Gold medal tomatoes
I just ate my first tomato of the season. In June.
For some gardeners, eating a tomato in June is no big thing. I’m pretty sure my friend Jenny of Rainy Day Optimism started eating her homegrown tomatoes in May. But here on the northern Oregon coast, just a mile and a half from the Pacific Ocean, getting ripe tomatoes in June is almost unheard of. Heck, even the tomatoes I planted in the farm’s greenhouse haven’t ripened yet!
The winning plant is a Sun Gold (F1) hybrid, grown in my backyard raised bed. I think the trick was that I kept it on my windowsill for two months before planting it out in late May. That, the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having and the fact that it’s a hybrid cherry tomato all played a huge part in this early harvest.
When I lived in sunny, hot Roseburg (pretty much the banana belt of western Oregon) I grew mainly heirloom tomatoes. Nice big Brandywines, Green Zebras and Oxhearts. They sometimes grew so big it would take two hands to hold a single fruit! I grew hybrids and cherries as well, but never treated them with nearly as much respect as the heirlooms. They were sort of the afterthought of the garden, stuck in where I could find space.
Oh, it was so easy to be a tomato snob down there!
When we moved back to the Oregon coast, I tried my hardest to keep growing my heirloom favorites, but the weather just wasn’t warm enough and the season wasn’t long enough. The large fruits I wanted wouldn’t grow and I’d be left with tiny and hard green tomatoes in October. I found though, low and behold, that if I focused my efforts on cherries, grapes, currants and other smaller-sized hybrid tomatoes, I could usually be eating them by late July or early August.
I obviously won’t be giving up on the big heirlooms. The small tomatoes are great for snacking and salads, but really don’t come close to comparing in taste or versatility. I will, however, probably stick to growing them in the greenhouse, where they can be warm and dry long enough to really come into their own.
Seriously, though! June! I’m in a pleasant state of shock.
And in case you were wondering: Yes, that little Sun Gold tomato was delicious!