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One tomato, two tomatoes



In a burst of optimism and positivity I’m doubling our tomato plantings from nine plants to eighteen this year. Last year only four produced at all, given our sad lack of summer and other weather prevarications, and we only ended up with a counterful of fruit, dashing hopes of tomato sauces and salsas.  But lessons were learned (namely Calgary weather sucks), and this year I started eighteen seedlings all to myself. Not to be outdone, my significant other decided that he has superior skillz in tomato raising. He thinks he can get twice the harvest for half the work. He feels that I spend way too much effort on these guys what with all the planting, lights management, kelp fertilizing and hovering that I did. He is convinced that all HE has to do is stick them into pots on the deck and leave ‘em alone. To this I say, bring it on. I’ll pit my maxi-kaps and feeding techniques against his pots any day. So he started several plants of his own. This year if the (weather cooperates) we’ll either be drowning in tomatoes or buying a greenhouse.


But I’m trying all sorts of varieties this year, from the faves of last year – Ildi, Valencia and Carbon to maters I’ve never heard of – Ardwyna, Slava and Silvery Fir. Below is what I’ve started this year, from small to large with a hybrid thrown in for comparison. I want to know if the superior yields of a hybrid tomato can be pitted against the best of heirloom taste. All descriptions are from the sites that sell them. Photos are from all over the place. (Actually it’s hard to believe but there are very few photos of some of these, often just one! So if I take photos as they grow I’ll be doing a valuable public service. Yeah.)  If you’ve grown any of these before, let me know how they were – cause I’m seduced by all of them.




Tiny lemon-yellow and lemon-shaped, zesty tomato on 1-2 ft vines. Produces hundreds on a plant. Great for containers. Early. Grow outside.

German Lunchbox Cherry

Photo by Cpt. Obvious

Deep pink colour, oval shape. Semi-determinate plants produce well and start to ripen early. Exotic rich flavour, starts out acid, then sweet. Grows well in the greenhouse and keeps for weeks once picked. Rated 10 for flavour. Rare.


Photo by

This interesting variety has an absolutely unique tropical taste when it is orange – not quite red and not quite gold. Rich and fruity tomatoes droop in long trusses on vigorous vines that keep on producing all summer. A must for garden snacks. Resistant to Fusarium wilt race 1 and Fusarium wilt race 2. This variety requires more heat and time to mature completely.
Vine (indeterminate), Matures in 65 days. (hybrid seeds)



Russian Red

Photo by

First to ripen in a very cool season, of the larger varieties. The fruit has broad shoulders and pointed bottoms. Semi determinated plants give decent full season production. Texture is meaty, nice acid/sweet rich flavour, great slicing tomato that keeps well on the vine and once picked. Rated 10 for flavour. Rare heirloom


Photo by

From the Czech Republic. Name means “glory” and it is a glorious one. Blight resistant.

Silvery Fir

Photo by

Bright red small fruit, famous for its very unique dense carrot-like foliage. Determinate plants produce very well and early. 2-3 feet. Texture is moist, skins are tender, and tomatoes have a very strong, lingering flavour. Excellent sandwich tomato and a favourite for cheesemelts. Rated 10 for flavour. Russian heirloom.

Ardwyna Paste

Photo by

Long, fat and tapered. Good in large containers and greenhouse. Excellent flavour for sauce. Few seeds. Early and abundant production.


FULL SEASON: (the hardest to grow in Calgary, but man oh man – the payoff)


Photo by

This is a huge golden orange, almost round fruit, very solid and heavy. Has a meaty texture with a sweet flavour and a touch of acid. Excellent slicer. Rated 9 for flavour. Indeterminate.


Photo by

Taste test winner in 2007 and 2008! 8-12 ounce uniform tomatoes that ripen to dark red with blackish overtones. Deep red interior. Fruits are flattened round and smooth, without cracking or blemishing. Rich, sweet, complex flavour. Excellent for salads and sandwiches. Indeterminate.


Sudduth’s Brandywine – no photo

Grown by Sudduth family for nearly 100 years. Up to 2 pounds. Dusty rose. Unsurpassed acid but unique and complex flavour. Indeterminate.

Yellow Mortgage Lifter

Photo by

Bright yellow colour.Nice meaty texture and thin skins, with a rich, medium zesty flavour .An excellent producer on semi determinate vines.Always dependable, best grown outside.Rated 10 for flavour.

Big Beef – the dark horse for comparison

Photo by

Big Beef tomatoes are really big, 10-15cm (4-6″), unblemished tomatoes grow in record time on vigorous vines. Firm, meaty and wonderfully sweet with an acid balance that gives a rich taste that always wins at taste trials. AAS winner. Grows to 1 pound. Round to globe-shaped. Flavor is full and hearty with lots of sweet juice balanced with that wonderful tomato acidity. These giants slice up perfectly for big sandwiches. Fruit stays large even at the end of a long harvest season. Resistant to Fusarium wilt race 1; Fusarium wilt race 2; nematodes; Verticillium wilt; Tomato Mosaic virus. Big Beef requires more heat and time to mature completely.



Leave Ann Coulter alone!

I know, I’ll make a YouTube video!  Kidding.

Never did I think that those words would come out of my mouth, but there’s one of life’s surprises for ya. For the record, I can’t stand Ann Coulter, she’s too easy to make fun of on every level – from the superficial to the intellectual, except for there’s nothing intellectual about her, so never mind that. But really, she makes it too easy. And she’s already hated in the blogosphere with the hatred reserved for child molesters, so I won’t be joining their clamor.

But she’s recently been on a tour of Canada, starting in Ontario where she had to cancel an appearance due to ‘security concerns’, and now she’s enroute to my cold fair town of Calgary to give a speech tonight. If there was anyplace in Canada where she would not be tarred and feathered it would be in this bastion of conservatism, and even here she’s polarizing enough to prompt some pretty unflattering comparisons, an outcry on social media sites and a Facebook group dedicated to forming a human wall to prevent her from speaking. TO PREVENT HER FROM SPEAKING! People, this is ludicrous and contrary to the notion of free speech AND common sense.

A part of what constitutes adulthood is the ability to develop discernment and judgment and freedom to make one’s own decisions. To that end we are free to choose what concerts we attend, where we dine and who’s speeches we listen to. If someone wanted to ban a rock concert from coming to town because THEY didn’t agree with the lyrics, we’d be pretty pissed off and say stay home, right? Why would we not extend that courtesy to the people who want to listen to her speech tonight, whether out of curiosity or whatever. (And believe me, the irony of Ann Coulter speaking about free speech should make you laugh, not bother you. ) All I’m saying is that she’s entitled to her opinion, and we are entitled to either listen to it or not, agree with her or not. Nowhere does that include saying ‘you can’t come here and talk’.

All I’m saying is if you don’t want to see her speech – stay home. It’s hard to preach anything to an audience of one, and I’m sure most of her audience will be there either out of morbid curiosity with which we observe train wrecks, or to try and argue with her in person. But to deny her the right to speak – well people need to get over themselves. Until she takes her hate speech to the level of calling for direct action of causing someone harm, she’s entitled to her opinions, no matter how misguided or offensive. So all ya ‘protesters’ need to get over yourselves and your belief that your opinion overrides hers. Stay home. Don’t listen. And if you want something to really get worked up about, sit there and ponder why the government thinks it’s a better steward of your money than you are.

PS – Stay home – is not a ‘tactic’ that you need to exercise to make her go away. It is YOU exercising YOUR rights, without infringing on the rights and freedoms of others.

The world’s most expensive jam



Well, one of them anyhow.  I do believe recently, an English jam manufacturer broke that record with a truly expensive marmalade with whiskey and gold leaf and who knows what, but until that time the world’s most expensive jam happened to be Confiture Des Groseilles – or a currant jam with an impressive pedigree.

I first learned about it years ago, reading some long-forgotten magazine that ran a story on this jam, and I was enchanted by its pedigree – the 700 year jam making history, the insane prep process, the dignitary endorsement, and I vowed one day to try this culinary wonder.

A food site FXCuisine ran an excellent article on the jam, including an interview with the current maker – you can read it here, (with better photos), but I’d like to recap some highlights to peak your interest:  the currants are picked by virgins by the light of the new moon on the Friday of the holy cauldron and blessed by a Tibetan lama….. nah, I’m kidding, but that’s just shy of the actual effort that goes into the production of this masterpiece – the berries are gently trimmed with scissors, EACH SEED (6 to 20)  of the berry is plucked out BY HAND with a quill… okay I have to pause here and let this sink in. The effort to pick out tiny berry seeds out of tiny berries with a quill is so far removed from my understanding and approach to cooking that its boggling my mind. But it’s exactly this insane effort that made me want to try it. The jam is gently cooked in a copper cauldron using some secret methodology that ensures it will still be good 100 years from now, and the gentle liquid concoction is bottled and sold for about 40.00 for a 3oz bottle.



By some stroke of luck my father happened to spend a chunk of this winter working on a contract in Paris. Never one to miss an opportunity, I got him to ship me a jar as soon as it was expedient to do so, and one day a small jar of the precious jam appeared in my kitchen. I waited for the weekend so I could indulge properly – with a huge mug of café au lait and a sunny kitchen, and cracked it open.



The verdict: I’m glad I got to try it, but I was not struck by its transcendental beauty. My first impression was that of sugar, with not quite enough of the delicate currant taste to come through, something that the writer of FXCuisine noted also, by preferring the gooseberry version. My second impression was also of sugar. The notes of the berries were just not prominent enough to stand up to the sugar required for the jam. The texture was delicate and unique – a soft cloudy mass where you could almost but not quite feel the de-seeded berries on your tongue. I guess my palate is just not august enough to join that of Alfred Hitchcock, the Queen of France and other luminaries who have enjoyed it over the years. For my money I’ll take the Cloudberry jam from IKEA any day.