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The First Taste Test

FTT - header


Since I’m a first time gardener, and know next to nothing about tomato varieties, other than the fact that store bought ones taste like crap, one of the things I was very excited about is discovering what heirloom varieties of tomatoes taste like. If memory serves, I went to the Salt Spring Seeds website and browsed for a very long time, seduced by magical sounding descriptions. Then I sat down, composed myself, and ordered about five varieties of tomatoes.


Sometime late March I started the seeds, watched the miracle unfold as they grew and got tall and strong, and waited like a mother hen to take them outside. Then Mother Nature showed her capricious side by throwing down the worst summer I’ve ever seen in Calgary. And two of my tomato varieties got blossom end rot from a non-stop cold rain in June. And now, only now, the smallest of my tomatoes, two cherry varieties are seeing it fit to ripen. Did you know it’s September 21 today? And I started them in March? I don’t care who you are, that’s a mighty long time to wait for tomatoes. And the bulk of them are green… but that’s a post for another day.


Anyhow, I picked a couple of the ripe and ready cherries to see which one would be the winner for next year’s garden. (I guess I definitely have the gardening fever, although right now I’m so tired of baby-sitting plants non-stop for six months that I’m actually welcoming the long break.) The two contestants as pulled from Salt Spring’s website were:


Pearly Pink Cherry

Squat-shape. Very shiny skins. Semi-determinate plants. Massive producer. Meaty texture with a unique zesty flavor. Ideal for salad use. Rated 10. 75 days. (Ha ha ha ha ha! Whew.)

 FTT - Pearly Pink Cherry


Ildi Tomatoes

Tiny lemon-yellow and lemon-shaped, zesty tomato on 1-2 ft vines. Produces hundreds on a plant. Great for containers. Early. (A-ha ha ha ha ha!! Let me just wipe the tear from my eye…)

FTT - Ildi ready 

Since they’re both small tomatoes, I didn’t bother cutting them up, I just ate them. And ate them. And ate some more. These decisions are not to be made lightly you know. The pearly pink cherries were… plain. They tasted like really fresh, decent, local, store bought tomatoes. They were a bit on the bland side, they lacked personality or pizzazz. But Ildi’s on the other hand were awesome – they had that fantastic tomatoey flavor that makes growing tomatoes worthwhile. Juicy and sweet they were just great, and a clear winner of the two.

Neither plant yielded as much as promised, (and nowhere near as early), but it’s really not their fault. It was an incredibly awful summer for growing stuff, and I can only expect better results next year. I likely got three dozen Pearly Pink Cherries per plant, and while I did get clusters of Ildi’s, they contained more like 10-15 tomatoes per cluster, not 50 as some sites reported. And both plants are ready to keep going they really are, but unfortunately the weather is not on their side. We’re currently getting frost warnings now, and it’s a matter of days not weeks before the season is done for good.

FTT - Ildi's on the vine








Edited Sept 24/09 – You know what? I take back what I said about Pearly Pink Cherries.  I must have had a couple that weren’t that ripe, but now that I’ve eaten a few handfuls, I can confidently say they are very good. Perhaps they lack a hint of the complexity that makes Ildi special, but I would NOT kick them out of bed for eating crackers. So I will happily plant them again – they’ve been my lunch staple the last few days and I’m converted.



Drumroll please!


The longest wait in the world is finally over!


The tomatoes are starting to ripen!!!


At first it was just the cherries:

 Drumroll - cherries 1

Drumroll - cherries 2

Drumroll - cherries 3


And now it’s even the big guns:

 Drumroll - big gun


I don’t think I can convey just how thrilled I am. I am prouder than a mother hen, given how just long this has taken. Seriously, these tomatoes have a world record for a delayed harvest. I started my seedlings on a cold winter day which is indelibly marked in my mind – March 22.  (Next year January?) Then I had to wait and wait and wait and wait, and April, May, June, July AND August rolled by. I was wondering if I got some sort of developmentally challenged tomatoes, and with deep envy I read all the posts of abundant harvests in the blogosphere.


But it looks like a warm September is giving them a bit of a chance, and they are finally, FINALLY almost ready for harvest. I know this season has sucked across the continent, with battles of drought, excess rain, late spring, late blight and clearly late growth, and I’m not getting a bumper crop by any stretch, but the thrill of seeing these babies ripen on the wine makes up for all the worrying and waiting.


Taste tests coming up!