Harvesting: Cherokee Purple Tomatoes

Friday, September 11, 2020

A few days later, the Cherokee Purple Tomatoes are Ripe

Tomatoes are one of the few vegetables I have considerable prior experience growing. As a kid I had a small, 3'x4' garden patch in the backyard and I would grow tomatoes every year. Despite not liking to eat them (that one does puzzle me). I did attempt cucumbers and strawberries at some point, but without any huge success. Tomatoes, though, they could really grow. So why not try a tomato with more of a challenge?! These Cherokee Purple Tomatoes are known for their ugliness and genetic oddness. They don't look truly purple, until you set them next to a tomato more typical in coloring, like this Lil Mama:

Comparing color of Cherokee Purple to Lil Mama Tomato

The taste is said to be exceptional, despite their proneness for cracking, their deep red coloring like that of a bruise, and the weirdness I had like the growing tip terminating in a giant, cat-faced flower for all three of my CP plants! For this reason, it's really smart to allow multiple "leaders" to grow out, so that if one stem does something weird, you still have other vines for tomato production:

Cherokee Purple Tomatoes on the Vine

Before heavy rainfall, it's wise to pick these, to avoid cracking. I had one mid-season that was so deeply cracked, seeds were gushing out. Turns out, you can pick tomatoes at the "breaker stage", before they even turn pink, without noticeable effect on taste. Two of these below are mostly at the "pink stage", which is where I like to wait until before picking, if at all possible:

Cherokee Purple Tomatoes Picked at the 'Pink Stage' to avoid cracking

The tomao plants weren't quite as impacted by the Nitrogen-deficiency in the new raised bed as the squash and beans. They were always green, although slow-growing in the beginning. Eventually they took off, and we now have a nice, steady stream of CP tomatoes coming in:

The Tomato-Teepee Side of the Veggie Garden The Tomato-Teepee Side of the Veggie Garden
June 2, 2020 and July 13, 2020.

These tomatoes are supported by a teepee design: three sturdy stakes supported by twine wrapped around them forming a teepee shape, sort of like these instructions. I use twine to periodically secure an errant vine to the structure, regularly prune the leaves off the bottom 18" of the plant, and occasionally prune interior leaves to promote good air circulation. In the future, I should make the teepee support first, and then deep plant the tomato seedlings around the support.

The Tomato-Teepee Side of the Veggie Garden
August 28, 2020

This is the first time I grew tomatoes from seed, and I learned that I really need to transplant them into their own little pots sooner than I thought. I follow Craig LeHouillier's Epic Tomatoes book (which is fantastic!), but nothing beats hands-on learning experiences. Despite any early mistakes, it looks like we recovered quite well.

Seedlings, 1 week after planting
April 19, 2020

Cherokee Purple is known as a slicing tomato, so what better way to eat it than as a caprese salad?

Caprese Salad with Cherokee Purple Tomatoes and Basil from the garden

I also found I could use up ~3 tomatoes with this lovely Tomato Tart from SmittenKitchen. It's mostly: heirloom tomatoes, a hard cheese, and a nut/cheese-free "pesto." I opted for three Cherokee Purple Tomatoes sliced, drunken goat cheese, and carrot tops + basil for my pesto (parsley I do not have, but carrot tops are aplenty!).

Tomato, Carrot Top Pesto, and Drunken Goat Cheese Tart

It's very tasty.

Tomato, Carrot Top Pesto, and Drunken Goat Cheese Tart

This year the plants were relatively healthy with minimal/no pests. Except one night in early September, something came by and ate a chunk out of each of my ripe CP tonatoes! Now I realllly harvest at the 'pink stage'! Diseases are often what takes out tomato plants. Diseases or frost. I hope with diligent pruning and removal of impacted leaves, that this extends the tomato plants' lives considerably. One can dream.

?Bird? Tomato Massacre

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