The Extreme Gardener

Experiments in permaculture and
other gardening adventures in northeastern Vermont

Archive for November, 2008

Another tomato for winter storage

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

This past season we tried Ruby Treasure, another winner from Peters Seed and Research.

Now, if you’ve read many of my posts, it may seem like I’m in the business of promoting Peters Seeds, so a disclaimer is in order. I have no affiliation with Peter’s except that I’m an unabashed fan of their breeding work. What can I say – some people idolize rock stars, I idolize plant breeders.

Ruby Treasure tomato

Anyway, this tomato is for short term storage, 2-3 months. They were picked in September. We still have a few left, and they look like they would probably at least make it to Winter Solstice, except that we will eat them all up very soon because they are too hard to resist, even in the name of scientific inquiry.

The culinary quality is way superior to Golden Treasure, but of course, this one won’t last through the winter like GT. Both of these storage tomatoes suffered severe damage from disease this past season, which was abominably wet, the worst I’ve ever seen. It didn’t help that I mostly don’t stake tomatoes, and leave them sprawling on the raised beds. Usually I get away with it, but I’m sorry to say our harvest this year of both storage tomatoe varieties was pathetically small.

There’s always next year, and we’ll definitely be growing both of these Treasures, and maybe another storage variety or two to trial. I can’t say enough good things about storage (aka keeper) tomatoes for cold climates. Talk about a tiny carbon footprint – all you have to do is pick them carefully into a shallow box and stash them in a cool place out of direct sunlight, then put a few at a time on a sunny window sill a couple of days before you plan to eat them. No greenhouse, no canning jars, no stove, no freezer nor fridge burning up kilowatts – and very few ergs of energy required from me to prep them and keep them in storage.

Through the long cold months, there’s something about a side of fresh tomato with homegrown sprouts (alfalfa, kale, whatever) that keeps the winter larder satisfying to the palate.

Two sibling potatoes from seed

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

In 1994, I grew out some true seed taken from Blue Shetland potatoes in our garden. Of the 24 seedlings, we selected six to grow a second season, and of those six, we have kept two over the years.

The Blue Shetlands, the parent, came originally from Will Bonsal in Maine via the Seed Saver’s Exchange, and have dark violet skin, yellow flesh, and a tendency to have a violet ring. Seed was collected from the plants in 1987. Blue Shetlands have some of what I call “primitive” potato characteristics, compared to the modern potato varieties most people grow. The more primitive potatoes tend to have smaller tubers, the leaves are a bit smaller in proportion to the stalks, and eyes deeper. They also may send the tubers out through the soil further away from the above ground part of the plant, so finding them all can be a challenge, especially the dark blue skinned types.

So, here’s our Purple Gold, a bit lighter and redder skinned than the parent’s dark violet, but the same yellow flesh, and tendency to have a purple ring.

Purple Gold potatoesPurple Gold potato foliage

…and Rose Gold, a reddish version. I love the rose star in the flesh. They both have that rich yellow-flesh potato flavor – our favorite for skillet fries and potato salad.

Rose Gold potatoesRose Gold potato foliage

If you do grow potatoes from true seed, when you judge the offspring, first look for culinary characteristics that you like, even if the tubers are smaller than you want. It can take a few seasons of growing out for a potato variety to really show its full potential for tuber size and yield.