The Salad Days Approach, Part II
by L. Lewis

If you have dutifully torn out your lawn and congested your garden paths with soil-filled garbage cans in preparation for tomato season, here are five varieties that you may want to consider, in addition to the previously-gushed-about Sun Gold, Brandywine, Stupice, Green Zebra and Aunt Ruby’s German Green. These fabulous five are all deserving of prime sunny space in any yard.

Persimmon

The Persimmon tomato has the potential to be the very best slicer in the world, with flavor that can occasionally surpass even the Brandywine. And it’s no slouch in the beauty department, looking for all the world like a Hachiya persimmon: same large size and deep orange color, with that unusual acorn shape. They develop fairly late in the season and aren’t terribly prolific, and the first couple of fruits can be a little mealy from sitting too long on the vine before the call to ripen. Don’t let this stop you, though: have patience and you will be generously rewarded with a burnt umber flavor festival.

Paul Robeson

There’s an unusual flavor to black tomatoes--earthy, spicy, even meaty—that can overwhelm the fruit’s tomato-y essence. To be honest, they can occasionally taste like mold. In the Paul Robeson, however, there is a subtle spiciness that is muted and pleasant, never jarring: they never taste like ass. As with other black tomatoes, such as the Tulla or the Krim, the Paul Robeson enjoys a stunning brownish-purple skin with a dark greeny-purple interior, and looks smashing sliced on a plate. Pick these big mid-season beauties while still a little firm for a tangier flavor.

Pink Odoriko

Easy to mistake for a Brandywine, the rose-colored, fist-sized fruits of this vigorous plant are just about as tasty. A slightly crisper skin than the Brandywine and with a little more acid, the Odoriko is a big winner in many heirloom tomato tasting contests. (I would like to be a judge at a tomato tasting contest: perhaps that should be my next career move. If you have any contacts in the tomato tasting industry, would you please let me know?)

Green Grape

Just when you think your tomato season’s about over, along comes an enormous batch of big green cherry tomatoes, ready for your salads, salsas, pastas and more. You may be cursing the need to trudge out to the garden by this point in the year, your mouth full of tomato acid burns, but you should don those flip-flops and haul yourself to the Green Grape or you will be missing out on a treat. A deep leafy color with golden streaking when ripe and about an inch and a half long, these easy-to-pick, crack-resistant ‘maters have an unusual flavor for a cherry—less intense than most but with a complexity to rival the beefsteaks.

Yellow Brandywine

There is no better golden beefsteak than the Yellow Brandywine. The color—a vivid, solid light yellow-orange through and through, from the skin to the flesh to the seeds to the juice—is spectacular, and the flavor is as luscious as its more traditionally hued sibling. About average in terms of productivity, none of these ever made it to a sauce or soup because they were simply too good naked.

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Lynn can be reached at jeff@babblog.com.

Copyright © 2005 by Lynn Lewis