Variety is the Spice of Life

Heirloom tomato bounty at Polka Dot Hen Produce
The variety of tomatoes grown in our hoop house this year

So, maybe having a hoop house went to my head.

When it came time to order the tomato seeds last winter, I really didn’t think I was going overboard. Just enough variety so I could sell small baskets of multicoloured fruit. A sampler of REAL tomatoes for people who only have eaten those pasty cardboard varieties in the supermarket. That’s what I envisioned.

And that’s what we got. Seventeen varieties, all different shapes and sizes, grown on our property this summer. On St.Patrick’s Day, my daughter recorded them in the notebook as we seeded them: Alicante, Black Krim, Camp Joy, Garden Peach, Jaune Flamme, Longkeeper, Matt’s Red Cherry, OSU Blue, Red Speckled Roman, Red Zebra, Stupice, St.Pierre, Thai Pink Egg and Yellow Pear. Later additions were: Coeur de Boeuf, Sugary and Black Cherry.

Jaune Flamme heirloom tomatoes
Delicious Jaune Flamme heirloom tomatoes were an instant new favourite

At this point in the season, we’ve had a chance to observe, pick and taste all the varied fruits of our labour. Some old friends like Stupice and St. Pierre didn’t disappoint, even in the new environment. We discovered some new favourites like orange-hued Jaune Flamme and near perfectly formed red Alicante, an heirloom greenhouse variety.

OSU Blue while not an heirloom sounded promising.
OSU Blue, while not heirloom tomatoes, sounded promising. Who doesn’t want a “‘blue” tomato?

Not everything was perfect, though. The promise of a blue tomato was so enticing. The reality is a tomato that’s difficult to judge the ripeness – I’ve had more than a few OSU Blue drop to the ground while still very firm. They are beautiful when sliced but the taste is merely ok. The Red Zebra also were so beautiful, even when still green, but they are susceptible to a black spotting on the surface of the tomato fruit when ripe. Bleah.

Then there were the cherry tomatoes. In the near perfect growing conditions of the hoop house, they went gangbusters. I know now that I should have pruned them differently. All their small fruits are way over my head and I need to step on a ladder to harvest them.

Tomato vines silhouetted in the hoop house at dusk
Tomato vines silhouetted in the hoop house at dusk

So as we sit down to another meal of tomatoes in olive oil with bread and cheese, I am already planning changes to our tomato planting plan next season.