Varieties of tomatoes are ready for roasting. All photos by Holly Roberts Walker on Facebook.
"You like potato and I like potahto. You like tomato and I like tomahto. Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto! Let's call the whole thing off!"
From the movie, 'Singin' in the Rain' starring Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Ginger Rogers, came the famous lyrics to the song 'Let's call the whole thing off.' Whether pronouncing the fruit as tomato or tomahto, nobody would ever suggest 'calling off' nature's sweetest summertime harvest.
Holly Roberts Walker and her husband Eric have a fantastic backyard garden called 'Urban Gardenology' nestled in the sleepy, little town of Paducah, KY. In the garden there are 184 tomato plants with 23 new varieties planted this year; that's a whole lot of sweetness being cultivated from this backyard blessing. Holly's famous tomato taster, Eric, shares his talents with those interested in choosing tomato seeds for next year's garden from the overwhelming selection of products on the internet.
In addition to testing, Holly has supplied the readers of WKY Community Living with her famous salsa recipe and 'best picks' seed companies.
The Marglobe tomato is a determinate (meaning they are bred to stop growing usually around 3 - 4' tall). These heirloom tomatoes were created a century ago and are designed to be crack and disease resistant. This variety is a favorite among home gardeners and one of the best on the market. "It's thick-skinned and an amazing slicer...a 10!," said Eric.
The White Tomesol is a pale yellow-white fruit with a blush of pink. It's an heirloom tomato that is fragrant and bursting with flavor. It's an 80 day tomato that is indeterminate (meaning they could grow between 6 - 20' tall and produce fruit until the first hard frost). It's sweet and good to eat!
The Mountain Gold is an 80 day determinate that yield 8 to 12 ounce golden yellow tomatoes. It's disease resistant and grows well in the south. The tomato was released in 1991 by a horticulturalist in North Carolina. "It's very flavorful and clean tasting. A bit heavy on the pulp," said Eric.
The Green Zebra is chartreuse in color with deep lime-green stripes and determining when it's ready for pickin' can be tricky. For starters, feel the tomato for firmness with some give, look to see if the lime-green stripes have turned yellow, and watch for the yellow stripes to begin to show a blush color. "It's light, refreshing, with an apple consistency," said Eric.
The Black from Tula is a beautiful tomato and a good slicer. It's been described as 'mealy' with soft flesh. Eric said it wasn't as flavorful as some of the other varieties.
Brad's Atomic Grape are indeterminate elongated multi-colored cherries that grow in clusters. The interior is green with a blushed red when extra ripe. The heirloom tomato is rugged with a high productivity. Eric said that it's crunchy, firm-skinned, and middle of the road in terms of flavor.
The Evil Olive average 75 days to maturity and is one of the most gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. It's a very productive, non-determinate, cherry tomato that's good for salsa, snacking, and salads. "It's meaty, (not mealy), sweet-sour, perfect for hamburger slicers," said Eric.
The Violet Jasper are a pretty violet purple fruit and known for its jewel-like glow. They average around one to three ounces and are high producers. Eric said it's 'big flavor' for a cocktail size tomato. It will be on Holly's 2022 grow list!
The Bosque Blue Bumblebee is a bright yellow with dark-blue marbling. They develop the dark-blue coloring as they continue to grow. The more the sun shines, the deeper the color. It's tart in flavor.
Of course, this is only a small sample of the selection of heirloom tomatoes from Urban Gardenology. As far as seed companies go, Holly said, " I have between 80 and 100 seed companies I use to search and find specific seeds I want." Her top 10 companies are: Baker Creek, M I Gardener, Botanical Interests, Trade Winds Fruit, Urban Farmer, Johnny’s Seeds, Fruition Seeds, Seed Exchange , Renaissance Farm, and Annie’s Heirloom.
Holly went on to say, "It also depends on what seeds I am searching for at the time. Some companies are wild plant based, some are Heirloom fruits and veggies, some are focused on developing new species and some deal in large bulk (for farms). I have specific herb-based companies...it really depends!"
Holly's Salsa Recipe:
7 lbs. tomatoes (cored and quartered)
10 total jalapeños and nadapenos (slice in half and roast. For mild sauce use 3 jalapeños and 7 nadapenos. For a hotter sauce, use half and half).
Two onions quartered
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2 bunches cilantro
Fresh lemon/lime juice (either will work)
Roast tomatoes, onions, garlic cloves, and jalapenos/nadapenos for 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours at 300°. Char/blacken to desired amount. Ninja all roasted items. Add leaves of cilantro and juice of one lemon or lime. Mix thoroughly. Yields three pint-size canning jars. Use immediately.