“You have tomatoes?” was the incredulous response most people had to their invitation to my annual tomato and harvest party this year. Like most of the summer, the week leading up to it was gray and drizzly. A forecast of partly cloudy and a 30% chance of showers for Saturday made it sound like a great day for a NW garden party! The day dawned chilly and cloudy as I harvested what tomatoes I could, waiting until the last moment to see if they might get a few more rays on the vine.
People arrived in the late morning bundled in coats. We went out to the porch to taste what tomatoes there were. Of the four test varieties I grew, only two had ripe tomatoes: ‘Red Pearl’ grape tomato, which produced a small bowlful, and ‘Blush’, which had only four ripe ones (and one was cracked). ‘Thompson’s Grape’ was just starting to be ready. Of my standbys, ‘Sungold’ (picked many days earlier, after an evening downpour to avoid cracking) did well for the season we had, and ‘Early Cascade’ was not yet totally ripe. In the photo above, clockwise from upper left are ‘Early Cascade’, ‘Red Pearl’, and ‘Blush’.
‘Sungold’, in a class by itself, is offered as dessert after the tasting.
Now the taste test! ‘Red Pearl’ initially got mixed reviews—nice shape, not seedy but mushy and watery, or light and fruity. One person liked how it exploded in her mouth while others thought the skin was tough.
Everyone ooh’ed and aah’ed at the looks of ‘Blush’, both whole and cut in half—definitely a beauty. As they took a bite, it got all kinds of compliments for its sweet and balanced complex flavor until one person announced that she thought its great looks prejudiced our opinion about its flavor. She thought it was just sweet, not complex or flavorful at all. Everyone agreed that it should be used in a way that would show off its good looks (like in salads), if not also its flavor.
‘Early Cascade’, one of my standbys, usually gets raves on its flavor but not this time because it wasn’t completely ripe. ‘Northern Delight’ was brought to the party by a guest who grew it to see if it would do well in our difficult tomato-growing region. Nope, it got only poor reviews: “disappointing.” This person also grew ‘Siletz’, developed especially for the Pacific NW maritime climate. Many said it “tastes like a tomato” but many also commented about its watery quality and large seed cavity.
Going back to ‘Red Pearl’, people said it tasted great in comparison to the others. Its bowl was soon empty.
The clouds began to part as we sat down to enjoy a harvest potluck where people brought dishes made with garden goodies if possible. I made a rice salad with arugula, ‘Derby’ cabbage, ‘Sweetie Baby Romaine’ lettuce, ‘Midnight Lightning’ zucchini, yellow ‘Mariachi’ peppers, and the last sunchokes from last year, all from the garden.
‘Gusto Purple’ produced nice hot peppers which made a spicy relish with chopped onion, rice vinegar and sugar. This photo shows the Gusto in all its color stages.
Small bouquets decorating the tables were made with some of the flowers we are trialing—the one at left includes ‘Moonsong Deep Orange’ marigold, basil, and feverfew.
The afternoon got warm as we finished our lunch with brownies and double chocolate ‘Cavilli’ zucchini cake. With full bellies, we rambled about the vegetable garden and came upon our real dessert, sun-warmed raspberries right off the vine.