Tuesday, September 09, 2014 • 7:57 PM Comments (29)

Chewing on the grindstone

posted by Caleb Rounds

I’m pretty happy with my tomato harvest, I haven’t thought that in a long time. Late blight, early blight and septoria take their toll. Even though I grew all blight resistant varieties, they weren’t impervious to the various fungi. Nevertheless, they held up pretty well.

My cherry tomatoes shrug off just about anything and are still putting up shoots everywhere. The strain is called Jasper. I think it’s going to be my go to cherry variety for a while, which is at odds with my feelings about “J” names in general.

When I was teaching middle school all of my most rowdy students had names that began with “J.” Jennifers and Jacobs were the worst. I didn’t have any Jaspers thank the noodly one. It hardly bears mentioning that this was not a particularly scientific survey of behaviors attached to the letter of a name. My father in law, Jack, has heard my theory and does not dispute that he may have been a bit rowdy as a youngster.

My healthy harvest is almost undoubtedly due to the excellent disease resistance in the varieties I grew, but I helped by trimming diseased leaves at least once a week until mid-August when my schedule got the best of me. I think if I’d kept up with it, they might look even better now.

The Defiant PhR did the worst of all the varieties I tried, and this is at least the third year in a row that’s been true. It’s supposed to have great flavor, but it hardly ever survives long enough for me to even know. I think I’m going to drop it from my planting list. I didn’t get very many of those before the leaves had nearly all died. I pulled both plants this weekend.

I was most pleasantly surprised by Mountain Merit, another highly resistant tomato. Apparently others have agreed as it won the 2014 All-America Selection for the “Heartland” region. It’s a pretty good sized slicing tomato doesn’t crack and seems to hold on well. All of the “Mountain” varieties are the work of one Dr. Randy Gardner, who worked at North Carolina State University breeding tomatoes until he retired. Now that he’s retired, he works at breeding tomatoes -- he just gets paid less.

Apparently he likes breeding tomatoes. The bio on the NCSU website says that when asked about his dedication to breeding he says: “it’s like when I was growing up, they use [sic] to talk about the cat chewing on the grindstone — you stick with it, and you work at it.” I don’t think that makes any sense, but he’s released at least 22 different tomato varieties in his career. A lot of them taste fantastic.

In any case, for the last two weekends I’ve harvested many pounds of tomatoes, ground them up then cooked them for hours to concentrate the sauce. Thus far I’ve put up a little over five gallons. I freeze them in jars rather than canning just because I’m lazy. Along these lines I even managed to convince the boarders and some of their sidekicks to help grind tomatoes for about ten minutes. They said it was fun, but quickly lost interest

Eventually I will grow a tomato plant that doesn’t get diseases, until then I’m going to keep chewing on the grindstone. Or sleeping, because that’s what most cats I know do.

Comments (29)
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you stick with it, and you work at it.” I don’t think that makes any sense, but he’s released at least 22 different tomato varieties in his career. A lot of them taste fantastic.

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