BOULDER COUNTY – My neighbors might be catching on that living near a gardener is a good thing. Sure, there are a few quirks to put up with, like earsplitting shrieks when squirrel damage is noticed on pumpkins or alarming noises as I rise up from crouching to weed. But these small eccentricities fade once harvest sets in, because they know I’ll start sharing the bounty with those who wander by.
As they stroll past with their pets, I call them into the garden with friendly invitations like “you, with the Shih-Tzu, want some beans?” or “Hey, parrot-walking man! I’ve got plenty of kale to share!” Most have gotten produce from me before and accept it with smiles, even though they know I’ll toss in a zucchini for good measure.
Right now the beans are coming in like there’s no tomorrow, but fast on their heels is a bumper crop of tomatoes. And once they start, everyone in the neighborhood gets love apples.
Big, little, red, yellow, purple, and orange – we’re entering tomato season with its wealth of rainbow colors. Cherry tomatoes like Green Doctors, Isis, Sungold, and Jasper may be little in size but big in flavor. Each of these tasty morsels is sweet enough to woo new devotees to growing them. Matt’s Wild Cherry, a currant type, is a tiny, prolific tomato about the size of a pea.
Salad tomatoes that shake your kitchen up with new flavors and colors are Green Zebra, Lemon Boy, or Japanese Black trifele. Each has bold enough flavor to stand on their own, but combined in a colorful Caprese salad, they shine.
I’m experimenting with paste tomatoes this year, because I sauce a lot of them and an Italian-American friend told me, proudly, that for real Italian sauces, you need San Marzano tomatoes. But I love the flavor of Amish Paste and you can’t beat Roma for performance.
Although I’m a tomato geek and love them big and small, I will admit that when the beefsteaks come in, it’s my favorite part of the summer. Huge, brightly colored, and heavy with the promise of outstanding taste, the beefsteaks are the late season love apples that finish summer with a bang.
Of the big ones, it’s hard to beat Brandywine, but Pineapple, Amana Orange, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, and Paul Robeson give it a run for the money. Sweet and balanced with acid, Pineapple is a large yellow tomato streaked with red.
Gardeners, if you’ve wondered what those tempting tomatoes taste like, but don’t have room to grow them all, head out to the Taste of Tomato in Boulder. Sponsored by Harlequin’s Gardens and Colorado State University Extension in Boulder County, the Taste of Tomato is an opportunity to sample the love apple in its many forms – stripes, color, shape, and size.
Scheduled for Saturday, August 27, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Gateway Park 4800 N. 28th Street in Boulder, the Taste of Tomato is where gardeners can bring their tomatoes for others to try and sample the products others are growing. Each year, tomato enthusiasts gather to taste nearly 100 varieties and vote on the tastiest of the lot.
Entry is free if you bring three or more medium to large tomatoes or 10 cherry tomatoes of one kind, with the variety name on a card, to donate to the tasting. All entries must be home-grown. If you have no tomatoes to bring, there will be a $5 entrance fee.
For more information on the Taste of Tomato, visit harlequinsgardens.com.
Colorado State University Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.
By Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension, Boulder County