Saturday, May 17, 2008

The top grow list

This is about the tomatoes on my "I'm so excited to grow this one" list. I usually have one every year and it's funny how it plays out. Some of them end up being duds and some of the mater's that I'm "not excited" to grow, end up being great. So, here's the line up of the "Most Excited about" tomatoes.

Jack White--This is a tomato created by Alan Bishop. A large 12 ounce or more, beefsteak type, White/Cream colored tomato of excellent quality. Relatively thin skinned but holds up better than most whites. A stabilized cross and selection between Great White, White Beauty and White Tomesol . If you think whites don't have a taste try this one on for size, very productive. Named after the lead singer of the rock band The White Stripes. From what I have been reading, white tomatoes are a very good choice with seafood.
Coeur De Poulain-- A red heart from my friend Lucine in France. She received it from her neighbor who got it from a truck farmer in Lyons, France. It's a heart shape and she reports that it is very sweet and juicy. The name translates to "Heart of the Foal".
Belmonte--A beautiful tomato I first heard about from the French peeps. Originally from Calabria, Italy.
k Peach-- This is a matte, fuzzy skin pink tomato. Bright red inside when you cut it open. Only about 2 oz. but reported to be excellent! Sweet and juicy.
Liguria-A fluted paste tomato.
Stable variety originally from Albenga in the Province de Savone in the Region of Ligurie in Italy
Champagne Cherry--A white cherry tomato that is very obscure. I love the name and hope it's a great one so I can share
with my fellow mater-heads.
Purple Dog
Creek--Another Kentucky heirloom. Purple Dog Creek is a very rare family heirloom from the small community of Dog Creek near Munfordville Kentucky. I say it's very rare because very few have seeds for it outside of Dog Creek. The tomatoes were served as part of a "thank you" outside dinner served to a WV preacher and members of his congregation. They went to Dog Creek to do home improvements for the lowe income elderly of the area. The preacher liked the tomatoes so much he asked if anyone had seeds for them. One of the guys at the supper had grown and brought them. He went home and brought the preacher back some seeds. One of my friends in Martinsburg WV is a member of the preachers church. They got to talking about the trip to Dog Creek and the preacher offered some seeds to my friend. He grew them and loved them. He sent me some last year and I grew them this year. They are dark pink less than 1 pound although I've heard they grow to 18 oz. They are very good. Strong plant and fairly productive.
Couiless Du Taureau--This translates "Balls of the Bull". Got these seeds from Roland Robins in France. He received th
e seeds from his Spanish neighbor. So the tomato is originally from Spain .
Yellow 1884 Pinkheart--
It was developed by Darrell Merrell (recently deceased) from a chance cross between "The 1884 Tomato" and an unknown yellow. He had been selecting seed for nine years and has it stabilized it to produce a light yellow skinned tomato with pink on the blossom end and pink striations in the meat and sometimes a pink splotch right in the middle of the meat. It has a creamy smooth, sweet flavor. The more pink, the sweeter the flavor. (Low acidity.) Prolific, and I mean prolific production. He said it was one of the best producing tomatoes of all that he grew. Early on the tomatoes are up to one pound and oblate in shape. The tomato man and daughter
I did a whole post about this one. If you go in the archives, you can read about it in detail. I small black that was never released in the U.S.. Said to be great at any stage of ripeness.
T.C. Jones --A newly discovered heirloom from Kentucky. A big yellow beefsteak. My friend Gary acquired this one from one of his friends. Apparentl
y, the friend said that it had been in his family for generations.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Abraham Lincoln Tomato

Abraham Lincoln Tomato From Mother Earth News Mag.

Every year I am asked to name my favorite tomato. My honest response — I don’t have one; I enjoy variety. Yet I think it’s fair to say that of all the “big reds” (as I call them), ‘Abraham Lincoln’ consistently ranks at the top. It is one of those heirloom varieties that faithfully produces huge crops of extra large, meaty fruit, and resists foliage diseases, making it ideal for organic growers like me. On top of that, it has a real summery tomato flavor that is largely missing in modern hybrids. I also like the fact that it produces heavily right up to the first killing frost and keeps me in pre-ripened green tomatoes for jams and chutneys all the way to Christmas. And on a sultry August day, there is nothing like a chilled glass of white wine and a light bruschetta made with fresh ‘Abraham Lincoln’ tomatoes.

‘Abraham Lincoln’ was introduced in 1923 by the W. H. Buckbee seed company of Rockford, Ill., which named the tomato in honor of the state’s favorite son. It was released without much fanfare, but over the years it has proved itself to be one of the great tomato classics that happily survived the big shift to hybrids during the 1940s. After the demise of the Buckbee firm, the tomato was continued by R. H. Shumway of Randolph, Wis.

Looking back on the tomato situation in the 1920s, there were a lot of other big reds competing for culinary attention: ‘John Baer,’ ‘Bonny Best,’ ‘Landreth’ and ‘Henderson’s Winsall’ (developed in 1924 in response to ‘Abraham Lincoln’), yet most of those are selections of one another and when placed side by side, it’s pretty difficult to tell them apart. ‘Abraham Lincoln’ stands out, perhaps because of its dark red color and bronzy-green leaves. Buckbee claimed that the average fruit weighed about a pound; I would say it’s closer to 8 ounces, though some fruits occasionally do get that large. You tend to get smaller fruits if you allow them to develop in clusters from six to nine tomatoes, and larger specimens if you pull off the small ones.

Today, there are two strains of ‘Abraham Lincoln.’ The original 1923 strain is considered a late-season tomato, maturing in 87 to 90 days. Because I plant tomatoes outdoors in mid-April, this means I will have harvest-ready tomatoes by mid-July or early August at the latest. Another strain of ‘Abraham Lincoln,’ which is offered by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, was introduced around 1975 as a more mid-season tomato that matures about two weeks earlier. This strain does not have the distinctive bronzy green leaves of the original, but it is identical in all other respects, even the same flavorful dark red fruit.

Rather than oblate (a flattened sphere) in shape like common beefsteak tomatoes, ‘Abraham Lincoln’ is round, solid and firm, which is why it’s such a good slicer. And unlike some heirlooms, ‘Abe Lincoln’ can tolerate rainy weather without splitting. In my garden, where I have a problem with tiny ants, splitting is an important issue because as soon as cracks develop on any of my tomatoes, the ants appear and the invaded fruit is quickly ruined. Last year, ‘Abe Lincoln’ won the war against the ants, so I didn’t have to resort to any remedial treatments (a real plus for organic gardeners).