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Tomato Varieties Feast!

How many varieties are there? There are more than 3,000 varieties of heirloom or heritage tomatoes in active cultivation worldwide and more than 15,000 known varieties. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says there are 25,000 tomato varieties. The list constantly expanding. One current group being added is the Indigo series of tomatoes!

HEIRLOOMS VS HYBRIDS

Heirlooms are more lovely than words can say with their many shapes, sizes, and colors! But they are particularly susceptible to wilts and blights. Instead, get resistant hybrid varieties that have VFN or VF on the tag at the nursery. The V is for Verticillium, the F Fusarium wilt, N nematodes. Ace, Early Girl, Champion, Celebrity, are some that are wilt resistant/tolerant. In the Mother Earth News tomato survey, they found gardeners chose heirlooms over hybrids if their soil is wilt/blight free. Otherwise, the longer the gardener has gardened, they more they chose wilt resistant hybrid toms if their soil has the fungi. If you are gardening at home, you can strengthen your soil, and take practical measures to grow heirlooms successfully. If you are at a community garden that has the fungi in the soil, it’s virtually unavoidable because the wilts are not only in the soil, but are windborne as well. See Wilts & Cucumber Beetles, Tomatoes & Cukes!

Tomato Bush Determinate in Container CageDETERMINATE AND INDETERMINATE

The other two main categories are Determinate and Indeterminate. Determinate get about 3′ tall, produce prodigiously all at once. They are grown for two main reasons. Since they produce when they are shorter, they produce sooner. Since they produce a lot at once, they are great for canning. If you want to can a lot, grow several of them at the same time. If you want a large steady supply plant successively, like more plants each month or so. You can do that if you have the space.

Determinates are great for container growing! Pick varieties that have patio, dwarf or mini in their names. These will be more compact. Small tomatoes doesn’t necessarily mean the plant is small! Be sure you check that it is a determinate variety. Also check for height, that it will grow no taller than the support you will be putting it on. The Dwarf Tomato Project offers dozens of options, identified by gardeners from around the globe.

Indeterminate are vining tomatoes, grow 6′ to 10′! Grow them on a trellis or in a large substantial supporting cage; they will take up a lot less space. Or up against a wall, along a fence. But if they ramble, the fruits will be on or close to the ground, fungi and pest susceptible – slugs, mice, little birds. Indeterminates produce a little later, but continuously all season long! They have flowers, ripening fruit and mature fruit all at the same time. If you aren’t canning, these are terrific because you plant just once. When they start producing, there is no waiting time like with determinates, while you wait to grow another plant if you don’t have space to grow both at once.

TIME OF YEAR CHOICES!

In SoCal, spring’s first choice, February, March, is cold hardy determinates that produce and ripen in cool weather! That’s to get toms on your table soonest! When they are done, in their place, pop in some other favorite summer veggies that do better in that by then warmer weather. If you live in the north with a short growing season, go with these quick growers. Try Sophie’s Choice, a Canadian variety that produces a heavy crop of six to eight-ounce fruits about 55 days after planting. The compact plants grow to about 24 inches tall, making this a good option for container growing. Siberian (NOT Siberia) sets fruit at 38°, but is still not very frost hardy – popular in Alaska! Considered a determinate, but grows 48 to 60” tall. Bush Early Girl and Oregon Spring are favorites. You can start indeterminate cherry toms like Sungolds, because cherry toms ripen soonest while larger varieties are still growing.

In SoCal start your indeterminates at the same time as the cool producing toms! They will come in with red fruits about the 4th of July or a tad sooner. Czech heirloom variety Stupice is cold tolerant and comes in early. Early Girl indeterminate gives you a head start and gives high yields!

Later, April, May, plant whatever toms you want to your heart’s content! Just be sure you get resistant varieties if you have soil fungi. April is better if you are planting monster varieties like Big Boy – they need time to grow big! Big toms can grow to enormous proportions, winners can be up to 7+ lbs! The heaviest tomato was weighed in August 30 2016 at 8.61 lb, grown by Dan Sutherland, Walla Walla, Washington! The achievement was authenticated by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth (GPC).

June?! You betcha! Many tomato-loving gardeners wait until fungi laden soils are warmed and drying. Your plants have a better chance to get a healthier start. True that the Wilts are also windborne, but with less fungi in the soil your plant can better withstand the fungi.

In late summer, early fall, as most of your tomatoes are getting tired, southern gardeners can go back to planting quick growing cool type determinates. Weather in SoCal is starting to cool, day length is shorter, and the northern type varieties will do well again. Select petite varieties like bush, determinate cherries that mature more quickly.

Winter, though many toms may have tomatoes on them, they are slower to turn red if at all. Day lengths are shorter. Let go. Instead, plant other winter favorites that thrive in short day cold weather and are so nutritious! Kales and chards are prolific choices per their footprint. Start new vigorous tomatoes in spring.

LOCATION

In drought conditions, consider growing only indeterminates. If you are repeatedly growing determinates, there is the time it takes to regrow them, using water when there is no production.

There are super heat tolerant varieties of toms. Just look up those varieties at southern or desert locations. Check on local university recommendations, cooperative extension. See what the nurseries near you carry or what the farmers market farmers are growing successfully.

Humidity and wind are conditions to consider. You can open up an area to reduce humidity, or put in some shrubs to buffer winds.

Desert can be turned into an oasis using permaculture techniques! Jeff Lawton in Jordan

If your location is known for tomato hornworms, generously plant Borage and/or Calendula with your toms. They repel the worms!

Tomato Steakhouse Largest Beefsteak Buy Seeds Burpee!SIZE AND PURPOSE CHOICES

Cherry and Grape tomatoes for buffets and snacks. Saladettes for salad bites. Texas huge for slicing. Romas for canning, sauce and paste. The bigger the tomato the longer it takes to mature.

At left is a fine SteakHouse Hybrid, a meal in itself! Steakhouse are the largest Beefsteak Tomato there is! It is available at Burpee. com. They refer to it as a tomato titan! If you love huge toms, these fruits are enormous, up to 10 inches wide and as heavy as 3 lbs! Each plant will yield nine to 11 fruits.

COLOR, TASTE & SKIN!

Poetically, in Jim Duncan’s post Harvesting Sunlight he says ‘Different carotenoids give such fruits their red, yellow and orange colors. In photosynthesis, they trap certain waves of sunlight and funnel their energy into the chlorophyll system. In this sense, different colored tomatoes are packed with different waves of sunlight. Artists can’t look directly at the sun but tomatoes can and artists can look inside tomatoes.’

As an organic gardener you are an artist that looks to the health and wellbeing of us all. Your garden reflects who you are, tells your story. It creates beauty. It makes a difference.

There is no doubt color makes a difference. Blind people can feel which color it is! Colors have different frequencies. Just looking at them makes us change. We pick that color to wear today. Choose the colors that uplift your spirit!

Taste is often subjective. We know too that people genetically taste the same thing differently ie Cilantro! People describe different tomatoes as tasteless, robust, bland, mild, sweet, fruity, tangy, tart, mealy, meaty, watery, juicy, dry, firm, soft, mushy, smoky, musky, old-time, winey, perfect! Toms are like fine wine only in a different body! Taste is something you will need to try for yourself. While it was originally thought that certain regions on the tongue detected specific flavors, we now know this is not true. Smell is more predominant! So you smell it and swish the wine/tomato around in your mouth! Modern tasting techniques If you don’t have space to experiment, to garden several varieties at once, stick with the standards at first – or go to the nearest Farmers Market and buy one of each, the fresher the better! Have your own tasting & smelling – you and the others who will eat them with you!

Tomato skin thickness varies a lot! They can be thin and easily damaged, or so thick you can hardly take a bite and if you manage, the juice squirts out! Some you seriously need a knife for. If you are canning or making tomato paste you need to remove the skins for a smooth consistency! Roma VFA, Amish Paste and Super Marzano are excellent sauce toms, meaty with low water content, and improved disease resistance and taste.

HEALTH BENEFITS

Tomatoes contain a good amount of vitamins A, C, and K, folate and potassium along with thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, all of which are necessary to maintain good health. The best part is that tomatoes are naturally low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories.

Besides righteous colors that feed your Soul, and taste for your palate, varieties do vary a tad health wise. Here are some choice points:

  • The Kumato tomato is slightly higher in carbs than regular tomatoes. Compared to a standard red tomato, the Kumato contains a higher amount of fructose.
  • Grape tomatoes, despite their similarities to cherry tomatoes, have a thicker skin, less water content and smaller amounts of fructose. As a result, these tomatoes are probably slightly lower in carbs.
  • The colossal beefsteak Steakhouse, the largest variety of tomato, has more carbs as well as overall nutrients.

Colors and the different carotenoids associated with them give specific different benefits to our health. Indigo breeder Jim Myers says ‘The red pigment in tomatoes is lycopene. Orange tomatoes have beta-carotene or prolycopene, while yellow ones may have other carotenoids such as delta-carotene. Carotenoids have antioxidant properties and are thought to have health benefits similar to flavonoids.’

From fighting cancer to fighting wrinkles, the goal of the Indigo series of tomatoes is to breed the antioxidant purple anthocyanins into the flesh as well as the skin. Oregon State’s high-flavonoid breeding program breeder Jim Myers is almost there! Indigo Rose is the closest so far. It is an open pollinated variety, meaning seed saved from self-pollinated plants will grow true and not produce hybrids.

In the image below, is Blue Beauty bred by Bradley Gates of Wild Boar Farms in St. Helena CA. It is a self-pollinated variety, will grow fruit the same as the parent. The young blue tomato fruit appears amethyst purple and turns dark purple-black as it matures, with the skin of the darkest ones becoming almost jet black. Tomatoes hidden by leaves remain red. These are ‘modest beefsteak-type slicers,’ weighing up to 8 ounces. High in antioxidants. Brad says TOMATOES HAVE CHANGED MORE IN THE LAST 10 YEARS THAN THEY HAVE IN THEIR ENTIRE EXISTENCE. They are the Heirlooms of the Future! Check out Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomato at Baker Creek! Outrageous, I swear!

Tomato Indigo Blue Beauty Slicer 8 Oz

Culinary Breeding Network! Meet some breeders from around the US! They are working for our health, production excellence and just plain gardening enjoyment! Working together, brainstorming, improves the quality of their work, their results.

PURE DELIGHT!

Meanwhile, right here in your own garden…happiness is! Eating your favorite homegrown organic tomatoes at the garden! Cherry size poppers or huge drizzlers so big they are more than a meal! That beautiful color that just makes your heart sing! A shape that calls your name! This year I’m trying….

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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In SoCal fall you have the luxury of planting larger winter storage types as well as the small spring/summer salad types. In summer they are a super companion plant! Radishes are one of the most fun plants because they come in a great variety of shapes lengths, colors, and sizes, and tastes!

Have you ever tried this Daikon relative, an heirloom called Chinese Red Meat, Beauty Heart, and Rose Heart? This is one of the most mild radishes with just a slight peppery bite, along with some sweetness and a lot of crunch!  …says Catie Baumer Schwalb. Look at this beauty – also called Watermelon Radish!

Radish Watermelon Chinese Red Meat

Spring – Summer Varieties:  Small and fast-growing – usually ready for harvest in 3 to 4 weeks. Select varieties based on size and shape (globe or cylindrical), color (including red, purple, white and combinations) and bolt-resistance. Summer: take slightly longer to mature — usually in about 6 to 8 weeks. When it gets 65° or higher, stop sowing because radishes don’t tolerate heat well and will rapidly go to seed. Take up planting again in late summer; plant winter varieties as well as spring varieties. Longer varieties, like French Breakfast, take a little longer to grow. The longer varieties, and winter varieties tolerate heat better than the short, round ones.

  • Cherry Belle is the supermarket bright red-skinned round variety with a white interior.
  • French Breakfast is an elongated red-skinned radish with a white splash at the root end. It is typically slightly milder than other summer varieties, but is among the quickest to turn pithy.
  • Easter Egg is not an actual variety, but a mix of varieties with different skin colors – white, pink, red, purple! They mature at different times!
Long variety, Black Spanish radishes, Raphanus sativus var. niger

Long variety, Black Spanish radishes, Raphanus sativus var. niger

Fall-Winter Varieties: Grow more slowly (usually 2 months or more to maturity), produce larger roots (usually cylindrical – like carrots), and hold their quality much longer than common varieties. They are also known as Oriental, Daikon, Japanese, Chinese, or Spanish radishes. Most are biennials that do not bolt as readily in response to long days, and only develop seedstalks after exposure to cold temperatures. The April Cross is a giant white radish hybrid that bolts very slowly.  They are usually planted in summer for fall harvest – our SoCal fall, Sep, is fine!

Larger winter varieties need more space than spring varieties, so thin, or make your seed strip to about 6-inch spacings, depending on variety. Since they have a longer growing time, rain or watering, plus their natural growing, may uncover their shoulders. Check now and then to see how they are doing – cover the shoulders so they don’t become dry and tough.

To make you completely crazy and terrifically happy, here is the Cornell list of 136 varieties! Note the star ratings! Remember, Cornell is in NY, but hey, a radish is a radish, right?!

Superlative companions! Wise gardeners know there’s no need to devote whole sections of the garden to radishes. Interplant an understory! Pop small varieties in as fillers among, along, under, on the sunny side of larger plants, or in the same row with carrots, parsley, parsnips and other slower germinating and growing crops. They become a living mulch, shading your soil and keeping it more evenly moist. The radishes help to break soil crust for the weaker and later-germinating crops. In fact, in no-till farming they are used to help reverse compaction! Think radishes now, broccoli later!

Radish religion, summer plant companions! For this purpose, ignore the 65° warning above; bolting is fine. Plant radish with cukes and squashes to repel cucumber beetles, and with cukes, squashes and eggplant to trap flea beetles! No need to allocate separate space for radishes. Plant them where they will do the most good! Plant enough of them so you can harvest to your happiness for your table (don’t delay) and let the rest grow out to protect your other plants. They make pretty flowers for the pollinators and you can harvest seeds for next year’s plantings. Seeds remain viable up to 4 years!

They are sun lovers! A shaded radish will have a small root with large leaves.

Direct-sow radish seeds where they are to grow. They don’t transplant well, and, well, heck, they grow so fast, why move them?! And ’cause they grow so fast, be sure to plant every week or two for a steady supply. Research shows the depth you plant your seeds affects the size of the root! Plant small radishes just under a 1/2″ deep, larger guys 1.6″ deep. Did I really say 1.6?! Yes, but guesstimate your best! 🙂

Their favorite soil is well-drained, loose, easy to grow in, high in organic matter, free of stones, with pH 5.8 to 6.8. Unless your soil is poor, lay back on fertilizer or you will have lush tops and small roots. Radish seed strips are wonderful! But if you sow by hand, when the little guys are up about 2″, thin to three-inch spacings. If not thinned, you’re likely to end up with undeveloped or shriveled, inedible roots. No fun at all. They can tolerate a bit of frost.

They need plentiful, consistent moisture. Summer mulching helps, though they quickly self mulch as their leaves fill out. Mulching with compost enriched with wood ash repels root maggots. If the soil is too dry, radishes bolt, are woody, and too pungent to eat. If too wet, they split and rot.

Traditional Miura Japanese Daikon Radish

Farmer Kazuko Hoshida with the traditional Miura Japanese Daikon. Huge, hard to harvest, have now been replaced by the smaller Aokubi Daikon.

Plant only what you can eat. If you leave them in the ground they do get bigger, but they also get dry, very HOT, and woody. Harvest when they are mature whether you need them immediately or not, and cut off the leaves. Put them in plastic storage bags in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator; eat within 1 to 2 weeks.

Radishes are another kind of Brassica! They are in the same family as your brocs, kale, cauliflower, kohlrabi and turnips, and the other hotties, mustard, horseradish and wasabi! Like most Brassicas, the entire plant is edible and the tops can be used as a leaf vegetable. Young thinnings are great in summer salads. Radish also can be eaten as a very tasty wake-up-your-sandwich sprout!

Saved radish seeds are edible too! They are sometimes used as a crunchy, spicy addition to salads. Some varieties are grown specifically for their seeds or seed pods, rather than their roots, like the Rat-tailed radish, an old European variety thought to have come from East Asia centuries ago.

The Burpee Seed site says: Radishes are more versatile in the kitchen than many gardeners realize. Besides adding crisp radishes to salads, try them sliced into stir-fries, stews, and soups. Marinate sliced radishes in vinegar, honey, and soy sauce to serve in a number of Chinese dishes. Sauté them in butter for a minute, and then serve with salt, pepper, and herbs (especially chervil) for a different and unusual side dish. Long radishes are particularly good for sautéing. Slice them diagonally to obtain larger pieces and cook quickly to retain crispiness. Grate radishes into your favorite slaws, or dice them for egg and potato salads. Winter radishes can even be pickled [lacto fermented]!

You must see Kari’s Kitchen amazing Black Radish Chips recipe!

 Kari's Kitchen's amazing Black Radish Chips

THE plant for kids’ gardens. Radishes can sprout in 3 days, and practically grow right in front of your eyes! 3 to 6 weeks and they are on the table!

Updated 3.1.18


The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

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