Tag Archives: Early Girl tomato

red, red tomatoes

I’ve been waiting impatiently for my plant of the Early Girl tomato to bear fruit, and Saturday turned out to be the day. There were five in total, smallish, but a beautiful red color, with just a flash of green on their shoulders. (Greg on Cape Cod also commented that this reputed early bearer was taking its time for him as well.)

Early Girl and Mr. Stripey tomatoesHere’s the loot from the Saturday: the first Early Girls, as well as some Mr. Stripeys.

Black bean salad with fresh tomatoesThey made for a tasty, quick black bean salad for lunch. But they really came into their own sliced up with some Mozzarella di Bufala Campana (a.k.a. buffalo mozzarella), olive oil, basil, pepper and a smidge of salt–your basic caprese salad.

Simple, uncomplicated foods, fresh and delicious from the back yard. Summer doesn’t get much better than this! If only I had some water buffalos to make my own fresh cheese…

mistaken identity?

Summer in my garden began officially on Wednesday, June 25 at approximately 6:35 p.m., when I held in my hands the first ripe tomato of the season. Here’s a shot of the fourth tomato, from yesterday. Seems like a couple of large two-legged mammals invaded the garden and ate the first three…

My Mr. StripeyI’ve said a couple unkind words against the mounstrously vigorous Mr. Stripey, but that’s the variety that bore first this year. The fruits so far have been small, about three ounces, sweet and extremely mild, with a very thin skin. The color is a rich, medium yellow, with dark rosy-red flushing to the fruits both inside and out. So far they don’t gush classic tomato flavor, but they’re still the best tomatoes I’ve had since last autumn’s farmer’s markets.

The fact that this is the first variety to bear this year confuses me a bit. Mr. Stripey is usually listed as being a large, beefsteak, late-season tomato, bearing 80-85 days after being set out. Some sources mention that the variety often sold as Mr. Stripey is actually the smaller-fruited Tigerella, and several sites list their plants with both names. How unhelpful is that? If I can judge by photos of both varieties, mine looks much closer to the true Mr. Stripey, even though the fruit is small. What do you think?

A couple Mr. Stripey images on the web:
Mr Stripey
[ source ] [ source ]
Versus a couple Tigerella images on the web:
Tigerella Tigerella
[ source ] [ source ]

Most sources list Tigerella as also being a late-bearing variety, so mistaken identity would have had little to do with my seeing the fruits towards the start of tomato season.

The thing that confuses me most about the identity of the tomatoes in the garden is the fact that Mr. Stripey sits about four feet away in the bed from the hybrid Early Girl. I planted the hybrid on the same day as Mr. Stripey, mainly to get some early tomatoes and to get a head start on summer. The Early Girl label says it should bear 50 days from being set out, and that’s been a reasonable estimate based on my past experience growing it. This season, even though Early Girl has a half dozen fairly nicely-sized fruits on its branches, they’re all still as green as the leaves. Fifty days from being set out? Not even close.

So, instead of concluding that Mr. Stripey came with the wrong label, I’m starting to wonder if I don’t have an impostor trying to pass as Early Girl. Maybe some disgruntled Home Depot employee switched the tags? Or their supplier decided a red tomato is a red tomato and no one’s going to know the difference? This wouldn’t be the first time I got something other than what the label said.

Even though there’s a certain amount of variation from plant to plant–it’s probably a little unfair to evaluate an entire tomato variety with just one plant–I doubt that the variation would explain the differences I’ve seen. Time for CSI San Diego. Time for some backyard DNA testing…

All that said, I guess I’ve made a strong case for buying seed from a reputable grower–and then carefully labeling the seedlings!

attack of the killer tomatoes

I mentioned coming back from vacation and almost immediately going after one of the tomato plants that had taken over its spot in the new ornamental bed.

My killer tomatoes

Just one week later and it seems like I’m continuing to relive scenes from that 1970s schlockbuster, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. (It was a movie so awful you had to love it, and it had the added bonus of being filmed right here, in San Diego, much of it in Mission Valley, not more than 3-4 miles from my house. Imagine a horror flick where the evil elements are little tomatoes that jump up and go after the jugular of the person preparing to put them in his salad. Lots of tomato juice was spilled in that flick but all in the name of a ridiculous plot line. Unfortunately, all that seems a little sickly prescient these days when people are being advised against eating tomatoes for fear of salmonella poisoning…)

My tomato problem began with two plants from the garden center, the heirloom Mr. Stripey, show in the back of the photo, and the ubiquitous modern hybrid Early Girl, which is shown in the front, a week after I’d already chopped a third of the plant. Both are indeterminate vines, which means they keep growing and growing throughout their short life spans. The good consequence of that is that they continue to bear fruit for months. The bad is that they can grow out of control–I measured Mr. Stripey and he’s already eight feet across and four high, and this at the start of only June! There are tomato cages in that picture, but can you seem them?

One lesson learned out of all this is that tomatoes can respond to too much water by growing like crazy, while not necessarily producing any more fruit. These two monsters were planted in the “guilty pleasure” flower bed, where some higher water-use tropical necessitate watering more frequently than I would in a vegetable garden. You can restrict size of the plants somewhat by reducing the watering–or by pruning shears.

A couple months ago I’d written about saving seeds from Cherokee Purple, that ugliest and most tasty of tomato varieties. Those transplants so far are a lot better behaved. The one below is only about fourteen inches tall and two feet across, and it’s been blooming for three weeks–But then again small and well behaved is how the killer pair in the ornamental bed started. At least Cherokee Purple has a reputation for balancing plant size with productivity and high fruit quality.

Cherokee Purple tomato plant

If the plants don’t overrun the garden this should be a banner tomato year, and I’m already getting ready to whip up salsa, caprese salads and plates of fresh tomatoes dressed lightly with basil and olive oil and a little salt. In the meantime I’ll be standing guard with the shears.