Friday, August 20, 2010

Three tomatoes - a case study

1. a black zebra, 2. a pineapple heirloom, and 3. a mystery heirloom.

Earlier in the season I am more inclined to follow the rules and so, when I planted the black zebra and the pineapple tomato plants - next to each other in matching black buckets - I assumed I'd have the same results. Oh, but noooo.

The black zebra, above, companion planted with a volunteer french hollyhock infected with rust, took off. It climbed out of its cage, like an errant toddler, and went to visit its neighbors in their cages. It fruited early and often and continues to fruit even on a vine that is almost snapped in half, with but a whisper of a connection through which water and nutrients flow. This tomato is insane, indefatigable.

Next to it resides the finicky pineapple heirloom, above, host to one of my favorite fruits. I religiously pinched and contained it and thus it resembles a nineteenth-century corseted virgin. It is lovely and dense, with fitful and exuberant leaves unfurling with the same promise of verdancy I've witnessed in marijuana plants (in online galleries, of course). But alas, it has only just this week flowered and is still deciding if it will fruit. I believe it's worried about its figure.

(That's the black zebra to the left, shamelessly groping the pineapple tomato.)

My mystery heirloom, above, which my husband brought home from the Silver Lake farmer's market may be a pineapple, or a Russian white. Either would be fine with me. I really didn't have a place for it and stuck it haphazardly in a shady area of the yard. It coughed and sputtered along, not doing much of anything. Later I planted next to it an eggplant, a pepper and cucumbers. Maybe because of the others I watered more and it benefited. The mystery heirloom took off. Because I did not care much for it I rarely pinched it and did not bother to cage it, and now, despite my neglect, it bears more than 20 ripening tomatoes. Oh, what color will this fruit turn?

As far as best practices with tomatoes, all I have to say is, 'Go figure.'

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