I’ve been trying to rush the season by working on a few garden projects, even before the beds have fully thawed. Ever optimistic that my Maine coon cat can change his stripes, I expected some help from Benjamin BadKitten this week.
In some businesses, employees carpool by picking up nearby colleagues on the way to the office. But here at my own garden enterprise, a simple pickup of my sole employee strained my back and made my knees creak. I had to haul my hefty chief garden staffer off the bed and all the way outside to the dirt. Soon after, I set him in the garden and painfully eased myself down beside him, he hightailed it, literally, back inside through the cat door.
After a couple of hours in the bitter chill, clearing the last of the rotted leaves off the flower beds, I felt a new respect for BBK’s pragmatic smarts, and I, too, headed for the warmth of our house. I nudged my favorite slacker off the armchair and settled in, with a mug of hot tea and a stack of garden catalogs, all earmarked to the tomato pages.
Last year I grew Bloody Butcher tomatoes for the first time and was impressed by their tasty flavor and steady production. Maybe they should have headlined my list for Rozen TomatoFest 2020, but I could never get past their horrific name. Every time I sliced one of the dark red BBs, I felt I should be humming the overture to “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” Recently I ordered the following tomatoes, mainly for flavor and primary use, but also for their cool names.
Each variety is new to me and available online or in multiple garden catalogs, including Territorial Seed, Burpee, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Gurney’s:
Little Napoli, Costoluto Fiorentino and San Vicente: Each of these calls to my Italian heritage, including a year of university study in Florence and memories of rich, fragrant pasta sauce simmering in my grandmother’s kitchen.
Madame Marmande: This tomato might turn out to be as flamboyant and confident as its name, with a scarlet and ruby cloak, rich flavor and an ability to take the heat and not crack under pressure.
Sunchocola: If given a choice between a slice of extra sharp cheddar or a chunk of extra dark truffle, I’ll nearly always go with the cheddar. But the Sunchocola has a reputation as smoky and sweet, which sounds more interesting than some of the “meh” cherry tomatoes I’ve grown in past summers.
Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye: This colorful hippie chick is a rosy rainbow, with iridescent streaks of green, yellow and red all the way to her center. Peace out, man.
Mountain Magic: I’m adding a campari variety to our summer mix, for a tomato that’s midway in size between a cherry and a full-size slicer. I hope Mountain Magic lives up to its outdoorsy mystique.
I’ve also reserved pots on our patio for several tomatoes with less memorable names: Easy Slice, because our knives aren’t always the sharpest, and two Beaverlodge varieties, a plum and a slicer, both of which are early maturing tomatoes bred in Alberta, Canada. Maybe we’ll have the fixings for summertime BLTs, even if it snows in Moscow in late June.
Sydney Craft Rozen buys her tomato plants, instead of trying to start them from seed, because she prefers to limit her seed-related humiliation to pumpkins. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.