Now that it’s good and cold—in the northern United States anyway—I thought I would warm us up a bit by reporting on a tomato-tasting Mike and I attended in September. The Dennis’ 7 Dees nursery staff took the whole thing fairly seriously—it was a competition, after all, in its ninth year. There was professional signage, lists of descriptions and days-to-maturity, and even a scoring sheet. And there were tomatoes. Dozens of types of tomatoes.
I tend to favor those ugly, bulbous heirlooms—it’s all about the flavor and texture. When I lived in the Columbia River Gorge, I picked Persimmon, Mortgage Lifter and Big Beef as my go-to breeds. I also planted one Early Girl just because they mature sooner, and those little yellow pear-shaped cherry tomatoes. I tried Stupice but they never wowed me; I never settled on a particular type of Roma. Here was my chance to try some of the kinds I’d seen in seed catalogs but never grown.
The selection was impressive. 2013 was a good year for tomatoes in Portland, so they all looked robust. Each breed had a full-grown tomato on display as well as a plate with its vine-mates cut into pieces, and a sign to indicate what it was. The nursery made the scoring sheet for visitors that they could keep, and also tracked favorites so they would be sure to stock them the following spring.
I was interested in the Zebra breeds as I met their creator, Tom Wagner, at an InFARMation event in 2012. Delicious. I loved the Pineapple and Black Russian specimens. But my favorite, I think (after a while the acids render your tastebuds useless), was the Striped German. Dense, sweet, zippy. Tender. I found myself going back to it just to be sure it was actually my favorite.
I’m not sure what tomatoes I can grow here at 4,300 feet. But I have an idea of what I want to plant! In the meantime, I will enjoy the vibrant colors of these photos.