Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tomato List

ace55 7-15
I wanted to provide an update on my tomato crop this year.

Side note--This week was Tomato Week for the SSFC Eat Local Challenge. I completely forgot to prepare a tomato dish, but you can click the link to see what others did. I'll be providing an update of my tomato garden instead.

mortgage lifter 7-20
First up, there's no change to my Mortgage Lifter situation. Unfortunately, SESE hasn't reponded to my email request for help yet, but many of you were kind enough to leave me tips and advice on my SOS post from a couple of weeks ago. Thank you all for that! I came back from 4 days in Maine to find that one ML plant was brown and dead. I think spider mites have ravaged it, much like they have some other tomato plants. There's still just the one tomato on the other ML plant. It started blushing so I plucked it to let it ripen inside. I'll let you all know if things improve with these.

chocolate cherries 7-15
Spider mites have also destroyed my Chocolate Cherry plant and the Ace55 tomatoes (top photo above). They've both pretty much stopped producing, but I did harvest few tomatoes from them early this season.

marglobes 7-20
I have two Marglobe tomato plants, with seeds ordered from SESE. Now, unlike the ML, these have been good producers. They are determinate plants and have grown well in containers. The spider mites have avoided them too. The tomatoes are medium sized and have good flavor.

pink girl hybrid vs pink brandywine
{pink girl hybrids on left; pink brandywine heirloom on right with long stem}
 We're growing two varieties of pink tomatoes this year: Pink Brandywine (heirloom) and Pink Girl hybrid (both from Burpee). We bought both of them as plants from the garden center, and I've been curious to see which variety would do better in terms of fruit production and tomato size. The heirloom plant is definitely the winner. The tomatoes are bigger and the plant is more productive. The hybrid tomatoes often have cracks but not so the Brandywine. Hooray for heirlooms! I haven't really noticed a distinct different in taste though.

harvest 8-1
We have several Sweet Snack hybrid tomatoes (also by Burpee). They're the tomatoes shown here in this recent harvest pic. These plants are amazingly productive! The tomatoes aren't sweet, but they go nicely in salads or mixed with avocado with a little salt and olive oil, or with a Caprese salad.

A few growing tips: We typically grow tomatoes in pots, although we have grown some in the ground too. Tomatoes have grown well for us in pots, even the indeterminate varieties, but the vines must be staked. Because they're in containers, the soil often dries out quickly so we do have to water every day during the extreme heat. We mulch and feed them regularly during the growing season.

Our tomatoes and peppers often suffer from blossom end rot, which happens when the plants are lacking calcium. A very easy and inexpensive way to add calcium back to the soil is to put eggshells in the soil, which we do every year. We eat eggs regularly throughout the year, and it's very easy to save and rinse out the eggshells, then crush them and put them around the base of the plant. No blossom end rot problems this year!  [Blossom end rot is a brown spot at the tip of the pepper or bottom of the tomato. If your veggies have this, it's OK to eat the fruit anyway, just chop off the brown part. Add calcium to the soil and your future veggies will come out OK.]

ground cherry 7-24

Finally, I want to talk about my ground cherries! (Similar to gooseberries). I've been excited about growing these since the seeds arrived this winter. I purchased these from SESE and this variety is called Cossack Pineapple. They are similar to tomatillos in that the small round fruit is covered by a husk. They drop to the ground on their own, even though they may still be green, and once they turn that orange-pineapple color, they're ready to eat. Although many have fallen off the plant, none of mine are ripe yet. I do see some of the fruit turning orange with the husk peeling away. The ones that are ripening have dried husks, though in some cases, the fruit has poked through the husk and you can see the green fruit changing color.

The first time I ate ground cherries was last winter in Iceland. I ordered a Nutella crepe in a café, and it came topped with whipped cream with a few ground cherries on top. They were and sweet, and I knew I had to grow them myself. A lot of people make gooseberry jam, but I don't think I have enough for that. I'll probably just snack on them as they are, or put them on top of desserts (I'll have to learn to make crepes!), or maybe I can cook them into pancakes or something. It has been fun growing this new fruit in my garden!

Are you growing tomatoes this year? How is your crop doing? What's your favorite way to eat them?


  1. Really appreciate you sharing your experience growing ground cherries. At first they sort of looked familiar, but then I realized that they are simply alkekengi as they're called here. The stuff at the supermarket is shipped in from south american countries and cost about $8.35/lb. (14.90€/kilo).

    Anyway, I did pick up a packet of seeds this past spring but never got around to planting them. Will definitely try growing them next year.

  2. Oh, I forgot to ask....what's the capacity size of the tomato containers? I'd like to try growing some in pots next year.

    1. Wow! I've never seen these in the store and didn't realize how expensive they are. Most of our containers are 5-gallon pots.

  3. Your harvest looks better than mine. I usually have plenty of Tomatoes, but the drought and the wrong choice of mulch messed up mine this year. Good thing I have a vegetable share from a local cooperative farm. I've always wondered about the taste of Ground Cherries. Thanks for sharing your impressions!

  4. I picked my first Brandywine tomato today. I'm letting it ripen a little inside before I taste it. My tomatoes have catfacing and fruit puckering, but they're still edible. I will check out the SESE next year when I'm buying seeds. It looks like a great resource.

  5. I am glad to see your pepper plants are continuing to produce after the first harvest. Most stop. I had the experience with my first pepper plant.

  6. Your tomatoes are beautiful to see. Neat to hear about your ground cherries too. I tried growing them a few years ago, but didn't get them in the ground soon enough. I will try again (one day!0

  7. Your harvest looks very nice. And I could imagine the ground cherries on top of crepes! Yum!!!

  8. My ground cherries are still producing and I've pulled up a few purple carrots. My tomato leaves are curling but the plant is still producing tomatoes. I add Tums to the planting hole in my pots because it releases the calcium quicker than the egg shells. But I add egg shells to the soil in my garden. Your tomatoes look great!

  9. OK now I have to get ground cherries...I have heard others growing the pink hybrids and may give them a try...lots of choices and good advice to bookmark for future reference..


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