A Vegetable Garden MUST Include Tomatoes

I wrote in an earlier post, “Does any day offer greater joy in the garden than that first day you go outside after the winter and plant the early spring vegetables?”

No one challenged me on that, but the answer is clearly, “Yes, there is another day that offers greater joy.”

That’s the day you harvest your first tomato of the season.

That’s a day of great joy in the garden for any gardener, and one that often involves a ritual of some kind.

Some gardeners will eat the first tomato right there in the garden, like an apple, while it is still warm from the sun. Others will take it inside and share it with their family, carefully slicing it so that everyone gets a taste.

Or maybe some gardeners will secretly eat the first ripe tomato and then offer the second one to their family as the first one, just so they can eat the whole first tomato by themselves. Totally justified, in my book, if that gardener did all the work.

Ritual or not, there ought to at least be a little ceremony, a pause in the day to reflect on it, when you harvest your first tomato.

This year, I’m growing the following tomato varieties:

'Beefmaster' (A good sized slicing tomato, should have slices big enough to cover a slice of toast for a good BLT.)

'Early Girl Improved' (I’m hoping this will give me a good shot at harvesting a tomato before July 19, my earliest recorded date to harvest a tomato).

'Mortgage Lifter' (If there is an online contest for the biggest tomato, I want to tip the scales in my favor to win it. Watch for a contest hosted here in mid-August or whenever I think I have a really big tomato that will win, even without my thumb on the scale.)

'Red Currant' (No way is Chigiy beating me if we have another contest for smallest tomato!)

'Sun Sugar' (I must have a cherry type tomato to snack on while I’m working in the garden).

'Better Boy' (Not sure why I got this one, seems kind of boring now, plus it takes 82 days to ripen for harvest!)

Wait, is that it? That’s all I’ve got? That’s not enough! I need more varieties than that! What was I thinking? What a boring list of tomatoes!

I’m going back to the seed catalogs to find just a few more varieties. There is still time, as I won’t start the tomatoes inside until early March, or about eight weeks before I plant them out in the garden, which will be in mid-May.

And I've got more to write about tomatoes... staking and caging, how deep to plant tomatoes, and why no vegetable garden should be without them. But I'll have post about all that another day. Right now, I must find some better tomato varieties to plant.


Hi Carol,

Interesting selection of tomatoes. I grew the Radiator Charlie Mortgage Lifter one year and was disappointed in the flavor. Perhaps it was the soil? So many people rave about those tomatoes.

I'm growing heirlooms:
Paul Robeson
Goose Creek
Brandywine OTV
Brandywine Red Landis Valley Strain
Cherokee Purple
Black Sara
Yellow Pear


Robin at Bumblebee
That's why we grow cherry tomatoes. We pop 'em like candy while in the garden so we won't be tempted to eat the big tomatoes. Those get reserved for THE FIRST TOMATO SANDWICH OF THE SEASON or for the caprese with the basil that grows right next to the 'maters.
Frances said…
We better get some more seeds, also. So far saved seeds from last year's best tasting, Cherokee Purple have germinated, planted still on the paper towel they were dried on in the shed, couldn't get the seeds off so put the whole thing in the pot and covered it. The yellow pears, which I think are a species tomato, come up in the gravel every year near the cage that is left in place. I pot up the biggest ones and take them in the greenhouse to grow on and give away. Park's improved whopper had the largest harvest last year.

Frances at Faire Garden
Diana said…
Carol -- I actually bought two tomato plants this week. They are in pots in and out of the garage -- they go out in the sun on warm days and back in at night! We're crazy about our tomatoes, aren't we? Last year I had Porters, Bonnies, Black Cherokees, and some Better Boys and Celebrities. This year I am placing a tomato order from Tomatobob - I want to try some new heirlooms along with my reliables. Good luck!
Jane Marie said…
I love this post. I never know what tomatoes to plant. This year I'm dreaming about the Burpee Best of Show collection in their 2008 catalog. These would all be varieties that are new to me: Razzle Dazzle, Tangerine Mama, Golden Mama, Italian Ice, and HoneyBunch. The question is will I follow through and place the order? Or is it all just wishful thinking?
Mary said…
Carol, I'll be paying attention to your reviews on tomatoes. I've grown them for many years and bitten into them AT the garden, shared them by shopping bags full when the crop was too much, and totally, completely enjoyed the taste of fresh tomatoes in my salads and stews. But the best of all: toasted bread w/sliced tomato, mayonnaise, salt & pepper sandwiches. Oh, my goodness. I'm starving now. Really. Thanks a lot.
Early Girl and Better Boy are my only two hibrids.

Cherokee purple
San Marzano
Yellow Pear
Green Zebra
Russian Black Krim
Texas Star
all do great for me here in Texas.

Brandywine always dies.

So sad.
Ewa said…
Tomato is must - in my garden cherry tomatoes are best perfomers, because our summers are not long enough :(
gintoino said…
Well carol, I would have to disagree with you on that one. I really hate tomatoes. Can't stand the thought of eating one raw tomato (once cooked the taste is somewhat bearable). The only reason I have tomatoes in my vegetable garden is because family insisted. All that said of course I'm looking forward to see my tomato plants start to produce, because I just love to see my plants grow.
I've got to find a place for tomatoes this year; I've just go to.
Anonymous said…
Our favorite is Fantastic---look for them and let us know what you think. Super Fantastic is even better but have not found the last few years. Susie
Connie said…
I trialed a lot of tomato varieties when I gardened on our 1/3 acre plot, but now that I just have the kitchen garden I only have room for my very favorites...hybrids Goliath (main crop) and Sweet 100 Cherry, and Heirlooms Brandywine and Pineapple. Each year I try a couple plants of some new varieties....this year it will be Brandy Boy, a hybrid cross of Better Boy and Brandywine, and heirloom Black Krim.
Carol said…
Robin(Bumblebee), Yum is right. That is a better list of tomatoes that what I initially chose.

Jim/artofgardening, Do you also bake a special bread for that FIRST TOMATO SANDWICH OF THE SEASON? I would!

Frances, I'd be interested in reading about what other varieties you get.

Diana, My Dad used to try to get a jump on the season by potting up his tomatoes and taking them out and back in each day. That's probably why he was able to harvest a tomato before the end of June and I'm not harvesting until the 3rd week of July.

Jane Marie, Sounds like an interesting list of tomatoes, I hope you follow through with it!

Mary, Thanks a lot to you, too, that sounds like a wonderful sandwich! Now I'm hungry!

Aunt Debbi/Kurt's Mom, For all the good press that Brandywine gets as "THE" heirloom tomato, a lot of gardeners don't have much luck with it. Hmmmmm...

Ewa, Cherry tomatoes are usually the first to ripen in my garden and produce the longest. I think they would grow just about anywhere.

Gintoino, I've heard of gardeners who don't like raw tomatoes, I think my little sister is secretly one of them. But at least you are willing to grow them for others.

Robin's Nesting Place, Absolutely you must find a place for some tomatoes. Maybe make one raised bed and start your vegetable garden that way?

Susie, I will look for Fantastic, maybe as a plant. Thanks for the suggestion!

Connie, Yes, unfortunately, there is only a limited amount of space. Already I'm thinking about expanding my raised bed garden, again.

Thanks all for the comments and suggestions.
Carol, May Dreams Gardens
Curtis said…
Personally I like to take my first tomato and make a tomato and cheese sandwich with part of it.