When I was a kid, it was easy. Tomatoes were round and red and came in two sizes: regular and cherry.
I did a tomato inventory the other day: I’ve got several Fat Mamas (a red sauce tomato), a Kellogg’s Breakfast (a juicy, enormous, yellow slicer), a Cherokee Purple (a medium blackish-purple number), an Indigo Apple, a Persimmon, a Super Lakota, two Principe Borghese, and a couple of mystery ’maters that I accidentally separated from their markers. For all I know, they’re going to produce bright-pink fruit the size of a Volkswagen. Oh, and there’s a tomatillo in there, too.
(Yeah, yeah, I know, a tomatillo is not a tomato. Or a tomahto. But they do belong to the same nightshade family, and “tomatillo” sounds kinda like a spicy tomato. So there.)
In the ever-expanding world of heirloom tomatoes, how can one ever decide? Is it better to stick to one variety, stay with a few tried-and-true mainstays, or go wild and random and fling exotic tomato plants hither and yon? My answer: d) all of the above.
I filled one bed exclusively with Fat Mamas. I wanted to find San Marzanos because I think they’re a superior saucer, but they weren’t available and I was raring to go … so I settled on Fat Mamas because I liked the name. I also sometimes choose wine by the picture on the label. Don’t judge me.
I do like have a load of sauce tomatoes on hand, but summer isn’t summer without Caprese salad, so I mixed in a bunch of slicers. And because I like my salads, Caprese or otherwise, to absolutely blaze with color, I chose seedlings that were destined to produce purple, pink, orange and yellow glam-matoes. Oh, and one plant of my beloved Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes, a huge success last year. This slugger started popping fruit about 10 seconds after I put it in the ground and was the last to go down for the count in the fall, still producing its gorgeous, fiery-orange tiny nuggets of deliciousness after the others had given up the ghost. I ate them by the fistful.
I didn’t pay a lot of attention to which plants were determinate (growing only to a predestined height) or indeterminate (growing until the cars in the parking lot disappear) because the Fortress Garden allows plenty of space for the tomatoes (and squashes and cukes, too) to spill over into the aisles or be lofted on to one of the old rusty iron headboards that I like to use as trellises. If you’re planning your tomato patch, you might want to take this into consideration: Don’t let your little determinate darlings get squeezed out by the Godzilla-ish indeterminates, which routinely can go to 7 feet and sometimes up to 12. And make sure the big guys have plenty of room to stretch—like how Andrew Bogut probably always has to ask for an aisle seat.
Anyway, it’s too early to tell which will be making a repeat appearance next year, but the smell of the baby plants is already making my mouth water. Caprese salad season is just around the corner. I’ve just got to whip up a batch of fresh mozzarella! If only I actually knew how to do that.
Read more about growing tomatoes on HobbyFarms.com:
- 7 Soil Tips For Better Tomatoes
- 7 Tomatoes I Grew and Loved This Year
- My Tomato Leaves Are Yellow—Help!
- 6 Ways To Control Tomato Hornworms