Whomever says tomatoes can not and should not be grown in pots has not witnessed some of the surprising discoveries I have made over the years. While out biking yesterday afternoon, I happened upon this fully mature, volunteer cherry tomato growing up from the dusty earth beneath a pile of discarded parking lot blocks. I was on the ball enough to stop and snap a few photos but realize in hindsight that I have got to go back and collect a few fruits for seed-saving. Because a tomato plant that can make it there, especially in the middle of what some are calling “the worst drought in Toronto in 50 years” can surely make it in a pot of soil. Never mind if that pot of soil is tended and watered now and again. A pot would be like moving into a full-service luxury spa complete with Swedish seaweed serum treatments, warm sage-infused towels, and full-body herbal body wraps after that kind of hard-living, right?
I love a lush, abundant garden as much as the next but I think the plants that best capture my respect and inspire the greatest sense of awe are those that are resilient and remarkably determined.
- Broad Ripple Yellow Currant – One of my favourite heirloom varieties because of their delicate, golden translucency and their dramatic risen-from-a-sidewalk-crack back-story. Who can resist a plant with a history of triumph over adversity? Not me, sappy sucker that I am.
- Secret Gardens – An alley tomato farm discovery that has become a perennial favourite and a great source of inspiration.
The bottoms of all of the ‘Purple Calabash’ tomatoes are so bumpy and misshapen that they are morphing into cartoonish grumpy old man faces as they ripen and mature. Today a friend remarked that we are so programmed to accept perfectly smooth-shaped produce that people often refer to lumpy heirloom tomato varieties as “ugly.” We both agreed that it is their irregularity that makes them so beautiful much in the way that I can study the portrait of a grumpy old man’s face for hours because there is so much to see in every crease, bump, and scar.
Maybe tomatoes are not the best produce to illustrate my point because when push comes to shove I like most tomatoes, smooth, bumpy, pink, purple, or otherwise. I suppose it’s just that within a sea of uniformity unusual shapes and colors are fascinating. They taste better too! And maybe I grew up with enough of a certain kind of pop culture influencing my sense of taste that I just can’t resist the charm of anthropomorphic produce.
Today I traded some garlic and tomatoes from my garden for two tomatoes: a ‘Paul Robeson’ and an ‘Aunt Ginny’s.’ Another round of tomato testing is in order.
Aside from several handfuls of ‘Whippersnapper’ tomatoes that started ripening over a month ago there have been tomatoes here and there but not in the numbers we’re starting to see on the roof and over at the community garden plot. Despite a tray-full like this I am still eying clusters of green tomatoes dripping off the vines at the garden plot, willing them to ripen faster. I’m anxious to reach that point where the tomatoes are so abundant that we’re nearly drowning in them.
You would not believe how monstrous and prolific the ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’ plants are! It’s been hard work keeping the plants pruned and staked. The minute I turn my back there is another fruit-laden branch flopping over and threatening to break off.
The result of some interesting cross-pollination found at one of the farm stands at the Farmers Market this afternoon. I’ve seen some strange mixes in the past but let’s just say I don’t see anyone using this miracle of nature as the basis for a new-fangled variety.
I can just see the catalogue description now: “Long, striped green fruit with golden, disease-like pustules splashed across the surface.”
It’s actually kind of disturbing. In a fascinating way.
Adorably teeny tiny Mexican Sour Gherkins (Melothria scabra) are starting to pop up all over the vines I’ve got growing at my community garden plot. The fruit in the picture is about half and inch or so and should be approximately 1-2″ when fully ripe however I am extremely impatient and picked a few for tasting. They taste very much like tiny, juicy cucumbers. Every description I have read says they have a surprisingly sour skin that makes them taste almost pre-pickled straight off the vine. Mine were very fresh flavored so I can only guess that the sourness will develop as the fruit matures.
The plant is a very ornamental and prolific vine with lots of pretty little leaves dotted by miniature yellow flowers. The tiny, ridiculously cute fruit are like Lilliputian watermelons, accounting for nicknames like “mouse melon” and Ã¢â‚¬Å“sandÃƒÂitaÃ¢â‚¬Â (Spanish for little watermelon).
I started mine this past spring from seeds purchased online via Seed Savers. I was a little bit concerned by the small size of the plants in comparison to other cucumbers at planting time but they took off immediately and quickly climbed up the trellis I made for my cucumbers using bamboo stakes and a plastic “chicken wire” leftover from another project. So far the plants are living up to their reputation as a pest and disease-resistant species — while some of the other curcubits are starting to show signs of powdery mildew the Mexican Sour Gherkins are entirely blemish and pest free. The plants are also much more drought tolerant than other cucumber-related plants making them a welcome addition to gardens like mine that can’t be tended to on a daily basis. I am not growing any on my rooftop garden this year but I would imagine that unlike many cucumber varieties that can be tricky in containers, their drought tolerant nature and small size would make this a good option in a medium-large sized container.