Friday, September 25, 2009
In love with a tomato
Last March, I blogged about what I planned to grow in this year's garden and how I sent away for free heirloom tomato seeds from Wintersown.org. I had never grown heirloom tomatoes before and was excited about giving it a try.
At the time, a few people warned me that growing heirloom tomatoes could be quite challenging, due to their temperamental nature and inclination toward disease, but as it turned out, I've been fortunate and have had an extremely successful heirloom tomato season this year. I have been able to grow varieties called Lancaster Pink, Roma Paste, Tumbling Tom, Egg Yolk Cherry, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Red Brandywine, San Marzano and Starpit Imperial ...but the winner of the most flavorful (and most interesting) heirloom tomato -and my new personal favorite- in my garden this year is...
This is an East German heirloom variety whose name means "giant bunch of grapes" and this is pretty much what they look like when they're growing on the vine. They grow in bunches of 20 to 35 per cluster:
...and the small, semi heart-shaped, red fruit have the cutest little pointed ends:
Heritage Harvest Seed gives this historical snippet on the Riesentraube on their website that I think is fascinating:
"This heirloom from Germany was introduced in the United States in 1993. The seed was obtained from the seed bank at Gatersleben and then brought back to the States. Today, it is one of the most popular heirloom cherry varieties grown, a real success story. Historically, this tomato was used in winemaking, which made a wine similar to dry sherry. Today, it is most often used as a salad tomato. The vines are covered with clusters of 1" oval red fruit hanging like grapes in clusters. The small oval fruit have a distinctive pointed tip on the blossom. The name Reisentraube is German for "giant bunch of grapes." The vines are also some of the tallest that I have grown, growing over 8 ft tall by August. I actually had trouble harvesting the top bunches because of the height. Extremely productive and highly recommended. Vigorous indeterminate, regular-leaf foliage."
These beautiful tomatoes are firm, very sweet, and not too wet or pulpy inside (I hate wet and pulpy). See these?:
I've enjoyed these sweet-tasting little 'maters so much that these are going to be my seeds for next year. For the first time, I'm going to try saving my own seeds - mostly because I want to make sure I have access to this variety again next year.
I felt like a doctor performing surgery when I cut into one to extract the seeds:
I squeezed the seeds and a bit of the pulp into a wide-mouthed mason jar and added a bit of water:
Then I covered it with a bit of cheesecloth to keep dirt and such out but to let air and beneficial bacteria in:
In a week or so, when the membrane surrounding the seeds has rotted away, I'll drain the water, rinse the seeds, and spread them out on a paper towel to dry. When they're dry, I'll simply roll up the paper towel and store in a jar until next year. When it comes time to plant, I'll just rip off a seed attached to a bit of towel and plant the whole thing. I got this idea from El over at Fast Grow the Weeds.
If all goes well, I should have plenty of seeds for next year:
And let me know if you'd like any, I'd be happy to share. :-):