July 2013 Issue
Editor's Note: Crop Watch
For the last few years, I’ve been looking for the perfect tomato. Perfect for me, that is.
My ideal tomato is not huge, uniformly red or perfectly round, and the first word that comes to mind when describing its taste would not be “sweet.” I’m craving a tomato that is flavorful and acidic like — nostalgia alert — the ones I remember from my childhood.
Tomato growing was obligatory in the neighborhood where I grew up, and my dad planted enough to see us through a month or more of hamburger toppings and BLTs. He also liked a nice plate of tomatoes — solo, topped with a sprinkling of sugar. This confirms my recollection that those tomatoes were tangy. (Ironically, Dad also liked a little salt on his watermelon.)
After reading this month’s “We Say Tomato” (page 92) by Contributing Editor Jill Sell, I decided to take matters into my own not-very-green thumbs, and planted three heirloom seedlings in one of the few sunny spots in our back yard. (My husband devised a solution for our sun deficit: a “tomato trolley,” aka utility wagon, filled with tubs of “Better Boy” and other hybrids that can be moved around the yard to capture the rays.)
I panicked when, a week after planting my tomatoes (on May 19), their leaves looked weak and spotted. A friend who’s a master gardener diagnosed the plants as “stressed” by a few cold nights and assured me they would continue growing. Lesson No. 1: The experts aren’t kidding when they say to plant after Memorial Day in my “zone.”
So now the waiting begins. I’m hoping for warm, sunny days and cool late-summer evenings to ripen my Rutgers, Fireball and Indian Stripe varieties. I’m eagerly anticipating my first ripe tomato. But no matter how tangy it turns out to be, I will eat it sans sweetener.
To see some truly amazing tomatoes, visit the Ohio State Fair, July 24–Aug. 4, at the Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Columbus. Agricultural and gardening exhibits are mainstays, and the tomato competition is keen, to say the least. Last year’s blue ribbon went to a 2.7-pounder — that’s a lot of hamburger toppings!
Other competitions range from power lifting to baking to a spelling bee for third through eighth graders. Indeed, this year’s line-up has something for every age and interest.