It's finally tomato season on the homestead. Yes, I know we've been eating cherry tomatoes for weeks now, but I don't think the season truly starts until I've picked the first big ripe heirloom tomato. The old-timers around here used to race each other to see who could get the first ripe tomato, and if you got one before July 4th, well it was a big deal. I don't have many old-timers to race with anymore, but I do have my own kind of race going on in the garden.
Every spring I plant several old-fashioned tomato varieties, and I fertilize and mulch them well. Then I sit back and wait to see which plant gives me the first ripe fruit. I missed the July 4th deadline by about a week, but I finally got my answer today. Drum roll please......and the winner of my Great Tomato Race is.......Chocolate Stripes! That's right, this year's competition was won by a rookie! Chocolate Stripes is a newcomer to my garden, and even though its heirloom lineage is debatable, I'm still impressed. How can you not be when you see these glistening globes ripening on the vine? These fruits weigh up to a pound each and their glowing reddish-brown skin is simply covered in olive-green stripes that continue deep into the flesh. They are rumored to be incredibly sweet and tangy, and perfect in a salad or sandwich. They are so striking, though, that I think I'm just going to admire them for a while. I'll have to get back to you on how they taste!
I'm drawn to plants with a purpose. I like to grow things that have some sort of uniqueness to them: a great story, an unusual feature, a creative use. So, heirloom vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs make up the bulk of my cottage style garden. I also have a vegetable plot, berry patches, fruit trees, and herb and cutting flower beds. In maintaining all this, I strive to be as organic as possible by using techniques like companion planting, rotating my crops, and composting kitchen scraps and yard clippings. All this comes together to create a cleaner environment for my family, my livestock, and my gardens.