Some Tomatoes are glamorous like Elizabeth Taylor--lush, perfect, refined. Brandywines are glamorous like Melina Mercouri or Anna Magnani. Though their flavor is extraordinary, they do not always form perfect circles when sliced. Sometimes the fruits are lumpy, contorted, or deeply cleft, and you end up cutting them into free form chunks. They are perfect tossed with bread in an Italian panzanella salad, where flavor is more important than form. Or in salsa. Or in sandwiches with lots of mayo. Or try this one: toss some chunks of brie in hot, drained pasta, then add oddly shaped pieces of Brandywine Tomatoes. Ah, summer.
Tomato Sowing Instructions
Days to Germination: 6-15 days
It’s best to raise Tomatoes as transplants. Sow Tomato seeds in sterile seed mix 6 to 8 weeks before the danger of frost has passed, water lightly and provide bottom heat. Grow seedlings at 60° to 75°F in a brightly lit, well-ventilated area. (Windowsills are not bright enough; the plant will get leggy and flop over.) Fertilize lightly as needed, increasing the pot size as needed. After the last spring frost, place outdoors for a week to harden off and to introduce to stronger sunlight. Prepare fertile Tomato beds in full sun with lots of compost and/or well-rotted manure. Transplant, burying seedlings deeper than initially grown, incorporating organic fertilizer under each transplant. Support with Tomato cages or tie plants loosely to rough wooden stakes, using soft cloth. Feed occasionally as needed. Keep Tomatoes well-watered by soaking the soil and not the leaves. Harvest when ripe!
Green Means Go
If you're wondering if your Tomato plants (or any annual crops) are getting the soil fertility they need, keep an eye on the "seed leaves". This is the first pair of leaves to emerge when a seed sprouts. They remain at the base of the stem as the plant grows. If the seed leaves stay healthy and green, you're doing something right with the soil in that row. If they are pale, yellow or withered, you need to prepare the soil more carefully next time you plant.
Deer Resistant Seed Varieties
Delicious, Voluptuous Heirloom Tomatoes
According to the theory of companion planting, Tomatoes and Basil benefit one another when grown in the same plot. Certainly, they cause each other no harm, for we have often interplanted the two in a row, especially when we're training Tomatoes vertically on strings. There's plenty of space in between them for bushy Basil plants. After all, they keep excellent company in the kitchen, whether you're serving fresh Tomatoes strewn with the pungent green Basil leaves or cooking both up into a luscious sauce for pasta. It's handy to be able to pick the two together. And who knows? Perhaps the Basil's strong scent repels insect pests that might otherwise prey on the Tomatoes.
The more water a vegetable contains, the more water you need to give it in dry, hot weather. Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Celery are especially thirsty. If you can, group them together and run a soaker hose through the patch.
Deer Resistant Seed Varieties
Cooking Tip: Variations on a Theme
At the height of Tomato season, platters appear on the table regularly, and we never seem to get tired of them. But it’s nice to vary the dressing. Sometimes it’s just a simple vinaigrette. Sometimes its a heavier balsamic vinegar dressing with olive oil and honey. Sliced red Onions are often part of the mix. Basil, either with the leaves whole or cut into ribbons, is a frequent player. And sometimes we make a pesto with our Lemon Basil and some good olive oil--maybe a little extra lemon as well, and some parmigiano cheese. It stays a brighter green than other pestos, and is wonderful spooned over the Tomato.