2016-01-21 / From The Garden

New Tomatoes for 2016

By Cynthia Gibson

Indigo Indigo Tomatoes are among the most versatile vegetables of summer, and the time to start planning for them is now.

Who does not look forward to a homegrown tomato? This year’s selection of heirlooms and new varieties is amazing. Not only that, they are really getting exotic. The new Indigo series is spectacular, and comes in a range of sizes. Not only are they delicious, they are beautiful: bright red and splashed with a deep indigo-blue. They will remind you of Matisse. They have just the right amount of acidity mixed with sugar and have that special homegrown flavor.

It takes eight weeks to start a tomato plant from seed, so if you know the seeds you want, this is the time to order. Indoor planting should be done about the last two weeks of February to get a leg up on the growing season next summer. Place seedlings in a southern exposure. If they begin to get leggy, consider adding grow lights. When planting, use only one seed per four-inch pot, which will later avoid the need of separating seedlings and having to break them apart by hand. Also use bamboo stakes (16-inch), which will help keep the growing plants straight. Tie them with a small piece of raffia. Nurseries and home stores are featuring peat pots, potting soil, and grow lights this month. Just add water.

Cuor di bue or bull’s heart Cuor di bue or bull’s heart While local nurseries carry many varieties of tomato plants, they simply cannot grow every new variety. If you order the tomato seeds from a catalog, a nursery just might grow the seeds for you and keep a number of plants for themselves. (It is best to assure the grower that you will not be the only person buying the seeds.)

Heart-shaped tomatoes are becoming popular in farmer’s markets. Cuor di Bue, or Bull’s Heart, is a favorite, huge in size with a taste to match. This heart-shaped beauty is a monster of a tomato and when sliced and arranged, looks like a Valentine’s Day surprise! The seeds are originally from Italy and France, and are picked in September.

German red strawberry German red strawberry In addition to the red-pink Cuor di Bue, other heart-shaped tomatoes topping my list are the German Red Strawberry (bright red), Hog’s Heart (elongated-pink), and Homer Fike’s yellow oxheart.

Green tomatoes are so elegant. Green Zebra is a favorite of renowned chef, restaurateur and food activist Alice Waters, who reinvented the salad and introduced “green” cuisine and microgreens. The Green Zebra seed is available as the original two-inch tomato or in the larger Green Zebra Rita. They are sweet, and look like lime Jell-O when sliced. They are also attractive by themselves on a plate. The larger Grandma’s Green is delicious as well. One of the more unusual green tomatoes is Big Zebra, which has red and green stripes. Sometimes nature tosses in a hint of yellow.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. After the first snowflakes appeared on the ground earlier this week, aren’t you looking forward to your first spring cookout?

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