A Garden Blog by Kevin Milaeger

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Kevin 2015 

It's true!---Sometimes tomato beauty is only skin deep!

August 1, 2016     
(See below for archives)

I was so looking forward to trying a new tomato called ‘Florentine Yellow.’ It was bright golden yellow, with a faint red blush at the blossom end; rather squat in shape, with heavy pleats, or lobes. Too pretty to eat, almost. I sliced one of these beauties while some guests watched. I was wary right away, as it seemed to be mealy. Absent any salt or pepper, we gave it a try. All agreed---a mealy texture, and flavorless. Yuk. Looking more closely, we noticed the shoulders of the fruit were a little green. Maybe it wasn’t fully ripe. We waited a few days before the next ‘Florentine Yellow’ was fully ripe, but the results were similar. Disappointing, but this is why we trial a new variety in our limited Vintage Veggie program before offering it in our regular lineup. We need to check it out, with your help, before we add it to our regular spring offering. If you have any tomato suggestions for next year, we’d love to hear from you. Our 2017 list was started months ago.

I had a similar result with two other varieties, though I haven’t yet tried a second fruit of either. Forming an opinion based on one sample is never a good idea, in tomatoes, and in life, I suppose. It’s important that the fruit be sampled at its peak readiness---even tried and true types don’t taste good if they are eaten when they are under or over ripe. ‘Beauty King’ and ‘Goliath’ were both in our Vintage Veggie program this year. ‘Goliath,’ a newer hybrid, has been around for a while, so I was certain it would be a winner. The one I tasted wasn’t terrible, it just reminded me too much of supermarket tomatoes in the winter. I’ll sample at least one more before writing it off. It certainly looks great, but that’s not enough. ‘Beauty King’ is a large bicolor, mostly yellow with some red streaking. Its flavor was better than ‘Florentine Yellow,’ but not as good as other bicolors. It may have been slightly overripe. We’ll try another before deciding on it.

“Black” tomatoes are sought after by many of our customers. Of course the tomatoes aren’t really black, but they are considerably darker than typical tomatoes. The skin sometimes takes on a purple or brown tone, and the shoulders of the fruit are often greenish. The flesh of the tomato is even darker---especially the locules, the gel-like part that holds the seed. Most of today’s dark tomatoes originated in the Ukraine, but they are found in other parts of the world, too. The black tomato that sounded good to us this year was ‘Copper River.’ It’s a modern hybrid from California, and I’m betting the parents have heirloom blood. The largest fruits are over a pound, and there is concentric cracking in the skin. This type of cracking is genetic, so there is nothing to be done about it. Just focus on the flavor and the great color, especially when sliced. I think it’s fantastic. It’s not acidy like many bright red tomatoes, but not overly sweet, either. I think it has a rich, smooth taste, more like a pink tomato than a scarlet red variety. You’ll have to try it for yourself and see what you think. We all know a little sea salt or fresh ground pepper greatly alters the flavor of all tomatoes. Those spices add a lot, but for initial tasting, we sample the plain fruit. The word oftentimes used to describe “black” tomatoes is “smoky.” Not sure if that applies here, but you can be the judge. We will likely have some fruit for you to try at our 15th Annual Tomatomania on September 10.

The dreaded tomato hornworm has not yet shown up this year. I’m sure some of you have seen this beautiful but troublesome critter. Fortunately, they are easy to control, unless you are a little squeamish. The hornworm can eat a lot of leaves and fruit very quickly so you should check regularly starting in midsummer. Look for dark frass (droppings) near the top of your plants. Hornworms like the new tender leaves. The worm’s color is nearly identical to that of the tomato plant stem, and their body size is about the same diameter as the stem, so you have to look carefully. Once you spot one, the next one will be easy. Of course, the hornworm is just one stage of the creature’s lifecycle. Soon it will form a chrysalis, from which a beautiful hawk moth emerges. If you love both hawk moths and tomatoes, here is a solution offered by a friend of mine. If you grew tomatoes last year, you probably have a few “volunteer” tomato seedlings popping up here and there. Allow a few of these unwanted plants to grow, and put the hornworms on them, letting them feast away. Your main plants will be safe, and everyone will be happy.

Causing some excitement here is the “new” pepper category that we are calling “seasoning peppers.” These are neither hot nor sweet; they each have a distinct flavor. Next year we are planning on having a special section devoted to this category, hopefully eight or ten varieties. We hope you find something interesting to try. Just harvested from our garden are two promising bullhorn varieties: ‘Xanthi,’ a hybrid, and ‘Beaver Dam,’ a Hungarian heirloom type. ‘Beaver Dam’ has mild heat, but considerably less than a jalapeno. ‘Xanthi’ is a yellow, elongated pepper that could be described as mild, though I wouldn’t call it sweet. When a morsel of one of these finds its way to your tongue, you say to yourself---that’s something new (in a good way)!

Please email me (kevin@milaegers.com) if you have any questions or comments.



 Archives  (Click on the green text for links)


August 2016 - It's true!---Sometimes tomato beauty is only skin deep!
July 2016 - Summer Heat Means Fast Ripening
July 2016 - July Tomato Update---a few concerns
June 2016 - The Great Bell Pepper Challenge!
June 2016 - Super Start for 2016 Vegetables!
May 2016 - Tomato Planting Date Inches Closer!
May 2016 - Vintage Veggies Now & Disease Resistant Tomatoes!
April 2016 - A Few New Plants & Garden Updates!
April 2016 - Go Outside---It's Time for Planting!
March 2016 - Yep! ----It's Time to Plant Greens!
March 2016 - The Quest for the Perfect Tomato
March 2016 - Think Green! It's almost time to plant
February 2016 - Pepper Pointers: it's all about patience
February 2016 - I See Greens on the Horizon
January 2016 - Tomato Disease --- What can you do?
January 2016 - Tomatoes on my Mind!

November 2015 - My Late Harvest (The tomato picking continues...No Kidding!)

October 2015 - Its Mid-October---the End is Near!

September 2015 - 2015---Not the Year of the Pepper!

September 2015 - Top Varieties at Tomatomania 2015!

September 2015 - Get the most from September tomatoes!

August 2015 - Tomatomania 2015---Coming Soon!

August 2015 - Oh No!!!......Freaky Tomatoes

July 2015 - A Marvelous Community Garden

July 2015 - Finally----the first ripe tomato

July 2015 - Is it Possible to overdose on peas?

July 2015 - The Garden in July --- I'm still planting!

June 2015 - And Just When Things Were Looking So Good...

June 2015 - Tomatoes, Cukes, and a Whimsical Onion

June 2015 - Trials and Tribulations in the Veggie Garden!

May 2015 - Trouble in Tomatoland!

May 2015 - Tomatoes are Claustrophobic

May 2015 - A Little Chilly, but it's Rhubarb Time!

May 2015 - Joan's Rhubarb Torte Recipe

April 2015 - "Ketchup and Fries" plant video

April 2015 - Early May in the Vegetable Garden

April 2015 - What Vegetables Can I Plant Now?

April 2015 - Making Salad Interesting

March 2015 - Ready... set... GROW!

March 2015 - Unusual Potatoes --- Not Just for Tots Anymore!

February 2015 - Next Month is Spring!

February 2015 - Greens to Grow 2015


September 2014 - Tomatomania Review 2014!

September 2014 - Tomatomania Results by Category or Cummulative

August 2014 - Kale! Kale! The Greens are Here! Click here for Recipe

August 2014 - The August Harvest Begins

July 2014 - Greens to Grow for Fall!!!  Click here for Spreadsheet

July 2014 - My Tomatoes are Blushing

June 2014 - Some Tomato Concerns

May 2014 - Garden Update --- the Cold Weather Experiment

May 2014 - Is it Time to Plant Tomatoes?

May 2014 - Vintage Veggies #4 and Vintage Veggies List 2014

April 2014 - A Chilly Spring... What Can I Plant Now?

March 2014 - Start Growing Your Own Food Right Now

February 2014 - Greens to Grow   Click here for Spreadsheet


October 2013 - Keep Calm and Garden On!

October 2013 - Autumn Vegetables

September 2013 - Tomato Popularity Poll Results Blog

September 2013 - Tomatomania Category and Cumulative Results

September 2013 - Tomatomania 2013 Blog, Video and T-Shirt

August 2013 - Greens to Grow and Spreadsheet

July 2013 - Spaghetti Squash

July 2013 - New Tomato and Zucchini Recipe Blog
July 2013 - Tomato and Zucchini Recipe

June 2013 - Cold Spring - What it Means for Vegetables
May 2013 - Tomatoes in Containers
May 2013 - Vintage Veggies 2013
April 2013 - My Tomato Garden Preview 2013
April 2013 - Don't Forget Rosemary!
April 2013 - It's Planting Time
March 2013 - Onions
March 2013 - Vintage Veggies
March 2013 - Greens to Grow Update
February 2013 - Hot Peppers
February 2013 - Grafted Tomatoes
February 2013 - Greens to Grow

September 2012 - Tomatomania Results
July 2012 - Compass Plant
July 2012 -July 2012 - Heat Wave
June 2012 - Okra
June 2012 - Potato Onion
May 2012 - Gas Plant

May 2012 - My Tomato Garden
May 2012 -
Vintage Veggie Fest
March 2012 - Growing Raspberries in SE Wisconsin
March 2012 - Winter Tomato Project
February 2012 - Success with Sweet Peppers
February 2012 - Vegetable Cukes Miniature
January 2012 - Tomatoes New Varieties

September 2011 -Tomatomania Review 
August 2011 - Tomatomania Preview
August 2011 - Racine Vegetable Garden Tour
Summer 2011 - Vegetables in my Garden
July 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
June 2011 - Vegetables - Diseases made Simple
June 2011 - Vegetables - Container Growing
May 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
April 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Event Preview
March 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Announcement

September 2010 - Tomatomania Review 
August 2010 - Flowers Late Summer Color
July 2010 Vegetables Cukes and Tomatoes
June 2010 Tomatoes New Varieties

September 2009 - Tomatoes End of Season Review 
September 2009 - Tomatomania Review
July 2009 - Tomatoes General and Fruit Set Problems
June 2009  - Tomatoes Fertilization
June 2009  - Tomatoes Personal Experience
May 2009 - Tomatoes General
May 2009 - Tomatoes Diseases
May 2009 - Tomatoes Selecting and Growing
April 2009 - Tomatoes General

Any questions or comments, please contact us at: gardenquestions@milaegers.com