I know that everyone, including my mother, probably gets tired of hearing me talk about tomatoes, but if you still haven’t tried to grow some of the amazing heirloom varieties like Costoluto, Black Krim, Brandywine or Mexico Midget, you may want to take the opportunity to head up to Middleton and check out Tomatofest 2012 which is happening at Annapolis Seeds on Sunday, Sept. 9 from noon to 5 p.m.
Not only will you have an opportunity to see up to 80 varieties of heirloom tomatoes in all shapes, sizes and colours, but you will also be able to taste them! Of course, many of us, including myself only grew up with red beefsteak tomatoes and red cherry tomatoes. But, thanks to passionate seed savers like Owen Bridge of Annapolis Seeds, gardeners now have access to hundreds of varieties of heritage tomatoes that may not always look like supermarket tomatoes (rounded, perfect, red), but have that rich tomato flavour that has been bred out of hybrids in the last half century.
In our garden, we’re partial to the purple and black varieties like Cherokee Purple, black cherry, Paul Robeson, Black Krim and Japanese Black Trifele. But, we also love red, yellow, green, white, pink and orange tomatoes too! In fact, orange tomatoes, like Big Rainbow, Woodle Orange and Pineapple are fast becoming new family favourites and at TomatoFest 2011, Pineapple was the consensus favourite! According to Owen, this is a variety with fruity-flavoured tomatoes that hint of the tropics (hence the name ‘Pineapple’) and are exceptionally sweet with little acid.
Here are a few other amazing heirloom tomatoes that will likely make an appearance at TomatoFest 2012:
Mortgage Lifter - With a history almost as legendary as its flavour, Mortgage Lifter has been a favourite of gardeners since the 1930’s when it was developed by M.C. “Radiator Charlie’ Byles. With the great depression ruining his radiator business, Byles turned to gardening and he bred this open pollinated variety with huge, lumpy red fruits that have an exceptional taste. He sold his tomato plants for $1.00 each and after several years had saved enough to pay off his house mortgage.
Ardwyna - This is my first year for growing this variety, but after tasting the first few fruits, it definitely won’t be my last. The tomatoes are huge - up to 7 inches across - and have a beautiful curved, almost-heart shape. The flavour is top notch and it can be used for slicing, canning, sauces and more.
Costoluto Genovese - I discovered this beauty about ten years ago and it’s had a place of honour in our gardens ever since. The extremely ribbed fruits are red, flattened and grow up to 5 inches across and when you slice them, each slice is shaped like a flower - gorgeous! Did I mention that they have an outstanding taste too? This is our favourite tomato for homemade bruschetta and salsa.
Berkeley Tie-Dye - Okay, I haven’t grown this yet, but am desperate to get seed from Owen next spring. The original seed grower, Wild Boar Farms warns that its “High acid content may cause flashbacks!” Jokes aside, the is a truly unique tomato with large green fruits that have numerous red and yellow streaks giving them a ‘tie-dyed’ appearance. Flavour is said to be spicy, sweet, tart.
If the tomatoes alone aren’t enough to get you to TomatoFest 2012, you may also enjoy the live music (with Andy and Ariana), farm tour and seed saving workshop. As Owen says, this is a great opportunity to “celebrate the amazing diversity of this delicious fruit!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Niki Jabbour is the author of the award winning book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener (2012 American Horticultural Society Book Award) and the host of The Weekend Gardener radio show that airs every Sunday from 11 to 1 pm on News 95.7 FM. For more info, please visit www.nikijabbour.com or follow her on twitter at @NikiJabbour.