Potentially shaping up as one for the record books — and not in a good way — the 2009 tomato season is upon us. Here, the season is just winding up, but already I’ve had my first few mouthfuls of flavor-packed, garden-fresh goodness.
Unfortunately, the first few mouthfuls may prove half the crop. While we’re not being hammered by the late blight that has been relentlessly claiming crops on the east coast, Mother Nature has not been our friend here either. The summer has been cool and in our region dry — even despite what seems like every third day rains.
My plants may be setting plenty of fruit, but their growth is stunted — the sad, apricot sized Golden Boys and grape sized Early Girls I harvested last week are not the exception, but the rule — and without the warmth of a good summer season they’re slow to ripen if they make it that far at all. Only time will tell.
Still, it’s unlikely my family will change our tomato eating ways. In sandwiches; sliced and salted; diced and tossed with onion, jalapeno and cilantro; drizzled with olive oil and tossed with mozzarella; as sauces over our favorite pastas and on top of pizza. There is no end to the ways in which we positively adore tomatoes. Even in the winter they are the base of our much loved vegetarian chili; our go-to snowy day soup, Manhattan Clam Chowder and the burst of flavor added to the top of our baked macaroni and cheese.
It’s no surprise then that with this year’s meek outlook on harvest I’m already plotting next year. Sure I’ll save some of my own seeds — two moldering jars already grace my kitchen counter, not everyone’s cup of tea I know — and the Amish Paste Tomatoes that are a sauce making staple in these parts will certainly have more than their fair share of dedicated land, but drooling over the heirloom seeds I dream of tucking into the rest of the beds and conspiring against the curve balls that Mother Nature has up her sleeve for 2010 take up the rest of my time.
In the past I can admit that my seed and plant buying endeavors have only in part been conducted with small, family owned businesses. An unfortunate side effect of my tendency towards both procrastination and impulse. Next year, my aim is for that to change. Much to my delight, I’ve found during my recent browsing that Etsy may just make that easier than I imagined. Their pages are filled with fellow gardeners’ seeds. And the Pineapple Bicolor Heirloom variety by mistiaggie pictured above will be just one of those I’m sure to select.
Do you have a favorite independently owned seed shop, on Etsy or otherwise? Or better yet, do you have an heirloom variety I must try? Leave your comments here to point me in the right direction and I’ll be sure to feature your recommendations in my future ramblings on gardening.