Stop Me Before I Plant Again

By April 5, 2012 My Garden 10 Comments

I have GOT to stop going to the farmer’s market. There are too many heirloom tomato plants.

Today I wound up with a Cherokee Purple (a legendarily delicious tomato!) and a thing called Black Elephant. “It’s ugly,” the nice young woman selling them said. “It’s like the Elephant Man of tomatoes,” said the nice young man with her.

“That’s fine,” I said. “My tomatoes are always ugly anyway, so now there’s an excuse.”

Really, though, how can I possibly resist a legendarily ugly tomato? It’s early, it’s delicious, it’s huge, and apparently it is hideous and cracked and lumpy and warped, even for an heirloom tomato, which are frequently a somewhat mutant breed. Being me, how could I not bring home and love the world’s ugliest tomato?

Unfortunately, this also leaves our tomato total at one Cherokee Purple, one Homestead, one Black Elephant and three Pink Brandywines.


“But Ursula,” you say, “last year you had ONE Black Prince and ONE Pink Brandywine, and you were overwhelmed with tomatoes. You couldn’t keep up.”

To which I say “LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU,” and also that Kevin has vowed up and down to eat a tomato a day for lunch if that’s what it takes, since he totally instigated. I would have stopped at four, but he insisted on the Cherokee Purple, and they were next to the Black Elephant, which, as we have established, I could not hope to resist. We will have capreze until the end of the world.

He has also promised to learn to make tomato sauce and freeze it, which would be awesome if any of these were actually sauce tomatoes, but they’re actually all slicers. So, um. Salsa? Can you make salsa with a slicing tomato? Does salsa freeze well?

Anyway, Cherokee Purple are notoriously wimpy tomatoes, so it may die outright, and the Black Elephant is not all that productive (you can only produce so many gigantic fruits) and it’ll probably be a hot summer which slows down fruit set and oh god I’m gonna die in a hail of uneaten tomatoes.


  • Natalie says:

    Last year I stumbled across one called “Cosmonaut Volkov”. How could I not get a tomato that was named after an cosmonaut? I mean, it’s like having a tomato from space. A SPACE TOMATO! SPAAAAACE!

    Sorry… it was very exciting though.

    Good luck with all the tomatoes.

  • kat says:

    You can sauce a slicing tomato. They don’t hold flavor quite as well but it will work. 🙂

    Tomatoes don’t, in my experience, freeze particularly well; they are much better canned, if you’re willing to go to the bother of canning (which isn’t *too* bad, IMHO, but certainly more involved than freezing.) Salsa is a good plan. You can also, yanno, make your own ketchup — I didn’t know what Heinz was until I went to college, and was pretty appalled that it had the balls to put itself out there as a tomato product.

    I also recommend that most Southern of dishes, the fried green tomato, designed for exactly the OH GOD THEY JUST KEEP COMING situation you’re setting yourself up for. My family likes ’em doused through an egg spiked with tabasco and then dredged in cornmeal. Where by “likes” I mean “it’s a wonder we had any red tomatoes at all really”. Also, green tomato mincemeat is much tastier than it sounds.

    I can offer book recommendations and/or recipes if you find yourself in dire straits. 😀

  • Ari says:

    If you roast the tomatoes on the grill or in the oven before saucing them, it will lend the tomatoes more flavor.

    And tomato sauce is super easy. it’s just long hours of simmering. If you can do it outside, it makes the summer sauce-making more bearable.

    Also, In my experience, the Cherokee purples are happy in the North Texas climate, so they might not like yours as much and be slightly less productive?

  • Andi says:

    This is not a bad thing. Too many tomatoes, gifts for all the friends, family, neighbors, those people like me that live with 2 non tomato eaters, who would love to be doing what you are doing. I wish I could help you with the tomato overload. Just finished Nurk, so happy. Is there a sequel?
    My daughter and I are now collecting the Dragonbreath series. Thank you for the art and the stories, I am happier because of it.

  • Lin Ellis says:

    Speaking as someone who lives in Alberta and a majorly anti tomatoe climate quit telling me you have too many tomatoes that ACTUALLY TASTE LIKE TOMATOES and not the red plastic you get in the grocery store. Just be glad you can grow them at all. I am trying pink potatoes this year and are hoping these will give me something fun and unusual.

  • Rhianimator says:

    My father once built a lovely hothouse and to for it’s first season he lovingly raised 40 tomato plants from seed in it in january. Most of them he was planning on giving to his co-workers, who, unfortunately, couldn’t be bothered to come pick up free, perfectly hardened off tomato plants.
    This made him sad. He’d raised them from a seed, he couldn’t bare to throw them out.

    So he plowed up two 8″ wide strips of the front field and planted them all. 40 plants divided evenly between beefsteak, Best boy, and early girl. This was before the whole heirloom tomato thing. Dread set in.

    Then the worst hailstorm ever to hit Red Bluff, California pounded them flat. In June. There was rejoicing at the thought of having a reasonable amount of tomatoes.

    It was not to be. They recovered. All of them. And then set fruit in a mad “OMG we have to reproduce before we all die” desperation. Until late October.

    We were pulling three 5 gallon buckets out of that tomato patch every other day.

    Tomato sauce, green tomato pickles, catsup, frozen tomatoes, canned tomatoes, canned salsa, dehydrated tomatoes.

    Good thing I love tomatoes, or I’d have been traumatized for life.

    By the way, the trick to making sauce or catsup with non-sauce tomatoes is to blanch the skins off, freeze them, thaw them, and pour off the excess water. Big timesaver.

  • Eric Shupps says:

    Awesome post. Very helpful. Thanks for the info.

  • Tom West says:

    Caning is preferable to freezing, but its more effort. Also, I find that non-sauce tomatoes tend to either more water (and thus the sauce requires extra reducing time) or less flavour after cooking. Personally, if I’m doing a tomato-based curry sauce, I don’t want it to taste overly of tomato.. and sometimes I like my pasta sauce to taste of other stuff anyway!

  • Fantastic post. Very helpful. Thanks for the info.

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