I have always read that heirloom tomatoes are difficult to grow and often lead to failure, but my experience has been different. Granted, they tend to be indeterminate varieties, so the vines can be difficult to support, and they don’t seem to make quite as many fruit per plant as the hybrids do, but the flavor difference is worth the space in the garden to me. I always plant Brandywines, if no others, and this year, I tried something new.
Last summer a little tomato plant sprouted out of the bottom of one of the compost bins, and I let it go until it turned into the Tomato Plant that Ate Virginia. It was a gold variety, and I must have pulled ten kilos of ripe tomatoes off the plant before the first frost took out dozens of green ones, still clinging to the vine. Everyone else had zucchini coming out of their ears, but I had boatloads of yellow tomatoes. This year I decided I would put a few heirloom plants in the same area along the fence where I have kept my compost bins for over a decade and the volunteer tomato did so well. (Sharp eyes will spot the catbird laughing at my rubber snake, a feeble attempt to scare off the tomato eaters.)
I always plant these guys as deeply as I can to avoid splitting, but the deluges of recent years make water availability uneven enough that it doesn’t seem avoidable, even in the couple of hybrid “improved” plants I always put out. Fingers crossed I don’t get any kind of diseases in this spot. I’ll want to use it for the tomatoes from now on.
I got so many Brandywines and Hillbillies that I roasted them by the sheet pan-full for freezing. I can’t say I ever thought I’d have a gallon of roasted heirloom tomatoes in the freezer. I’ll pull them out and make some soup when the snow is flying in February and it might just feel like summer again for a moment or two.