ribbon Hybrid VFF, Bush Blue Ribbon Hybrid VFF and new this year, Sunny Blue Ribbon Hybrid VFNT.
This season, we also feature the 100% ORGANIC SEEDS of modern tomato breeder Brad Gates’ Wild Boar Series, which he personally chooses “based on exceptional flavor and stunning appearance,” his preference being bi-colors and stripes. Several of his “weather-resistant” varieties have been featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine. We offer four of his most recent indeterminate introductions, including large-fruited Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye (wine-red with bright green stripes) and Pork Chop (lemon yellow), medium-sized Solar Flare (classic red with subtle green stripes) and small, pear-shaped Mint Julep or Michael Pollan (green/yellow bi-color) with yields up to 5 gallons per plant. We’re betting you’ll be wanting to try all four!
Then to challenge the limits of tomato gardening diversity, we have plenty of offerings for meaty, paste-types for sauces and canning with 2015 additions Incas Hybrid VF and Sausage. There are a number of determinate bush or “short-staked” varieties for those of you who have limited gardening space or have an urban garden in containers on patios, and all sorts of small-fruited varieties, with offerings of many different shapes, sizes and colors.