November 9, 2012

Points East: This variety is worth keeping

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — I’m not sure when I last picked ripe tomatoes from my garden after the first of November, but I’m writing this on Friday, Nov. 2, and I just finished picking three plump, ripe, pineapple tomatoes and, with a little luck, I may even be able to make the vine last until Thanksgiving.  It still has at least two dozen green fruits still hanging on and some of them are already turning.

 The rest of the tomato patch has been dead for several weeks, but I covered this particular plant with a thick, 10’ x 12’, heat-gathering tarpaulin which I pull back on warm, sunny days and replace every night.  We’ve already had three or four mild freezes and several heavy frosts, but so far, so good.  The tarp is working like a charm and the fresh-picked fruit is beyond delicious.

 This is the first year that we’ve ever grown pineapple tomatoes, an heirloom variety that I’ve heard about for many years but never had on my “must try” list. I generally have to save or order heirloom seed and grow the plants myself or hope that I can get over to Glenda McQuerry’s place before she sells out.  

 This year, however, I stopped in May to browse around in Shells’ Greenhouses, there on 52 between Paint Lick and Lancaster, and discovered they had one tray of pineapples left so I bought a four pack to give them a try. My pal and fellow tomato connoisseur, Tom Miller, in Berea  and I are both oh so glad I tried them and they will be my go-to variety for years to come.  I’ve shared tomatoes with Tom over the last decade and his reaction to the pineapples is “best ones this year.”   

 The pineapple tomato is a medium to large sized, heart-shaped fruit that is basically deep orange in color with a deep pink tip that runs through the middle of its interior flesh.  In the late season, meaning right now, the size drops off and the combined colors of pink and orange cover the entire fruit.  It’s shaped, more or less like a hen egg multiplied by two.  But it’s the taste and the nearly total absence of seed cavities that woo me.

 I’m not going to try to grow enough plants come next year to share very many and even though I’ve saved some seed from this year’s crop, I will order new seed from Totally Tomatoes, a mail order place that I help keep in business.  I fear that my seed may be cross-pollinated with one or more of the 11 other varieties I grew this year, none of which are worth writing home about and none that I want to keep in the family.      

 In the meantime, I’ve been eating cooked greens — kale, mustard, collards and turnips — until my ears are turning green.  We’ve had an abundance of Boston Bib and Black Seeded Simpson lettuce and Crimson Queen radishes out of the garden and there’s still plenty out there that I can’t even give away. Give me a call if you’d like to drive to Paint Lick and raid the garden.  The number is 859-925-2105.  

 Next year, if the Good Lord lets me live that long and I stay mobile, I’m going to be planting onion seed along the edge of the fall garden.  I’ve never grown onions from seed before but you can’t find sets in Kentucky late in the year and I figure somebody has to start them somewhere so I don’t see why I can’t.

 All I know for sure is that some tender green onions would make this lettuce taste a whole lot better.

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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
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