Our 2004 Tomato & Pepper Garden

Tomatoes (all from Tomato Growers Supply Co., unless noted. Comments within quotation marks are catalog propaganda):

2003 Tomato comments:

A lousy year, all the way around, for tomatoes here in Sacramento County. April rains totalled 4.4 inches here; normal is 1.1 inches. Overnight temperatures were in the 30's. Late April temperatures were 8 to 11 degrees below normal. Heat spikes in late May (101 on May 28) followed cold waves in early May (11 degrees below normal), up and down temps in June (upper 90's the first week; mid 70's the second week; 80's the third week; over 100 the last week of June). Most of the cherry tomatoes (Sweet Million, Sweet Baby Girl, Sun Gold) produced early (July, which is not that early) and often. The Aces and the Brandywine were dismal; only the Bush Celebrity and Early Girl produced full size tomatoes with any regularity...but not until late August. Shady Lady and Miracle Sweet were underwhelming, both in flavor and production. Wait 'til this year!

Ace 55 VF
Determinate, 80 days. "Low acid, with more disease resistance than Ace 55". Duh. A UC Cooperative Extension taste test winner in 1999. I was happy to redicsover this old favorite in 2001. And it was a 2002 Farmer Fred Taste Test winner at our annual August tasting party. In our garden, it produced fruits well over one pound, great for slicing. However, the 2003 Ace 55 did not produce one tomato, despite being a vigorously healthy green plant. Chalk it up to the weird weather spikes in April, May and June of 2003.


Ace-High Improved VFFNA Hybrid
Determinate, 71 days. "Extra-large 10 oz. fruit with wonderful flavor ripen five days earlier than original Ace. Fruit is also larger, firm and smooth. Well adapted to growing in Western States." The Ace-High had underwhelming performance in 2003 in our yard, but it easily out-produced the Ace 55, 10-0. Whoopee. Worth one more try.


Bush Early Girl VFFNT Hybrid
Compact Determinate, 54 days. "Little sister to Early Girl. Six to seven ounce fruits are larger than that of Early Girl and has a good flavor. More disease resistance than the original." I grew this one in the greenhouse over the winter of 1998-1999. Didn't really ripen more than one fruit at a time until spring. Will try it out now for springtime outdoors.


Early Wonder
Determinate 55 days. "Excellent, full tomato flavor. Expect abundant crops of round tomatoes with an average weight of six ounces on compact vines." Didn't do very well in the greenhouse during the winter of 2000-2001. That's a polite way of saying I chuckked the entire plant in Feb., after only one fruit and lots of dieback. I'll give it a chance outdoors this time, in the spring. I'm too nice.


Determinate 58 days. "Sets fruit in cold weather. Loaded early in the season with very flavorful, two to three ounce red tomatoes. Sweet yet rich, a combination found more commonly in large and later maturing tomatoes. Potato leaved foliage helps support the large harvest of these very tasty tomatoes." A new one for us. Here's hopin'!


Lemon Boy VFNT
Indeterminate 72 days. (Lake Valley Seed). "A bright yellow fruit with full tomato flavor. The first lemon yellow, not golden, tomato variety. Medium sized fruit, 8 oz." Grew this one in 2002, and although I was not enamored of the flavor, several participants in the 2002 Tasting Party enjoyed the taste. I will say this for the Lemon Boy: it produced tomatoes all the way through November.


Snow White
Indeterminate, 75 days. "Delightful ivory-colored cherry tomatoes ripen to pale yellow and are deliciously sweet without being sugary. A garden snacker." A new one for us; we'll see how it takes to grilling.


Sun Gold Hybrid
Indeterminate, 57 days. "Very sweet, bright orange cherry tomatoes taste not just sugary but also fruity and delicious. Vigorous growers, these tall plants bear long clusters of fruit." A taste test winner at Rose Loveall's Morningsun Herb Farm; a favorite of the HGTV crews that visit. Tried it in 2003...and it turned out to be last year's winner in the August trials here! I like it so much, I will not be planting any Sweet Million cherry tomatoes this year!


SunSugar FT Hybrid
Indeterminate, 62 days. "Orange cherry tomato with unbelievably good flavor and productivity. Very sweet, fruity tasting tomatoes are borne in long clusters on vigorous plants. Crack resistance with a thin skin." Tried this at Harvest Day at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center in August 2003. Wow! The sweetest cherry tomato I ever tasted! Many others agreed. Can it beat out Sun Gold?

Sweet Million FNT
Indeterminate, 65 days. (Tomato Grower's Supply Co., 2003). OK, I couldn't resist planting this cherry tomato favorite....again.

Indeterminate 75 days. "Have appeared in supermarkets for several years. Heavy crop of 12 to 16 ounce ribbed beefsteak shaped fruit with wonderful, old fashioned tomato flavor. Best attributes include great flavor, earliness, productivity and the ability to keep after harvest." No, the best attribute has to be the name. Bite my Ugly, please! A first for us.



2003 Pepper Comments:

The weird weather in May and June slowed production to the point where we did not have enough samples of each variety for the Aug. 23 pepper party! By mid-September, every plant was loaded. My favorites by then included Jimmy Nardello, Aji Dulce #2 and Fooled You. The Golden Cal Wonder was great, quartered, skewered and grilled.

2004 Peppers

70 days (Lake Valley, 2001). "Also know as the 'New Mexican Chile', this moderately pungent fruit is deep green, but turns red at full maturity. Very smooth peppers are 7-1/2 inches long and 2 inches wide and borne on tall, productive plants that offer good foliage cover for the fruit. Tobacco mosaic virus resistant. Excellent for canning, freezing or drying. 75 days." My favorite for nachos.


Chocolate Beauty
67 days to green, 85-88 days to chocolate. (Tomato Growers Supply Co., 2004). "Incredibly sweet and delicious, medium-large 3 or 4 lobed bell peppers mature from green to an attractive chocolate color. Eat them at the fully ripe stage and you'll know that they're something special. Plants are tobacco mosaic virus resistant." mmmm...chocolate....


66 days. (Harris Seeds). "Large, thick-walled fruit that make a unique color transition from ivory-yellow through pink to orange-red as they mature, similar to Gypsy. Good in both cooked dishes and salads." A time honored favorite here, for its sweet taste and colorful presentation. I will be amazed if these seeds produce healthy plants...the seeds are from 1995!


Giant Aconcagua
70 days. (Totally Tomatoes, 2002). "Flavor as sweet as apples! Gourmet chefs use them in salads, stir-fried, roasted and stuffed. Long fruits grow up to 11" and can weigh up to 12 ounces. Best flavor at light green stage." 2001 Farmer Fred Taste Test Winner. Big and cylindrical, this one is eleven inches long, over 10 oz. in weight, and won raves munched on raw; or cooked, stuffed with tomatoes and beef. I still prefer its similiar cousin, the...


Giant Marconi
72 days. (Totally Tomatoes, 2002). "2001 AAS Winner! While not technically a Marconi Pepper, it displays so many similar traits it has earned the name! Large, tapered, elongated fruits grow 8" by 3", with a sweet, smoky flavor that's equally delectable when fruits are eaten green or red, fresh or grilled. Widely adaptable, it produces larger than normal crops just about anywhere. Withstands severe weather with excellent disease resistance." A 2001 Farmer Fred Taste Test Winner. This 2001 AAS Award Winner has (in my opinion) more flavor than the Giant Aconcagua.


60 days. (Totally Tomatoes, 2002). "1981 AAS Winner. An extremely early, heavy producer. Plants grow to 18", bearing wedge-shaped, tasty, sweet peppers with sturdy walls and crunchy, firm, sweet, flesh. A very reliable yielder, all season long. Tobacco Mosaic Virus resistant." I grow this one every year. Dependable and colorful, the Gypsy starts off as a pale yellow, and eventually darkens to orange-red.


Jingle Bells Hybrid
60 days (Tomato Growers Supply Co., 2003). "Miniature, 1-1/2 inch blocky red and green bell peppers load up in abundance on compact plants. Because they mature so early, fruit ripens to red sooner than most varieties. Innovative cooks will enjoy using these peppers in salads, stir fries, and for stuffed hors d'oeuvres." I like to skewer them and put 'em on the grill (direct medium, 5-6 minutes).


Mulato Isleno
85-95 days (Tomato Growers Supply Co., 2004). "This is a type of Ancho/poblano pepper that matures to deep chocolate brown. Peppers are six inches long and three inches wide, tapering to a blunt end. They range in Scoville Units from 500 to 2,000, and are used either fresh or dried in cooked sauces. Virus resistant plants." We are bypassing the realllly hot peppers this year, in favor of somewhat milder (translation: edible) varieties that we haven't tried before, like this one.


NuMex Joe E. Parker
65 days (Tomato Growers Supply Co., 2003). "This is a very productive version of NuMex 6-4 that offers more uniform peppers. 6 to 7-inch thick-fleshed peppers turn from green to red and are relatively mild to medium in flavor. Ripens earlier than most other peppers of its type. 65 days." The overall winner of the Farmer Fred Pepper Party Taste Tests in August, 2000. Great in chili!


75 days (Tomato Growers Supply Co., 2004). "This Capiscum annum type of pepper is popular for its use as a pickled pepper to go on hot dogs and other sandwiches. Peppers resemble Tabasco peppers, but the Sport pepper is larger, about one and a half inches long and a half inch wide. They are medium-hot and produced in great abundance on sturdy plants." A hot dog pepper? Gotta try this!

(Mr. Fothergill's, 2001) A sweet, long Spanish Pepper. A leftover packet on the kitchen counter...might as well put it to good use!