Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Heirloom Tomatoes Are Here!!

About a week ago, my husband, let's call him "Rex," (although, unlike his TV counterpart, well past the first season he is very much alive) lamented that we haven't planted heirloom tomatoes in a few years..."wonder where I might find some for next year." The answer, as always, is online (Laurel's Heirloom Tomato Plants). With Laurel's encouragement, I thought, "Why wait until next year? Let's have tomatoes in October!" So I printed out 39 pages of research and gave him the phone. Ignoring the research, Rex asked Laurel to choose six plants for him with the following criteria: "Zebra-like, orangey, pink to purple, and no red round varieties." Right now I'm unpacking the box and have discovered (in Laurel's words):

1) Green Zebra: (4.25) 75 days. Visually enchanting, abundantly productive, this 2-inch round fruit ripens to an enchanting amber gold with dark green zebra-like stripes over the amber background. Another wonderful variety from Tom Wagner, it is utterly gorgeous to behold, tangy and deeply sweet with lingering flavors, like fine wine. This exquisite tomato was chosen by chef extraordinaire, Alice Waters, for her restaurant, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. In my top 5.

Note from Bree: As Rex cannot help but adore Chez Panisse, he will be delighted with this selection.

2) Flammé: (4.25) (SS) 70 days. Very prolific and stunningly beautiful, Flammé is an unforgettable tomato. Intensely orange with a reddish blush on the blossom end, these flame-colored 2 ounce globes have a rich, tangy and exciting flavor that literally bursts in your mouth. Cut open to reveal a red interior, this fruit reminds me of a blood orange with its spectacular contrasting colors. Fruits of Flammé appear to glow on the vine against a backdrop of deep green foliage. Just marvelous.

3) Black Cherry: (4.25) (Ch) 65 days. A perfectly round cherry tomato with classic black tomato flavor, sweet, yet rich, smoky and complex. Fruit picks easily from the stem and is produced in abundance on vigorous, tall plants. These cherries are irresistibly delicious: look like a black cherry, taste like a cherry-- a unique addition to the color and flavor spectrum of cherry tomatoes for your garden, along with White Rabbit, Sungold, Green Grape, and Reisentraube, it makes an arresting display for any table. Just outstanding.

4) Anna Russian: (4.25) (E) 65 days. An exquisite heart-shaped deep pink to red, juicy, sweet creamy tomato. The fruit shape can be described as resembling an upside down Russian Orthodox Church spire; the shape is enchanting, just lovely. This plant has delicate, wistful, almost droopy foliage; don't let that fool you, it's easy to grow; a brave little plant resembling a little weeping willow. In my top 5, and the very first heirloom tomato I ever tasted many years ago when my mom brought me one from her garden. I swooned. Always among the first few I plant each year in a little tomato-love ceremony. Anna Russian bears very well during hot weather.

5) Probably Mr. Stripey/Tigerella (the little white tag was missing, but the some mysterious etchings resembling MR ST appeared on the box): Tigerella (4.25) 56-60 days. This wonderful old-time British heirloom tomato bears huge crops of small orange-red round 1 ½" to 2", 4 to 6 oz. fruits with fascinating yellow-orange vertical stripes. A European favorite, the fruits are surprisingly lively: tangy, richly flavored, very prolific, and one of the most beautiful tomatoes you'll ever see. (Sometimes called Mr. Stripey--Tigerella is the proper name)

6) Lemon Boy: (4.25) (H) 72 days. A perfect jewel. Lemon Boy is sunshine yellow, perfectly round , 8-10 oz. with a deep rich flavor, bright, smooth, juicy, luscious and very prolific. Slightly tangy, sweet with lingering overtones of citrus. Bountiful on the vine, easy to grow, an all around winner and my absolute favorite hybrid.

A little something for everyone: the heirloom tomato plants came with at least 12 rubber bands for inclusion in my friend Brent's rubberbandball that we keep around the office.