Taste of Tomato

We’re entering tomato season with its wealth of rainbow colors.

Carol O'Meara, Colorado State University Extension

Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension

LONGMONT – The zucchinis are booming, beans are coming in like there’s no tomorrow, the first pumpkins of the season are sizing up and onions are bulbing. With sweet potato vines rambling and fall crops nosing up out of the ground, you’d think I’d be a content gardener.

I am, mostly, but there’s a hole in the garden and in my heart: no tomatoes in the garden for me this year. The love apples-of-my-eye are banned from the premises for three years, thanks to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. It causes the fruit to have swirls of yellow across an otherwise red fruit, with leaves and stem to darkening, withering, and dying. The disease is spread by thrips insects, tiny bugs that are nearly impossible to manage in the garden.

To beat the bugs and their disease passenger, I stopped planting my favorite crop for three years. Now I live vicariously through everyone else’s tomatoes, hoping for a handout. I love them all, so it doesn’t matter if they’re big, little, red, yellow, purple, and orange. We’re entering tomato season with its wealth of rainbow colors.

Cherry tomatoes like Matt’s Wild Cherry, Isis, Sungold, and Black Cherry may be little in size but big in flavor. Each of these tasty morsels is sweet enough to woo new devotees to growing them. Matt’s Wild Cherry, a currant type, is a tiny, prolific tomato about the size of a pea.  Don’t let its size fool you – it knocks off contenders for best flavor year after year.

Salad tomatoes that shake your kitchen up with big flavors and colors are Green Zebra, Lemon Boy, or Japanese Black trifele.  Each has bold enough flavor to stand on their own, but combined in a colorful caprese salad, they shine.

Although I’m a tomato geek and love them big and small, I will admit that when the beefsteaks come in, it’s my favorite part of the summer. Huge, brightly colored, and heavy with the promise of outstanding taste, the beefsteaks are the late season love apples that finish summer with a bang.

Of the big ones, it’s hard to beat Brandywine, but Pineapple, Pruden’s Purple, Cherokee Purple, and Paul Robeson give it a run for the money. Sweet and balanced with acid, Pineapple is a large yellow tomato streaked with red.  But make a note to look for Berkeley Tie Dye, a newer variety that will get you grooving.

Gardeners, if you’ve wondered what those tempting tomatoes taste like, but don’t have room to grow them all, head out to the Taste of Tomato in Boulder.  Sponsored by Harlequin’s Gardens and Growing Gardens of Boulder County, the Taste of Tomato is an opportunity to sample the love apple in its many forms – stripes, color, shape and size.

Scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Growing Gardens’ barn, 1630 Hawthorne Ave. in Boulder, the Taste of Tomato is where gardeners can bring their tomatoes for others to try and sample the products others are growing. Each year, tomato enthusiasts gather to taste 65 to 100 varieties and vote on the tastiest of the lot.

Entry is free if you bring three or more medium to large tomatoes or 10 cherry tomatoes of one kind, with the variety name on a card, to donate to the tasting. All entries must be home-grown. If you have no tomatoes to bring, there will be a $5 entrance fee.

For more information on the Taste of Tomato, visit harlequinsgardens.com.

Colorado State University Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Colorado State University Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, e-mail comeara@bouldercounty.org or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.