Update: The first of the next batch has ripened. I had both my neighbour and my spouse do a taste test and we all agree that while it is tasty, it doesn’t stand up to the black indeterminates like ‘Black Krim’ or ‘Black Plum’. My final verdict is that it’s a great mid-sized determinate perfect for small spaces like fire escapes, but if you want the real thing get a HUGE plastic garbage can and grow an indeterminate variety.
I’ve been waiting anxiously for the first ‘Black Seaman’ tomato to ripen. From the looks of things I was certain this would be my new #1 determinate but I was hesitant to even go there in my mind without tasting one first. I watched everyday with bated breath as a large crop of good-sized green tomatoes blushed with color. The first was eaten by a large raccoon (The largest I have ever seen! A film crew could use this deck as a location for Wild Kingdom). And then over the weekend we caught the tail end of hurricane Ernesto and the bulk of the nearly ripe ‘Black Seamans’ burst open as a result of torrential downpours and had to be quickly, and prematurely plucked from the vine. We tasted a few with salt and I will say that they were rich and flavorful with a hint of tang, even when under-ripe. Some were on the mealy side but that was likely caused by the splitting. I will provide a more thorough update on taste when the next batch ripen but in the meantime here’s why this variety has been given a tentative spot in my top 5:
- It’s a determinate mid-sized plant with medium-sized fruit.
- The fruit is a lot larger than expected. It’s hard to find a variety that is small and compact with reasonably-sized fruit. My long-standing #1 fave was ‘Silver Fir Tree’ but I am almost certain ‘Black Seaman’ will replace it.
- My test plant has done exceptionally well in a pot size normally reserved for small, bushing tomatoes. In fact I usually grow ‘Sunrise III’ in this container as I assumed the plant size was similar. I was shocked when ‘Black Seaman’ grew both upwards and bushy and even more astounded by how healthy it has been in such a small container. The container is terra cotta no less!
- It is prolific. It’s sad that I lost so many to splitting but there are still plenty more queuing up. In mid-sized containers my ‘Silver Fir Tree’ plants generally produce an absolute maximum of 10 mid-sized tomatoes. The lone ‘Black Seaman’ stands to produce around 20.
- The fruit is colorful both inside and out with a dense centre that makes it perfect for slicing and eating on sandwiches.
- Flavor: This is yet to be determined since the first batch were under-ripe. I will guess that they will not measure up to other black varieties like ‘Black Krim’ or ‘Black Pear‘ but you can’t grow either of those in a mid-sized terra cotta container on a blazing hot rooftop in the city.
The blackberry bushes have been incredibly prolific at the Community Garden this year. I’d swear the plants have doubled in size, each vine exploding with fat, juicy fruit. I had thought that perhaps our cold winters curbed their invasiveness but I’m starting to discover that they can take over in this climate too… albeit somewhat less insanely than in temperate climates like San Francisco. I have never and don’t expect to see blackberries like that here in Southern Ontario. Those bushes are the kind of plants that inspire cheesy horror films… gaining ground while suckers like me naively hang about gorging themselves, even pushing further into the bush in a greedy attempt to get at the best, ripest berries before being sucked in alive. Bwahhahaha!
The Gardening Educator in me wants to tell you why products like the Plantarium are not viable tools for growing healthy seedlings. Look for a moment at the product photo. The seedlings inside the vial are very leggy, thin, and weak. They have elongated, delicate stems that will make the transition from the vial to a pot of soil next-to-impossible.
The Gardening Educator wants you to know that you don’t need expensive or fancy gadgetry to grow seeds into seedlings. In fact all you need is good quality seed-starting mix*, and a used plastic container (yogurt containers are good) with a bunch of holes poked into the bottom for drainage.
When the Gardening Educator spots products like this in a store she screams silently inside, “Why?! Why must first-try gardeners be mislead by useless, colourful plastic objects that inevitably result in dead plants and sad hearts?!”
But the Science Geek Kid in me thinks they’re kinda neat.
While harvesting a-plenty from my own gardens, I have been eagerly following the harvest from your gardens. The Garden Show & Tell section of the homepage has been filling up lately with photos of vine-ripened tomatoes and piles of peppers. And I have noticed an abundance of mature garden photos on display in the Show & Tell section of the forums. This predilection to show off our gardening achievments seems to be a huge aspect of the support we need as budding and even seasoned gardeners. Forget pest control tips or fertilizing advice, what we really need is encouragement through the rough patches and lots of high fives before we pack it all in for the winter (or the too-hot summer for the southerners). It’s generally other gardeners who understand both the work that went into producing that first, juicy tomato, and the pride we feel in having grown it.
We’re worse than new parents, albeit new parents who eat their progeny!
I would love to bring you more hard-core gardening experience type information but I am completely emersed in the harvest season and relishing the fruits of my labour. I just ate lunch — a fried egg sandwich on spelt toast with a slice of garden tomato, fresh basil, mayo, and oyster mushrooms — and I couldn’t wait to get back to my computer to tell you about the delicious black pear tomato. Perhaps I am glorifying it because it’s the first large tomato of the season and the first tomato is always THE BEST TOMATO THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN! However, this tomato was juicy, sweet, and rich tasting. It cut easily into a perfect sandwich slice packed with dense meatiness in the centre and fresh and juicy towards the edges; not at all mushy or mealy. Don’t you think the shape looks like a cute little hobo sack?
I’m definitely adding this one to my list of new faves.
A few tips for container growing:
- Grow it in the largest container you can find – This variety is an indeterminant which means the plant itself grows quite tall, requiring a lot of root space. I used a plastic garbage can and drilled holes into the bottom for drainage.
- Grow one plant per container – Do not be tempted to shove a couple of transplants into the same container. That little plant is going to grow up fast. Competition for space in the container will result in a reduced yield.
- Don’t let the soil dry out completely – Water consistently and give your plant a lot of water each time. I give mine about 4L of water daily! Plants that aren’t watered enough are prone to Blossom End Rot which shows as a mushy black spot on the bottom of the tomato.
- Fertilize – I fertilize my plants regularly with sea kelp throughout the growing season. You can get it as a liquid concentrate or store up batches of “tea” made by steeping dried kelp meal in mason jars. Kelp meal is high in potassium which is a good plant stress reliever. This will sustain your plant through the odd day of drought and neglect. But of course there are no miracle potions for utter delinquency!