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Cape May Garden Journal: Heirloom Tomatoes

By Jane Kashlak
Garden Editor

August 22, 2005 - We wait all year for this August moment - when there are so many garden tomatoes, coming in so fast and furiously, there's no way you could eat them all.

For months, we weed and water and stake and restake. We pick off all the slimy, disgusting, oozing tomatoes. We build fences to keep out tomato predators. We watch anxiously as the tomato leaves turn from bright green to crispy brown.

heirloom tomatoes

Finally, the harvest, and not a moment too soon.

A rainbow of heirloom tomatoes suddenly fills the kitchen.

Jersey tomatoes are not just red anymore. They're pale yellow, light pink, deep purple, lime green. Many of these old fashioned heirloom varieties have been around for over a hundred years.

Another Cape May gardener, Irma McVey, introduced us to some of our favorites: the fuzzy, pale yellow Garden Peach, the striped Green Zebra, the deep dark Cherokee Purple, the pinkish Mortgage Lifter. Irma's always trying new varieties. She starts them in a small greenhouse each spring and generously shares them with friends.

We started a few of our own tomatoes this year, including an heirloom that came by way of Garden Partner's aunt in Minnesota and plus some Mortgage Lifter and Brandywine seeds from Martha Stewart's line at Kmart. Heirloom tomatoes are not only tasty, they're hot.

Even better, they're indeterminate - which means they'll keep producing tomatoes until the first frost. And in Cape May, that's sometime in October.

We've already planted a second crop of basil, to keep those tomatoes company.

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