The Cranky Gardener

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Hot Tomatoes1

Just when you thought it was safe to read The Post again, the Cranky Goddess is back.

It's nearly spring. In 6 weeks I'll be planting tomatoes in my veggie patch. Provided, that is, I can decide which tomatoes to grow this year. Horticulturists keep cranking out new varieties year after year. There must be 10,000 varieties of tomatoes on the market. Enough already.

Here's my normal routine. I go through seed catalogues and select a couple of new varieties every year. The descriptions are so incredible I don't have a choice in the matter. The catalogue numbers fairly leap off of the page and onto my order sheets. Tomato seeds will stay viable for 6 or 7 years, so I start two or three plants from a packet and then save the rest - just in case the variety turns out to be as amazing as advertised. Which it never does.

I currently have enough tomato seeds to plant a truck garden. Why, oh why, am I even looking at tomatoes in the catalogues? The answer is simple. I can't help myself. 'Hello, Post readers. My name is Hypatia and I'm a seedaholic.'

There are four varieties of tomatoes I plant every year. That's the easy part. Even if none of my experiments turn out to be satisfactory, I'll have tomatoes. Good old tried and true varieties that always come through for me and are available practically everywhere. I plant Early Girl so I'll be sure and have tasty, ripe tomatoes for the Fourth of July. For a main season crop I plant Burpee's Big Boy. For a canning tomato, I always select Rutgers, as did my mother and my grandfather and my great grandfather. And for a late tomato I choose Brandywine which is, in my opinion, the best tasting tomato you can grow.

Over my gardening career I estimate I have grown at least 100 different varieties of tomato plants. And at the end of each growing season I promise myself that I'll get off of the tomato merry-go-round and just plant my four favourites the following year and be done with it. Then the seed catalogues show up in my mailbox and I'm off yet again on the hunt for the perfect garden tomato.

There was a tomato I wanted to try last year but didn't due to Mr Cranky's illness. Naturally it is at the top of this year's list. It is called Brandy Boy and is available from Brandy Boy is an indeterminate tomato, which means that once it begins bearing it will keep blooming and setting fruit until killed by frost. Listen to this...

'The best all-around eating tomato we've bred in over 50 years.'

The Burpee folks took Brandywine and increased the yield by four or five times and knocked 10 days off of the maturation rate. How could anyone not want to try this tomato? Perhaps I can retire Brandywine. You can order both seed and garden-ready plants.

Okay. That's one. That means I have 35 seed catalogues to go through to select another variety. Or, since Brandy Boy is technically last year's pick, I could always give myself two more choices. (Did I mention that cherry or grape tomatoes don't count as they go in the salad bed?)

There is an interesting choice called Striped Roman available at
This tomato is shaped like a Roma tomato and has orange stripes running down the length of the fruit. They're very pretty. They are said to be thick and meaty with a rich flavour. Tempting. Tempting. What appears to be the same tomato with a slightly different name, Speckled Roman, is available at Totally

Totally Tomatoes also has an interesting Italian, Marmande-type tomato called Tomande. This one is really calling my name. Heavy yields, ribbed shoulders, distinct flavour, meaty flesh. Then right below it is Manyel, said to be the best tasting yellow tomato on the market.

Cooks Garden has a new paste tomato called Big Mama. Ooooooooooooh. It comes with a recipe for fire-roasted tomato sauce. It is described as gorgeous, enormous, sweet and meaty. You can find it at Cooks

Oh my God! Look at this! Cook's Garden has a special tomato assortment. One plant each of six varieties, including Brandy Boy and Big Mama. But, I've already tried three of the four remaining varieties and wasn't impressed. Bad idea, Hypatia. Keep looking.

I've always had good luck ordering from the Vermont Bean Seed Company. They have an English heirloom called Tigerella that ripens in only 65 days! Small fruits - that's perfect for a single person like myself - with a rich, tangy flavour and bright tiger stripes of red and yellow-orange. Plus they set hugh crops over a long season. WooHoo! This might be it. You can check it out at Vermont

As for the cherry tomato that doesn't count, I've found the perfect one to try this year at Park's Seeds. It is called Marcellino and I have to have it.

No other Tomato in the world can equal the staying power of this delectable Cherry!

It is reputed to hold for a full month after harvest. Not only that, but it stands up to summer heat and humidity. I have to grow this tomato. You can find it at

I'm off to order tomato seed and plants. But before I go, I'll leave you with a recipe for a delicious tomato soup that you can make with canned tomatoes - meaning you don't have to wait for your home-grown tomatoes to ripen. I use chicken stock, but the vegetarians in the house can use vegetable broth instead.

Mediterranean Tomato Soup


  • 2 cups - 16floz, 480ml - of chicken broth
  • 1 cup - 5oz, 150g - chopped onion
  • ½ cup - 2oz, 50g - chopped celery
  • ½ cup - 3oz, 85g - chopped bell pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 4 cups - 2lb, 1.1kg - of canned stewed tomatoes with juice
  • 1x6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs (basil, oregano, parsley)
  • 2 cups - 16floz, 480ml - light cream2

In a large saucepot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and herbs. Bring the mixture to a boil . Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Take a fork and mash the vegetables in the pot slightly. Add the cream and heat through but do not boil.

The Cranky Gardener


24.03.05 Front Page

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1Plant names capitalised for clarity.2Single Cream in the UK

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