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Smith & Hawken: 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden Paperback – July 1, 1999
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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This is a book for the true tomato snob who is not content with the ordinary red beefsteak weighing heavily on the vine at the end of summer. Yellow, pink, green, and orange tomatoes are all part of this guide to heirloom varieties, many of which are only available through catalogs or through an organization called the Seed Savers Exchange.
Author Carolyn Male favors heirlooms that have been passed down through families, not commercially created hybrids. She does not hesitate to be critical, calling some varieties mealy or bland, while others send her into epiphanies. Although she makes gestures toward guiding the novice, this is a book for either food fanatics or experts who move in the subculture of truly obsessed gardeners catering to gourmet cooks and specialty markets. Throughout the book, enticing photographs of freshly picked heirlooms remind the reader that grocery store tomatoes aren't really tomatoes at all, sitting sadly under fluorescent lights, losing their flavor and color. If only they had been born in a tomato snob's garden; then they would have been treated like royalty. -Emily White
From the Publisher
Also in the series: 100 English Roses for the American Garden and 100 Orchids for the American Gardener.
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There are so many varieties of heirloom and open pollinated tomatoes to choose from and most (not all) offer more diversity of flavor, size and color than the hybrids.
When I find varieties that we especially like and do well in our garden, I like knowing that I can save seed and not have to purchase new seed each year to continue growing them.
I purchased this book and another large book on heirloom tomatoes. While both contain many varieties I haven't tried yet, neither of them contained some that are among my favorites.
One gardeners' experience regarding yield and flavor does not indicate another garden or gardener will have the same experience. Varieties grown in the same garden, by the same gardener using the same techniques, will vary from year to year due to differences in temperature, water, shade, nutrients and many other factors.
Where we live, most tomatoes stop setting fruit when our temperatures get too high. Some plants survive the long hot period to set more fruit later and many do not.
Those that perform well and taste great become repeaters in our garden and those that don't perform well will probably not be grown again.
Ironically, my experience with some of the varieties that others have found to provide high yields has been the opposite. Some people prefer tomatoes that are sweet, some prefer acidic tomatoes and some like a balance of sweet and acid. We like variety of flavors, sizes and colors because one size does not fit all needs or purposes.
If I can pick up a few tips from someone else's experience or learn of a variety that might perform well in my climate and conditions, I'm grateful.
For instance, Aunt Ruby's Green tomato is always mentioned by heirloom growers. I've tried growing it 2 or 3 times now and been disappointed each time I did. The plants did not set many tomatoes for me and I always ended up regretting allotting the space for it. Cherokee Green performs much better for me. One year during the long hot spell, a single Creole tomato continued to set fruit. The other mid to large sized tomatoes just dropped blossoms.
People should not expect any book written by someone else to describe what their experience will be with a plant.
I enjoy reading about open pollinated and heirloom plants and since there are so many heirlooms, no single book is likely to cover all of them. I feel this book deserves a spot on my shelf, along with several others on the subject.
This won't tell you how to start from seed (well, it does a little), but the real value is in establishing vision as to where you want to go with your tomatoes, in terms of how awesome you want them to be. At least, that's what it did for me. I especially appreciated her recommendations as to which heirlooms would be best for the novice, market farmer, and for other growers.
Dr. Male writes with the authority of an expert, but the comfortable familiarity of a backyard neighbor, chatting with you over some ice tea. She left me wanting more, and I'm not talking about the tea. I've thumbed through all these pages many times, and no doubt will again in the future.
For the above reasons, I've given the book five stars, because it is SO worth the money. If she ever decides to write another book about tomatoes, I would want to buy it no matter what she actually decided to say. However, I would hope it would be different in the following ways: more stories from her rich past, more varieties of heirloom tomatoes and more details about how to get started.
The book is also a well designed, printed with quality in a format that is easy to browse.
Her pictures - well, they are REAL! What a concept! Instead of pictures of these pristine tomatoes that were probably airbrushed, the pictures of her cherry tomatoes show a little crack here and there, and she unabashedly shows scarring and other blemishes. She shows top views, bottom views, and each picture shows a cut tomato so one can see the flesh. For a tomato grower like me, this is great information.
Her descriptions are frank, and since I was already growing some of these tomatoes myself, I know they are honest. You ever notice how the descriptions of the tomatoes in the catalogs imply that EVERY tomato is the BEST tomato? Dr. Male tells it like it is! In fact, she describes some of them having some faults, but has listed them for other reasons. (We agree - Amish Paste? Ho-hum. But historically significant and in spite of its faults, a very popular tomato.)
If you are a tomato aficionado, then you must add this book to your library! I will have a copy at my booth at the farmers market - and I bet it will be dog-eared by the end of the tomato season! I may have to buy another!