My favorite tomato for 2016!

lucky-cross1

I always plant several new varieties of tomatoes each year and the winner hands down for 2016 was:

LUCKY CROSS

lucky-cross-insideIt is a fantastic yellowish tomato with pink blush outside and inside as well. Sometimes they were more yellowish with pink overtones and sometimes more pinkish with some yellow overtones. No matter the color, it has an exceptional sweet flavor like a Brandywine. It never cracked or got diseases and was very prolific. It is a potato leaf variety. I haven’t been this excited about a tomato for a long time. It now beats my beloved Virginia Sweet tomatoes which are prone to cracks and diseases.

When I did some research on this tomato, the variety originally came from Craig LeHoullier (author of Epic Tomatoes). He stated it came from a Brandywine and an unknown bee-produced cross and had the luck to grow it out with these great attributes.  You can read the story of it from him here. No wonder I thought it tasted like a Brandywine! It is now a stable open-pollinated (OP) tomato and will grow out the same each generation. I saved some of the seeds from this beauty and will definitely grow it next season.

Advertisements

Cherry tomato varieties review

cherry tomatoes group

There are many varieties of cherry tomatoes but this year I had 7 different varieties of small or cherry tomatoes. Six were heirloom or OP (open pollinated) varieties and one was a hybrid. Open pollinated varieties will be the next new heirlooms when they get to be 50+ years old. Six are shown above from left top row – Juane Flamme, Indigo Cherry Drop, Bottom row from left Artisan Blush Tiger, Artisan Purple Bumblebee, Artisan Pink Bumblebee and Sungold – not shown Black Cherry tomatoes (forgot to take picture!) I think it was way too many cherry tomatoes because of the time it took to harvest all of them every week (exhausting) but having said that, they were all very tasty. Three of the tomatoes pictured above were completely new to me. So let’s look at those above and review them.

tomato_juane flamme

Juane Flamme tomatoes

Juane Flamme – heirloom variety, mid-season tomato – originated by Norbert Perreira of Helliner, France. Extremely prolific. A favorite of my patrons at my Santa Fe Farmers market stand. Yellow turning tangerine color when ripe. Very sweet. Bigger than a cherry tomato but still small, about the size of a golf ball. The only problem I’ve had is in my garden, it was susceptible to Early Blight getting it 2 years in a row. Since I didn’t use any fungicides this year (but I did last year), I’m not sure that is fair although all my other tomatoes didn’t get Early Blight till the right at end of the season which I consider normal as they get more susceptible to diseases as they get old. Still if you like a very sweet tomato, you might try it and just be sure to use an organic fungicide early on to control it and you’ll be fine. You’ll need to get seeds unless we can talk the nurseries into growing them next year. Recommend it.

tomato_indigo cherry drops

Indigo Cherry Drops and Indigo Rose tomatoes mixed

Indigo Cherry Drop – OP (open pollinated) variety, early mid-season tomato-NEW to me this year. Excellent sweet flavor and incredibly large yields 1 inch cherry tomato. Part of the famous Indigo family where the shoulders are black and bottoms are red. Indigo Rose was the first tomato to come out and is a cross between a South American and Galapagos Island tomato. Any Indigo tomato-Indigo Rose (2-3 oz), Indigo Blue Beauty (4 oz) , Indigo Apple (4 oz), Indigo Blue Berries (too tiny to bother with) are the new darlings at the market and all the varieties have to do with the size of them as they all taste the same-excellent flavor hard to describe. Many of the Indigo varieties are available at the nurseries as starts in spring. Extremely prolific. I like them. Bigger Indigo varieties recommended but not the Cherry Drop-too small

tomato_artisan blush tiger

Artisan Blush Tiger tomatoes

Artisan Blush Tiger-OP (open pollinated) variety from Artisan Seeds, mid-season tomato. NEW to me this year. Unique julienne cherry tomato that is yellow with subtle pink stripes-very beautiful. Everyone loved this new variety. It has a fruity sweet, tropical flavor. Feathery foliage is different from regular or potato leaf types so don’t be alarmed – it’s normal. Did well and was disease resistant in my garden. You’ll need to get seeds unless we can talk the nurseries into growing them next year.  Recommend it.

tomato_artisan purple bumblebee

Artisan Purple Bumblebee tomatoes

Artisan Purple Bumblebee-OP (open pollinated) variety from Artisan Seeds, mid-season tomato. I actually grew these last year and liked them enough to grow again. They are dark purplish with green stripes. They have a superb sweet flavor. Very productive. You’ll need to get seeds unless we can talk the nurseries into growing them next year. Recommend it.

tomato_artisan pink bumblebee

Artisan Pink Bumblebee tomato

Artisan Pink Bumblebee-OP (open pollinated) variety from Artisan Seeds, mid-season tomato. NEW to me this year. I love this tomato as it has a very bright sweet flavor-a burst of flavor when you bite into it. Good disease resistance. You’ll need to get seeds unless we can talk the nurseries into growing them next year. Recommend it.

tomato_sungold

Sungold tomatoes

Sungold-hybrid variety. My only hybrid cherry tomato-early season. I’ve grown this for years as it is a supersweet tomato and when people ask for the sweetest tomato, I recommend this. Small yellow cherry tomato turns orange when ripe. Ripens early.  Extremely prolific. Available at the nurseries in spring. Recommend it.

Black Cherry tomato

Black Cherry tomatoes

Black Cherry Tomato – Heirloom tomato originally from Russia, mid-season tomato. I have grown this for years as it is a favorite of mine and the patrons at the Farmers market. Sweet, earthy complex flavors so common with dark purple or black tomatoes. Good size cherry tomato that is a dusky purple. Available at the nurseries in spring. Recommend it.

 

Reflections on the gardening year

winter veg garden

Here is the veggie garden in winter-now asleep

Happy Solstice! Yea-the days get longer now-and here it is the end of the year. As I look at winter, the first two months of winter-November-December are done and only two more months of winter (January-February) to endure. Then its early spring and off to the races! But let’s slow things down a bit. December is a great month to reflect on the gardening season and look at what worked and what didn’t work in the garden during the past year and what I might do differently.

So what worked and what didn’t?

-I only lost 10% of my tomato crops vs. last year’s 50 % tomato crop loss to the dreaded beet leafhopper.  I covered almost all of my tomato plants with row cover from May 15th until the first week of July. The leafhopper leaves when the rainy season comes and this year they hung out till the beginning if July when it started raining. -The downside of this is I really don’t like NOT SEEING my plants hiding under the row cover-I like watching them grow, but that seems to be a tradeoff. Also I want to try to transplant my tomatoes outside earlier than May 15th to try to get tomatoes earlier.

IMG_3363

-Rotating my crops seem to help with diseases. I have everything on a three-year rotation, which is why I made an additional 1000 sq ft section last year, giving me a total of (3) 1000 ft sections.  I move the crops around so they only return to the same section every 3 years. The pumpkins use to have their own additional section in the horse corral but now that I have a horse (Koko), I will put them into the rotation in the main veggie garden since the corral has been reclaimed by Koko.

-Speaking of pumpkins, I need to find a way to keep critters from eating them although it was almost impossiblerabbit damage to keep the rabbits away early in the season when food was hard to find for them-even with 2 fences and row cover over the pumpkins, something ate my prized potential pumpkin plant, so I’ll be thinking on that one a lot more this winter. Plus I want to get the plants outside earlier too if I’m to have a chance to break the state record again…

-I covered my eggplants with row cover for a while this year thereby avoiding the first hail storm’s devastating damage. That first hail storm set back many of my vegetables due to the severe damage by about a month. The downside was aphids found the eggplants underneath the row cover and it was a battle to get rid of them. The aphids also went after the summer squash and peppers with all the rain we got. I controlled them with strong sprays of water on them and insecticidal soap. Also lady bugs appeared and came to the rescue eating many aphids (and I didn’t have to buy them). I think I need to remove the row cover earlier.

The almost finished greenhouse was unbelievably hot last summer-110°F. Too hot to grow anything which was ok as it wasn’t ready anyways. So after I work to button it up this winter, I will have to find ways to cool it down next summer. Still, I have a greenhouse! I’ll take the challenges it will present.

swiss chard hail damage-I have to say I enjoyed all the rain we got after 4 years of an extreme drought. The fruit trees loved all the rain but 2 more hail storms almost wiped out the vegetable crops especially the chard and squash. It was amazing anything survived plus the one week of rain that we got-about 3 inches-watered down the flavor of the tomatoes for about 2 weeks but then they bounced back.

Most of the problems came from Mother Nature and there is not much one can do about her-she does what she wants and we need to adjust. We always think we have everything in control and then wham! She does a number on us!

-I will grow more tomato plants and other veggies to sell at the Farmer’s Market as many people seemed excited to try some of the different varieties I grow. To this effect, I think the greenhouse will be great asset this spring.

So now I will be going over all the catalogs that are coming in and start to plan the veggie garden for 2014.

Happy Holidays!

Review of 2012 vegetables

fall harvest

2012 VEGGIE LIST

Here is my review of what I will and won’t grow again from last year’s vegetables that I tried and why. I will put tomatoes in another list since there are so many of them!

WILL GROW AGAIN
ARUGULA
-Apollo-nice leaf size and flavor

BEANS
-Rattlesnake bean/pole-remarkably flavored pole bean-grows very tall-great for trellises or arbor
-Tarbais bean/pole-dry bean-after much work FINDING IT last year in the states, you can now get this wonderful bean from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds this year. I will make a french dish called cassoulet with it.
-Fava Bean/bush-wonderful flavor and 2 crops last year. A little work shelling it twice but worth it. Also is a good cover crop replenishing the soil with nitrogen.
-Golden Scarlet Runner/pole-I grow runners for their flowers/foliage-the foliage on this one is a striking chartreuse color against the scarlet flowers-simply beautiful

BEETS
– Craupadine-BEST tasting (but ugly) beet around
-Cylindra-long cylinder shape, great taste, easy cutting into slices

BOK CHOY
-Extra Dwarf Pak Choy-wonderful flavor-I like to cut one in half, saute it in olive oil, and add tamari when you flip it

CARROTS
-Atomic Red-great color and flavor
-Cosmic Purple-one of my favorites

CHARD
-Bright Lights-adds great color tucked into the garden and good flavor
-Argentata-thick juicy stalks with huge leaves-very cold tolerant
-Ruby Red-one of the prettiest and tasty chards out there

CUCUMBERS
-Parisian Pickling-used for making cornichon pickles
-Boothsby Blonde-used for making bread and butter pickles
-Poona Kheera-best flavor for eating
-Armenian– fun to grow, good flavor, few seeds

EGGPLANT
-Fairy Tale-sweet, no bitter taste and tender (not tough) skin

LETTUCES
–Provencal Mix, Mesclun Mix, Buttercrunch, Yugoslavian Red, Santoro Lettuce

PEAS
-Dwarf Sugar Gray-great in salads or steamed, grows about 3 ft tall

PEPPER–want to try some different varieties from Europe this year as well
-Shishito (Japanese non-hot pepper)-one of my favorites
-Poblanos-mildly hot (I call it warm), great for chile rellanos or scrambled eggs, wonderful smoky flavor

POTATOES–first year grower and I’m hooked!
-French Fingerling-OMG, the best flavor!
-Peruvian Purple-I loved the flavor of these as well

SPINACH
-Bloomsdale and Tyee

SUMMER SQUASH
ZUCCHINI
-Costata Romanesco-best tasting zuke around

SUNFLOWERS-technically a flower but they are veggies for the birds!
-will grow another huge patch of different varieties-beautiful and the birds love them
-Russian Mammoth AND Titan– for us/birds to eat
-Black Oil-for the birds only

TOMATILLO-Green-good for tomatillo salsa-only need one plant as they are so prolific.

WON’T GROW AGAIN
BEAN-Emerite bean/pole bean- great flavor but didn’t grow high enough to cover my teepee and I will grow others this year.

CARROTS
-Paris Market-too small, bland flavor, not impressed

CALABICITAS SQUASH
-seed from local grower-turns out it was a native winter squash, not calabacitas squash.

CORN-again not this year (I’ll get it from our Farmers Market)

FENNEL/FINOCCHIO
-Di Firenze-might grow one or two but not 25 plants like last year!

PEPPER
-Jalapeno-I don’t use them enough to call for space in the garden. I’ll just buy the few I use throughout the year.

POTATOES
-Russian Banana-too crunchy and watery