Hello do you have any recommendations for small (like grape?) beginner tomatoes for someone who lives in Portland (oregon) your tomato post was very informative but I'm not sure how to get started
The Sweet 100′s or Indigo Cherry tomatoes should grow well there!
Tomato Care Basics:
Tomato does best with full sun (6 or more hours in direct sunlight per day) and regular watering, but don’t water it if it’s dirt is still wet.
Tomato roots are almost as big as the plant is above ground, so make sure your tomato has either a HUGE pot (I used the bigass tubs people use to store christmas decorations or other shit) or is put in the ground.
Make sure to put 2-3 eggshells crunched up real fine under your tomato when you put it in the ground/pot so it has enough calcium, or use a good tomato fertilizer if you think your dirt isn’t that good (Fox Farm makes a great one)
Do not put Baby tomato plant outside until it’s going to be at least 45 Degrees at night.
In the event of a cold snap/Frost, cover tomato with one of those flat sheets you get with bedding sets but nobody freaking uses. they’re mad good frost insulators.
Baby your tomato while it is young- fertilize before planting, keep up on the water, give it shade if it starts to get crispy, play it mozart or whatever- right until it develops it’s first flowers. Once the Tomato flowers, neglect and abuse it to the point of injury but not past the point of death.
A tomato is a remarkably sapient plant, and it needs the Fear Of It’s Own Demise in order to get adequately horny and flower enough to set fruit properly. Miss a few waterings. Let it get sunburnt once. Break off a few leaves on branches that aren’t flowering. Once the tomato is getting abused to the degree it likes, it will start setting TONS of flowers and shift it’s energy focus from growing plant to making fruit.
Yes, Proper Tomato Husbandry involves a certain degree of Sexual Sadomasochism. Don’t worry, the Tomato likes it.
ADVANCED TOMATO HUSBANDRY:
Get your Tomato some friends- Carrots! Turns out, Planting Tomatoes and Carrots in the same bed/large Bin is great for both plants- Tomatoes benefit from the soil areation and microrhyzal fungi that carrots provide, and carrots get free pest control from the Tomato’s constant chemical warfare.
Yes, tomatoes constantly commit chemical warfare- they excrete toxins to keep off pests (they’re related to deadly nightshade, which is deadly specificially to avoid being eaten by insects and mammals), exude pheromones to attract pollinators, and unleash all kinds of weird shit kill rival plants like weeds or Other Tomatoes. This is why Tomato plants have such a distinctive musk and why so many people get rashes from handling the plants.
Speaking of, the only thing better for a Tomato than Carrot Friends is A Rival Tomato, because seething hatred is an important part of Balanced Tomato Psychology. Get a second Tomato and put it within 6 feet of the first and the two of them will VIOLENTLY attempt to out-reproduce the other, while also pollinating each other in a sort of horticultural kismesitude.
You can get even greater rivalry effects by having more tomatoes but:
-the effect maxes out at about 5 plants per 100 sq ft, and if you have too many in small area they will for-reall kill each other before they can fruit.
-If you do it right, you will have literally dozens of pounds of tomatoes on your hands come august so you better have a plan for that.
The carrots also love when there is a Rival Tomato, esp if all three are in the same bed becuase the carrots are also Proactive Thinkers and tattle to the tomatoes to make them put out even more rival-and-weed killing chemicals, which help protect the carrots and make them grow more vigorously.
if you’ve got deer and rabbits in the area, put a border of Marigolds around the edge of your bed/growing area to discourage them. If your fruits are still going missing you have either squirrels or kleptomanical neighbors. Both pests can be solved by blasting them with the hose.
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If you ever want to do a "Top 10 home gardening tomato cultivars" segment, I'm here for it. (My folks mostly plant Early Girls, but they have a ridiculously short growing season up there. I grow Sweet 100s, because they taste good enough and I gave up on growing anything other than cherries due to bastard squirrels who like to take exactly one bite out of larger tomatoes.)
IT IS NOW TIME TO INFO DUMP
CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED
Ok so the actual thing with tomatoes is there are- checks google- about 10,000 tomato cultivars out there and every single one of them is different, so you should tailor your tomato breeds to what you actually want to do with them. 10K is a lot a breeds to break down, but fortunately, there are ways to Do That:
1. Determinate vs. Indeterminate
Determinate tomatoes grow to a genetically predetermined size and start fruiting. Pros: Tends to have a short time between planting and fruiting, don’t get bigger than a certain size if you only have so much space. Cons: Once they’re done fruiting, that’s it. you really only get the one crop out of them. Also tend to have sad, watered-down flavor.
Indeterminate tomatoes grow as big as the space will let them, and start fruting when they get around to it. Pros: Maximum Plant for minimum investment, which can be like 10x as big as a determinate plant. Will KEEP fruiting until it gets too cold, so if you can get it in a pot you can move inside you could potentially still be harvesting tomatoes after thanksgiving like my MIL was this year. If you live somewhere warm like SoCal or AZ, you could keep it alive all year. Cons: MUCH longer time between planting and fruiting. Indeterminate tomates Get there when they get there. Also may be more prone to disease and pests than the more-modified determinate plants.
There are determinate and indeterminate tomatoes in all 5 of the Greater Tomato Archetypes. Speaking of:
2. The 5 Tomato Archetypes
I’m so good at segues!
So tomatoes come in 5 basic types, each which is generally better for something culinary than the others. You CAN substitute different types of tomato but your food generally doesn’t come out as good.
1. Cherry: Cherry tomatoes produce fruits that are about the size of cherries. Some people put Grape and Saladette tomatoes in here but they are WRONG, both of those belong in the “Round/All-Purpose” group because Cherry tomatoes specifically have thinner skins, more soluable pectin, and more dissolved glutemates, which means they cook VERY differently. Cherry tomatoes also produce a shitload of fruits at a time and might be some of the heaviest producers. Tend to be more heat-tolerant.
Good For: Fresh tomato sauces (i.e. takes less than 20 minutes to make), salads, snacking on directly off the vine like you are a small tarsier discovering a hidden bounty of fruit.
Top reccomendations are:
-Indigo Cherry or Dwarf Black Krim if you can find it. I always reccomend dark-pigmented tomatoes as I find they have better flavor, pest resistence and UV tolerance. Taste fruity but not over-sweet and Very Tomato-y.
-Sweet 100/Super-Sweet 100/Sweet Millions: All varietals of the same mass-producing Cherry Tomato. Makes absolute buckets of Tomatoes, sweeter and more fruity than the Indigo cherry, good disease resistence and long growing season.
2. Paste: Paste tomatoes are thin-skinned, meaty and soft tomatoes that... well, they make good tomato paste, the basis for all long-cooking tomato sauces and recipies. They tend to be kind of Oblong and sometimes grow in fun extras like lil tomato “dicks” or weird cthulian shapes, but this doesn’t effect the flavor or nutrition There’s a shitload of great varietals in this category, I’ve yet to hear of a Bad Paste Tomato, just Less Excellent ones.
Good For: Long-cooking Tomato-based dishes like: Bolognese, chili, ketchup, BBQ etc. Also can and freeze well.
Top Reccomendations are:
-Amish Paste: MEATY, and well-suited for growing in a variety of conditions. Paste is smooth and velvety. Good for Chili, BBQ and Bolognese.
-Opalka tomato: Russian Tomato, little more on the acidic side, grows well in places prone to surprise late frosts. Paste isn’t as smooth but very thick. makes great ketchup.
-San Marzano: THE tomato for making Marinara Sauce (also does good bolognese). Sweeter and lighter, with a slightly runnier paste that clings well to pasta. cans and freezes excellently, does well in places with HOT summers.
3. Beef: Beef tomatoes are BIG motherfuckers that kind of take a long time to grow but are very rewarding. Beef tomatoes are firm, have a very solid meat and are best eaten raw, typically sliced onto a sandwich or seared under a broiler for a NZ Mousetrap. Not only are the fruits big but so are the Plants, so they take a long time to reach maturity and the fruit takes FOREVER to ripen but if you like a sandwich, they can’t be beat. Also they look hella impressive on instagram. They also tend to be more prone to Blossom End Rot (which is just a calcium deficiency- just make sure to fertilize with some eggshells and don’t over-water them), and despite the size, don’t tolerate cold well.
Good for: Slicing on sandwiches, eating raw like you’re biting into the still-beating heart of your nemesis and enjoying that sweet, sweet revenge, searing quickly under a broiler or putting on a Kabob.
Top Reccomendations Are:
-Brandywine: Hefty, great fresh tomato flavor, and PINK.
-Big Zac: Goddamn Massive Tomato. A Real Heckin’ Chonker. meatier flavor and lots of firm flesh with few seeds.
-Beefmaster: One problem with Beef tomatoes is that a lot of them are heirloom varietals that aren’t as widely available. Of the ones that are easy to get your hands on, Beefmaster is the best, but it lacks the flavor punch of Brandywine or Big Zac, but it’s not a BAD tomato.
4. Round/Early/All-Purpose: The Workhorse of Tomatoes, the Round Tomato does it all- sauces, salsa, sandwiches, salads, and snacks. But it doesn’t do them quite as well as the other, more specialized tomatoes. Also, some of these tomatoes have been Over-Worked and bred to fruit early and transport well, at the expense of it’s Flavor. I’M TALKING ABOUT YOU, EARLY GIRL AND BETTER BOY, YOU FLAVORLESS TENNIS BALLS, YOU INSULTS TO THE MIGHTY HOUSE OF NIGHTSHADES. Love yourself, don’t get Early Girl or Better Boy. If your season is too short for anything but the earliest of tomatoes, it may be better to grow Something Else than put all that effort in for Disappointment.
That said, there are many types of Round/All-Purpose tomatoes that haven’t been overbred into corporate blandness, and I can reccomend them in good concisence if you’re not totally sure what you want to do with your tomatoes:
Good For: Indecisive people, people just learning how to grow plants, using one plant for a variety of purposes, people who are not yet prepared to enter the world of Tomato Opinions.
Top reccomendations are:
-If you really must have an early-fruiting tomato, the Wayahead is an heirloom that people swear comes in early with good size, flavor and firm structure. I have not personally tied this varietal but people I trust like it.
-Black Krim: GOD-TIER TOMATO. It’s got it all- flavor, high yields, firm structure, pest and disease resistence, fucking purple stripes. Cans Well, Freezes well, seeds well and breeds true. Fuck yes. Other tomatoes fucking WISH they had what this Hot Bitch has.
-Invincible is a damn-hard-to-kill tomato that isn’t very large but fruits reliably and preforms well all around. it also ripens 3 fruits at a time so you’re not constantly overburdened with Tomato. Probably my top pick for beginners that need an Emotional Support Crop.
5. Fun: This is not, strictly speaking, a traditional type of tomato, but I feel like it’s an important category for people who want to do something different or really enjoy all Tomatoes have to offer.
Good For: Trying new things, taunting the garden gods with my hubris, showing off at the garden FB group, discovering new flavors of plant.
-Mr. Stripey: it has a goofy name, it’s yellow-and-pink striped, and it smells and tastes almost exactly like pineapple, but it doesn’t try to digest you back. I love it.
-Japanese Truffle: Dark Brown tomato that looks like someone tried to make ferro rochers at home and bungled it, and has a LONG maturation time, BUT it’s got a chocolately flavor and even at maturity has green insides which give it this. Lightness? it’s hard to describe but it’s a fascinating flavor. The plant also is more branched and elegant than most tomatoes. Very different, very cool.
-I have not personally tried Cherokee Purple but I have heard good things about it. We’ll see how it does in the garden this year.
-Tomatillos and Ground Cherries: Not actually tomatoes, but closely related. Neat herbaceous sort of flavor, like thyme but to the left. Also comes in a fun Organic wrapping paper.
-Ketchup ‘n’ Fries: a Sweet 100 tomato top grafted onto Kennebec Potato rootstock, so it grows both tomato AND potato! Grafting was invented prbably about a week after the concept of agriculture was, and consists of taking two or more closely related plants and taping a cutting of oone into a hole in the other until the plants heal together. Like that one gorilla-dude from Umbrella academy, but without the angst. You can get them pre-made or attempt to make them at home if you’re feeling adventurous and are OK with potentially killing a bunch of starts while you learn.
Good Luck and Happy Gardening!
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