Cure for the Great Tomato Famine of 2009

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Cure for the Great Tomato Famine of 2009

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

The cool, wet season over much of the Central and Northeastern United States is responsible for what tomato connoisseur’s are calling “the tomato famine of 2009.” Powell Gardens’ tomatoes got an early start in the greenhouse and have produced reasonably well in the Heartland Harvest Garden. Mark your calendar for this Saturday (August 22nd) to attend Powell Gardens’ first “Tomato Fest” where one can observe at least 38 varieties currently producing in the garden. At noon and 2 p.m. Heartland Harvest Garden staff will conduct tomato tours throughout the garden. See for more details and a full description of all the activities from taste tests to cooking demonstrations and tomato games. Sure to be a cure for anyone suffering from this season’s dearth of tomatoes.
Matt Bunch, Horticulturist for the Heartland Harvest Garden, has been “squirreling” away tomatoes from the Heartland Harvest Garden for this Saturday’s event. Most are in storage for safe keeping and ripening away from potential pests. All were grown by Matt and his two gardeners: Caitlin Bailey and Barbara Fetchenhier.
A quick look at one of Matt’s crate’s of tomatoes reveals some beautiful fruit in a variety of colors. A quick “taste” of the Heartland Harvest Garden’s prize tomatoes, based on Matt’s comments (I, like many, only eat tomatoes after they have been used in cooking!) follows:

Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato is a phenomenal complex tasting beefsteak type with fruit as large as 1.5 pounds.

Pink Brandywine Heirloom Tomato is a good solid standby with 1 to 2 pound fruit and a complex taste between sweet and spicy.

Flame Heirloom Tomato is very meaty so not as juicy as most beefsteak types but good flavor and exceptional color.Doctor Wyche’s Yellow Heirloom Tomato has a beautiful orange-yellow coloration when ripe. Matt likes its good color and great taste!
White Tomesol Heirloom Tomato has been very prolific and has a sweet, subacid flavor.

Long Tom Heirloom Tomato defies the typical tomato shape but is a good sweet, very prolific paste tomato.

The beauty of these small New Girl Tomatoes shine better than apples or cherries.

A crate of Celebrity Tomatoes; a classic and productive hybrid readily grown in the area, ends my preview “taste” of our tomatoes. Be sure and come visit on Saturday for a literal taste and some other tomato fun. The Heartland Harvest Garden continues to grow and be sure and visit its many components and view its superior collection of our world’s food plants including the cacao trees (where chocolate comes from) in the south (left) side of the Seed to Plate Greenhouse:

Two of our Cacao trees (Theobroma cacao) are in bloom! The tiny white flowers emerge from trunks and branches in old leaf scars!

A side view shows how the tiny but exquisite blossom is attached to the trunk. I did not think our cacaos would bloom the first season. The flowers are pollinated by tiny insects including midges. Who knew a multi-billion dollar industry (chocolate)relies on a tiny insect! We actually have two varieties in bloom and hope some tiny insect pollinates them so we get the pods which bear the seed from which chocolate is made. Check back for an update and more on where chocolate comes from in a future blog.