Strange as it may be, healing I’m already starting to want the hot weather to come back so that I can get out into the field and molly-coddle my tomato plants! The rainy winters here leave me to spend quite a few hours every winter pouring through every catalog and every website in search of the next best tomato. This past season I tried out a Amish heirloom in the greenhouse, a beefsteak called “Rose.”
In my greenhouse I plant the plants in a raise soil bed that has excellent drainage so that I can plant in March. I get my fix of decent tomatoes a touch earlier so that I can retain my sanity in a world of tasteless hydroponic tomatoes. Usually I’d do a crop of Early Girls to get a fast, reasonable tasting crop for spaghetti sauce. Anyway. Having read that numerous people have called “Rose” the best tasting tomato in the world, I thought I’d fill my greenhouse with them. Bad mistake. The things put on HUGE amounts of growth and didn’t produce any flowers till they were 6 feet tall and tangled in the grape vines! Finally I got one in the third week of August. I was totally awestruck. It was B-e-a-ah-utiful! It had the classic heirloom look–big with pronounced ridges, a nice scar on the bottom, and a gorgeous pink colouration. But here’s the catch: it didn’t end up tasting any better than a tomato from any of your average no-name B.C. greenhouses, and it started producing later than my crop of field tomatoes that faced the least ideal weather conditions we’ve seen in maybe a decade.
But there’s two tomatoes that my neighbour grew that turned out quite nicely in his backyard greenhouse–both black, really black–that I’ll do instead next year after I get the garlic greens out in May. I have to figure out what they were. I threw them maybe several dozen different varieties that I wanted them to trial in their greenhouse, and my favourite one was probably “Kosovo.” I think that Victory Seeds should carry them. They’re handful sized, maybe in the 16 oz. range, have a pronounced teat on the bottom, and are fairly meaty. The only problem with them was a slightly less than ideal disease resistance package which resulted in a higher likelihood of fusarium wilt, but then again they’ve been growing tomatoes in the same spot for a few years and I grow early potatoes next to their property on a 2-3 year rotation.
So for all you tomato affectionados out there: go to Victory Seeds. They’re got a really decent selection of tomatoes, the best in fact, and they’re generally pretty spiffy seeds. None of this $5/10 seed packet nonsense, either. I think that they’re located in Oregon so the varieties that they carry will generally do okay in Vancouver if you have an unhealthy obsession with tomatoes (like I do) to the point that your worst nightmares consist of 3 feet of snow and 200km winds hitting your newly blossoming tomatoes. I literally wake up in a cold sweat 2-3 times every year with a wild look in my eyes to that dream. To boot, my old history teacher Alex Popovich (a fellow Serb and tomato fiend) prefaced my introduction to the class as “[the guy] with the nicest, healthiest looking tomato plants this side of the Mississippi.” That’s the most flattering comment I’ve ever got.