Playing with Pokeweed

bag of poke, small“That weed we had last night gave me whacky dreams,” complained Robert. His dreams may have been whacky, but he was wrong to blame the weed: Pokeweed has no reputation for causing wild or vivid dreams. Poke just makes you throw up or get the runs. Or it kills you. And these things happen only if the cook is careless, which I’m not.

Pokeweed is new to our table, though it grows untended in our garden. I used to think poke grew only in the Deep South, in the kind of place where the movie Deliverance took place. Or in Louisiana, where the gators are so mean that they eat grannies, says Tony Joe White’s song “Polk Sallet Annie.” Actually, according to the USDA, Phytolacca americana is native to all but ten states and to eastern Canada besides. I think it must be new in my town, because most people here don’t recognize it. But today it’s growing rampant in our parks and gardens.

bunch of poke, smallI don’t call it by its Southern name, poke sallet, because poke is a potherb, not a salad herb. That is, you must boil the stuff before eating it. As an early-summer seedling, unfortunately, poke looks like a salad herb, with tender, deep-green leaves that remind me of flat-leafed spinach. Like spinach, poke leaves are rich in vitamins A and C. As I gather the leaves, I have to restrain myself from biting into one.

Unlike spinach, poke is an herbaceous perennial. Mature plants look like medium-large shrubs, with thick, 8- to 10-foot stems that turn from light green to crimson over the summer. Bunches of berries hang from the branches, gradually turning from green to shiny black. For a while the plant is gorgeous, and then comes the pleasure of watching birds gorge themselves on the fruit. Afterward you either cut the plant down or let freezing weather do it in.

The poison in poke, people say, is in the red parts. For this reason you’re not supposed to eat poke shoots that are more than 6 to 8 inches high. But shoots that grow in the shade grow taller before they redden. I’ve harvested foot-tall, all-green seedlings from a shady area while rejecting pink-tinged 2-inch seedlings growing in gravel in full sun.

The most poisonous part of the plant, people say, is the root. The last time I harvested pokeweed I pulled the seedlings from the ground, but next time I’ll remember to clip them at the soil line instead.

To remove any trace of poison, poke leaves should be boiled in two or three changes of water. Southerners typically recommend long boiling—20 or 30 minutes or more. I suspect this is because they gather leaves from older plants. The master forager Green Deane advises harvesting shoots no taller than 6 inches and boiling them once for a minute and again, in fresh water, for 15 minutes. In 15 minutes, however, young leaves turn into something resembling pond scum. Is this what Southerners mean by “a mess of greens”? In any case, the next time I gather poke I’ll consider the advice of North Carolina State Extension: “Peel and parboil tender young shoots (less than eight inches) in two changes of water several minutes each.” That’s pretty vague, but if I aim for two 5-minute boilings I’ll take 6 minutes off Green Deane’s total cooking time, and perhaps my poke leaves will retain some integrity.

Besides the leaves, other parts of the poke plant are useful. Although I’ve thrown out even the tiny stems of my poke seedlings, some people cook and eat both young and old stems, although they carefully peel away the red skins first. Some fanciers compare poke stems to asparagus.

Poke berries not only make a fine ink, but they are sometimes taken a few at a time as a remedy for arthritis or gout, and when they are crushed and strained of their seeds they are said to make a delicious and nutritious juice. Although many people warn against eating poke seeds, North Carolina State Extension says that “cooked berries are safe for making pies.”

I must admit that I find pokeweed bland. It has none of the strong and interesting taste of spinach, chard, cabbage, mustard, or even lettuce. For children, this is probably a virtue. And perhaps if I cook my poke for a shorter period next time I’ll be able to appreciate its subtle flavor.

I do like poke in the traditional recipe below. Here bacon fat and eggs lend plenty of flavor, while pokeweed provides a beautiful contrasting color along with a texture like well-cooked spinach.

poke-egg scramble, smallScrambled Eggs with Pokeweed

1 tablespoon bacon fat
3 ounces twice-boiled young poke leaves (change the water between boilings)
5 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a skillet, melt the bacon fat over medium heat. Add the greens, spread them in the pan, and heat them through. Add the eggs and the salt and pepper. Turn the eggs and greens together, gently, until the eggs are just set. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

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Serve It with Flowers

Too seldom do I take the time to embellish meals with garden blossoms, whose bright colors can enhance the appeal of almost any food. At the Thyme Garden Nursery, in Alsea, Oregon, summer tours conclude with an outdoor luncheon, and each dish comes adorned with flowers. These pictures are from a visit I made to the Thyme Garden with four friends earlier this month. Edible flowers in these photos include nasturtium, nigella, and pinks. Among the decorative herbs are bronze fennel and sweet cicely.

Thyme Garden salad, small

Thyme Garden spread, small

Main dish at Thyme Garden, small

Dessert at Thyme Garden, small

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How to Freeze Artichokes

artichoke plants, smallLast winter we had plenty of freezing nights, but they were always followed by warmish days. As a result, none of the artichoke plants lining my short driveway died back at all, and this spring I’ve been harvesting artichokes by the bucketload. Last year’s harvest was only a little smaller. With our warming climate, the big, gray-green, edible-budded thistle so commonplace in California gardens seems to have become an ideal perennial vegetable for the Willamette Valley.

Last year I trimmed some of the artichokes down to their hearts and pickled them. Destroying the integrity of the beautiful buds before cooking them is painful—or at least it is if you’re accustomed to serving artichokes whole, peeling off the petals one by one, and scraping every petal across your teeth. But if you tear off those tough outer petals without mercy before you cook your artichoke, you end up with a fully edible, delicious nugget that can be added to any number of dishes.

This year I decided to freeze artichokes hearts instead of pickling them. I could always pickle some of them later, I reasoned, using the recipe in The Joy of Pickling (page 195 of the third edition).

As always, I harvested my artichokes when they were young, firm, and choke-free. Old artichokes are more trouble to prepare; you must hollow out the center to remove the choke.

Whether you’re freezing or pickling artichokes, you prepare them the same way:

Frozen Artichoke Hearts

 Rinse the artichokes one at a time, holding them upright under running water to wash out any earwigs. Turn the artichokes upside down in a colander to drain.

 Prepare a bowl of acidulated water, enough to cover all your artichoke hearts. I use vitamin C tablets—1,000 grams of vitamin C, ground in an electric coffee grinder, for each quart of cold water. Lemon water will do as well, if you happen to have a glut of lemons, as will a commercial product called Fruit Fresh. Vinegar or citric acid would be less effective.

 Begin heating a large pot of water to a boil.

artichoke, petals removed, smallPick up an artichoke, bend back the outer petals, and tear them off at the base. Keep pulling off the petals until you’re holding a cone that is yellow in its bottom half and light green at the top.

With a stainless-steel or ceramic knife, trim the stem. You don’t need to cut it away completely, since the stem of a young artichoke is tender and tasty.

artichoke heart, nearly ready, smallTrim away any green bits remaining at the base of the artichoke.

 Cut off the top of the cone, removing all of the tough green portion. Be unsparing, or you’ll regret not doing so when you find yourself spitting out fibrous bits. The petals of the finished heart should be so tightly wrapped that they are difficult to tear away.

artichoke, fully trimmed, smallTo keep the artichoke heart from browning, plunge it upside-down into the acidulated water. (It will promptly turn right-side up.)

 Prepare and submerge the rest of your artichoke hearts in the same way. As you work, occasionally dunk the hearts.

 

artichokes in acidulated water, smallDrain the artichoke hearts, and immediately drop them into a large pot of boiling water. Blanch them for about 10 minutes. If some of them are especially large, either cut them in half before blanching them or leave them in the water longer, about 15 minutes. Time the blanching period from when the hearts enter the pot. Keep the heat on high throughout. As the hearts cook, prepare a basin of ice water.

 Drain the hearts, and plunge them into the ice water.

artichokes ready for freezing, smallWhen they are cool, drain them again. Lay them on cookie sheets, and freeze them.

 Pack the frozen artichokes in freezer bags, and store them in the freezer.

After thawing frozen artichokes, steam or boil them until they are tender.

 

Preparing artichoke hearts for the freezer, or for pickling, will leave you with an enormous pile of outer petals. You don’t need to compost them, yet. You might instead boil or steam them and eat their tender inner flesh in the usual way, by dipping the base of each into mayonnaise, aioli, or garlicky olive oil and then scraping off the flesh with your teeth. Then the petals can go in the compost.

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A More Colorful, Flavorful, and Textured Rhubarb Chutney

quick rhubarb chutneyThe best apple chutney I ever ate was made as I watched by a sorority cook who said she never used a recipe. She would make chutney quickly and instinctively for the young women in her care the same day that they would eat it, and they would eat it all. The apple slices in Trish’s chutney were tender but whole. Her chutney tasted as much of apples as of vinegar or spices.

English-style chutneys, to my mind, are too often too sour, too sweet, too dark, too pasty. Sometimes I can’t identify the main ingredient without looking at the label—even if I’ve made the chutney myself. A good rhubarb chutney is particularly difficult to produce, since rhubarb so quickly turns to mush as it cooks and since it’s quite sour even before you add vinegar.

As I pulled my first rhubarb stalks of the season last week, I vowed to make a rhubarb chutney inspired by Trish’s apple chutney. I wouldn’t can my chutney, since I’d make only a small quantity and since I wouldn’t use enough sugar and vinegar to guarantee safety without laboratory testing. The lesser quantities of sugar and vinegar would produce a thick chutney with only brief cooking, and I needed to keep the cooking brief so the rhubarb wouldn’t turn to mush.

But what to do about color? Most rhubarb stalks are more green than red, and when you combine them with spices you get brown. My rhubarb stalks were almost entirely green, but I wanted my chutney to be as red as cooks imagine rhubarb to be. So I decided to add hibiscus flowers, jamaica. They would contribute their own tartness to the mix, but just a little hibiscus would produce a lot of color.

Here’s the recipe I created that day. The chutney is a wonderful accompaniment to grilled chicken.

Quick, Chunky, Rosy-Red Rhubarb Chutney

You can buy dried hibiscus flowers in Mexican and Middle Eastern markets. Grind them in an electric coffee grinder.

1 pound rhubarb stalks, diced ½ inch thick
½ pound white or yellow onion, quartered lengthwise and sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
Zest of 1 orange, in thin strips
1/2 cup white sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground dried hibiscus flowers
½ cup raisins, preferably golden

Combine all the ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Simmer them about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and gently. When the liquid is nearly all absorbed, remove the pot from the heat.

Store the cooled chutney in the refrigerator. Before serving, remove the cinnamon stick. You might also warm the chutney briefly, on the stove or in a microwave oven.

Makes 3 cups

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After the Radish Harvest, Hot Radish Soup

radish soupThe big difference between cooks who garden and those who don’t is that the former start with what’s available. Market shoppers may claim to do the same—to begin their meals by buying produce that’s fresh and in season. But shoppers usually buy only what they can use right away, and so seldom have to deal with excess. Every success in the garden brings with it a burden—heaps of vegetables or fruits that must be dried, pickled, canned, stored in the cellar, or crammed into the refrigerator. The last is easiest, when the harvest isn’t too big, but before the veggies go sad and limp in the fridge the gardener had better wash the soil from her hands and open the cookbooks.

French breakfast radishesThat’s what I did yesterday, after bringing in a pile of French Breakfast radishes. Nearly everybody eats radishes raw—in salads if not at breakfast with butter. And, of course, radishes are good for fermenting and vinegar-pickling, in various ways. But surely they are most digestible cooked. If I wanted to put a lot of radishes into our stomachs right away, I needed to cook them.

I found inspiration in Irene Kuo’s book The Key to Chinese Cooking (1977). In it is a recipe for a pork-and-radish soup. I had no raw pork on hand, but I had the remains of a half brined ham. And I had a potential ingredient Irene may never have considered: a pot full of fragrant leek broth.

The leek broth resulted from an earlier harvest the same day. Needing to clear a bed so I could plant it with tomatoes, I had brought in an armload of leeks. Since I had plenty more leeks in another bed, these could all go into the freezer. I washed them, sliced them, and blanched them for a minute in batches before spreading them on cookie sheets, freezing them, and vacuum-packing them. Now the blanching liquid smelled too good to throw out.

So I made a radish soup like Irene’s, but with a leek-and-ham-flavored broth and bits of leftover ham. Because my soup wouldn’t be one dish among several but dinner in itself, I served it over buckwheat noodles, with a dish of raw arugula to tear and add at will, Vietnamese-style. What a simple and satisfying meal!

If you have no leek broth on hand, you can certainly substitute other vegetable or meat stock.

Ham and Radish Soup with Leek Broth

2 quarts leek broth, preferably unsalted, from blanching or cooking leeks
About 12 ounces ham bone(s)
6 quarter-sized slices ginger
¾ pound radishes
About 1 12 ounces ham, in ½-inch dice
Salt, if needed
Fresh or dried buckwheat or wheat noodles
A small bunch of arugula or other greens, such as watercress or spearmint

Strain the broth, if it needs straining, into a large saucepan. Add the bone(s) and the ginger. Simmer the stock for about 1½ hours.

Cut the radishes into pieces about ½ inch by 1 inch. Depending on the variety and size, you can slice them into quarters or eighths, or you can roll-cut them, slicing diagonally with a quarter-turn between slices; this maximizes the cut surface area of each piece and promotes even cooking and flavor absorption. Add the radishes and ham to the soup. Simmer about 30 minutes longer, until the radishes are tender. Taste the broth, and add salt only if needed; the ham will have probably provided enough.

Before the simmering is done, cook fresh or dried buckwheat noodles in boiling water. Drain and rinse the cooked noodles, and divide them among large soup bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles. Serve the soup with fresh arugula or other greens for eaters to add according to their taste. Diced avocado and oily chile sauce are other tasty optional additions.

Serves 4

 

 

 

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Makah Ozette Fries

Ozette friesNow that my Makah Ozette potatoes are sprouting in the basement, I’m trying to find ways to use them faster. Everybody eats more potatoes when they come to the table in the form of French fries, right? So last night I made some Ozette fries.

I’ve used russets, all-purpose potatoes, and waxy potatoes for French fries, but none have produced such distinctive fries as the Ozette. They turned out crisp on the outside, dry on the inside, and surprisingly rigid. This is the potato for anybody who dislikes limp fries.

I’d imagined the coriander chutney as a good accompaniment to the fries, but I preferred the potatoes with the roasted tomatoes as sauce. Because the potatoes lack sweetness, the candy-sweet Sungold-Juliette mix complemented them wonderfully. Next time I might consider frying the potatoes in small chunks and dropping them all straight into the bowl of hot tomatoes.

The coriander chutney did get eaten—it proved a perfect accompaniment to the pan-fried albacore belly that rounded out this meal.

The chutney, tomatoes, and tuna all came out of the freezer, so slicing and frying potatoes was the only real work involved in preparing this little feast.

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Roasted Peppers with Anchovies and Garlic

On Halloween, fall has finally set in here in the Willamette Valley. The trees stand bare, red and gold leaves carpet the ground, the sky is as grey as the wet streets, and the air is damp and cold. At this time of the year I pick the last of the peppers and remember where I was four years ago, watching the same change of seasons.

lunch in Diano d'AlbaMy daughter and I had hiked to a hilltop village near Alba, Italy, where beside a blazing fire we ate plate after plate of a fixed-price lunch. My favorite dish was soft, sweet, oily roasted peppers flavored with a paste of anchovies and garlic. It’s a perfect dish, I think, for the last of the pepper harvest.

In Piemonte peperoni al forno is made in various ways, and here in America we also have options. You might use salted anchovies instead of anchovies canned in oil. You might use big, thick-skinned peppers and char them to remove their skins. I prefer to use thin-skinned peppers and to leave the skin on. You know the little supermarket peppers that come in red, orange, and yellow? They would do, and if their flavor is dull the roasting would certainly enhance it.

That supermarket mix is the ancestor of one of my favorite peppers, which I have stabilized as Little Orange Sweet. It’s a little bigger than its hybrid forebears, with few seeds and a wonderful sweet taste. It’s an ideal pepper for roasting with anchovies and garlic. Here’s how I do it.

roasted peppers with anchoviesPeperoni al Forno My Way

2 pounds thin-skinned, ripe sweet peppers
2 ounces anchovy fillets packed in olive oil
1 small head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
½ cup olive oil

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse the peppers, and pat them completely dry. Halve or quarter them, depending on their size, and seed them. Spread the pepper pieces in a roasting pan. In a mortar, pound the anchovies and garlic to a paste. Blend in the oil from the anchovies and the additional oil, and toss this mixture with the peppers. Roast the peppers, stirring them at least once, for about 30 minutes, until they are tender. Serve them hot or at room temperature, with fresh bread to sop up the extra oil.

 

 

 

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Found: Good Sweet Cherry Peppers

sweet cherry peppersYou may or may not remember my article Cherry Peppers for Stuffing, about my beautiful stuffed cherry peppers that were too hot for me to eat. I wrote that I’d finally found seeds for sweet, rather than hot, cherry peppers, in two varieties, both sold by Reimer Seeds.

The seeds of one, Kuners, failed to germinate at all—like many of the other seeds I bought from Reimer (whose representative told me, by the way, that the company would not replace or issue refunds for any bad seeds).

The seeds of the other variety, Red Cherry Large, sprouted well, but the plants produced irregularly shaped and sized fruits. Most of the peppers were conical rather than round. Only one of the plants produced truly round peppers.

But I saved the seeds of those round cherries and planted them last February. And the four plants that I set out produced beautiful sweet peppers, round, fairly uniform in size (no bigger than 1½ inches and no smaller than 1 inch), with virtually no cracking, and early. I took the picture above in mid-September.

I have stored the peppers in diluted vinegar and will fill them for the holidays as I described in Cherry Peppers for Stuffing.

This goes to show that plant breeding isn’t always difficult. But now I must hope that the seeds I saved from these pretty peppers aren’t crossed with any of the other pepper varieties that I’d planted in the same bed. It’s not easy to keep unique varieties going in a small kitchen garden. If you would like to help steward this cherry pepper, please let me know.

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Jerusalem Artichoke Chips

Jerusalem artichoke chips

Even though I didn’t plant Jerusalem artichokes this year, even though I deprived last year’s survivors of water, and even though I pulled up many of the young plants over the summer, I still expect to harvest an enormous crop of tubers sometime in the next several months. The plant is tough.

But now I have a new way to use bucketloads of tubers. I developed this method last spring, after wondering whether turning the tubers into chips might relieve them of some of their windiness.

For the first trial batch, I sliced the tubers thin and soaked them for a half-hour in water with salt and lemon juice stirred in. This soaking, I hoped, would both prevent browning and give the chips extra savor. Then I dried the slices in the dehydrator until they turned leathery.

The chips turned out pale and uninteresting. So I baked them in the oven at 200 degrees F. until they were golden brown. Now, to my delight, they were sweet and crisp.

But I couldn’t taste the salt. Also, I concluded that the lemon juice had been unnecessary, since sliced Jerusalem artichokes seem uninclined to brown with exposure to air. So for the next batch I soaked the slices for an hour in a brine made of ¼ cup pickling salt to 1 quart water. I skipped the dehydration step; instead, I put the slices straight into the convection oven.

The second batch turned out as good as the first, with a bit of saltiness added.

I imagined that they would have been just as good with no salt at all. Besides, keeping the chips salt-free might discourage overconsumption—and overconsumption would be risky if the drying and baking failed to overcome the vegetable’s gassiness.

Here is my recipe. You decide about the salt.

Jerusalem artichoke tubers
Salt (optional)
Vegetable oil (optional)

Break the tubers apart at the nodes, scrub the tubers, and slice them thin with a mandoline. If you’d like your chips a little salty, soak the slices for at least an hour in a brine made of ¼ cup pickling salt to 1 quart water.

Drain the slices well, and spread them in a single layer on wire racks set over baking pans. If you have no wire racks that the slices won’t fall through, spread them directly on the baking pans, but expect the pieces to stick a little. To prevent this, you might oil the pan or even toss the slices with a little olive oil or other vegetable oil.

Put the pans into a convection oven heated to 200 degrees F. If you don’t have a convection oven, use a regular oven heated to 225 to 250 degrees F. Bake the slices for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hour, rotating the pans at least once, until the chips are almost crisp. Don’t cook them so long that they turn dark brown, or they will be bitter, just like brown potato chips.

Turn the chips out to cool.  As they cool they will grow crisper. When they are cool, store them in airtight containers.

I tested the chips on people at an afternoon political meeting. Everybody seemed to like them, and none could guess what they were made of. Two people were gracious enough to take home small bagfuls, eat the chips all at a sitting, and report the results.

One of them told me that “right around 10 p.m. it hit. They weren’t particularly odorous or loud, just little bubbly poots all night, and that was pretty much the end of it. “

The other declared, “If I knowingly eat this food again I will plan on working around loud machinery, or going on a hike by myself.

“Bottom line, they taste good.”

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Tomato Report 2018

I see I haven’t written one of these reports since 2015. That’s because I’ve settled on favorite varieties and and grown them year after year. But friends are always urging me to try different cultivars, and so this year I tried a few that were entirely new to me, along with others I’d grown in the past and forgotten about. Here is my report.

 

DeBerau & Purple Russian

De Berao Braun, left, and Purple Russian, right.

Purple Russian. This Ukranian heirloom, which I wrote about 2015, is sold by Baker Creek and Totally Tomato. The pinkish-greenish fruits, about 3½ inches long and 6 ounces in weight, are impressively uniform in size and shape. The cultivar is supposedly very productive; I found it slow to start fruiting but unusually prolific late in the season. All of these late tomatoes, however, were deeply cracked, even though I’d long since stopped watering and we’d had no rain to speak of. Baker Creek says Purple Russian has “flavor that tops the charts,” and one person compared the flavor to bacon. I found the tomatoes a little bland, nothing like bacon, and too low in acid. All of the Purple Russian slices I dried turned black in the dehydrator, while none of the other varieties did. Perhaps the Purple Russians were too ripe. As I noted in 2015, they taste best when picked while still quite firm.

De Berao Braun. Andrew Still and Sarah Kleeger, of Adaptive Seeds , got this cultivar from Gerhard Bohl, a seed steward in Germany (I don’t know where the seeds originally came from; the name looks to me like a misspelling). The fruits are smaller than those of Purple Russian, about 2½ inches long, and rounder. The color is similar to that of Purple Russian but more copper and therefore more attractive, at least to me. The tomatoes are juicy, tart, and sweet, and as suitable for salad as for drying or sauce. They are far less prone to cracking than Purple Russians, and the vines have continued to produce unblemished fruit through late October. I will definitely plant this variety again.

 

Italian heirloomItalian Heirloom. I got the seeds for this one from Lisa Almarode, who urged me to try them. Like me, you might expect this to be another plum-shaped paste tomato. But Italian Heirloom has big, irregular, round to heart-shaped fruits. Although they are meaty, they are also tasty; they won the Seed Savers Exchange tomato tasting in 2012. The plant is extremely productive and early. I picked my first fruit, weighing a pound, on July 17, and in early August I picked a 1½-pounder.

Chocolate Stripes. I am no less enthusiastic about this tomato than I was in 2015. In late October, I am still getting fruits as big as 4 ½ inches across. Their thin skins are prone to damage from snails and slugs and may develop fine cracks around the top, but I cut out any blemishes and thoroughly enjoy these beautiful fruits. It’s lucky I set my one plant in a corner of a bed this year, because this vine likes to sprawl.

Chocolate Stripes seeds are sold by Baker Creek, Tomato Fest, and other companies.

Druzba. I wrote a little about this tomato in 2014, but now I’m even more enthusiastic about it. This Bulgarian heirloom, whose name means “friendly,” produces perfectly uniform, unblemished, round medium-size fruits, about 6 ounces, all season long. (Celebrity, which I grew alongside it, did pretty much the same thing, although Celebrity’s fruits are a little bigger, about 8 ounces. The important difference is that Celebrity is a hybrid; if I save the seeds, the plants that grow from them may lose disease-resistance and other good features.) The fruits’ flavor isn’t special, but it’s very good. This is the tomato you give to people who won’t eat fruit that doesn’t look like it came from a supermarket. They will learn what those supermarket tomatoes are supposed to taste like.

Druzba seeds are widely available.

ananas tomatoesAnanas Noire. This is a Belgian variety introduced in 2005, a cross between Pineapple and a black tomato. For me Ananas Noire produced big fruits (1 to 1½ pounds) that were more green than black, with dark red streaks throughout. The tomatoes looked beautiful when sliced, but if I hadn’t taken a picture in July I wouldn’t remember this. Now, in late October, the fruits are small and a uniform orange-red. Has anyone reading this had a similar experience?

Seeds of Ananas Noire are sold by Baker Creek, Territorial, Totally Tomato, and other companies.

Orange Russian 117. I’ve grown this tomato over several summers, beginning in 2010. A cross between the red oxheart Russian 117 and the yellow and red beefsteak Georgia Streak, Orange Russian 117 is probably the only bicolored oxheart around. It is a meaty tomato, and big, weighing from 8 ounces to a pound. The texture and colors remind me of peaches–I gasp at the beauty of the fruit every time I slice one. The flavor is very good. On the farm I never got more than a dozen fruits from one of these plants (probably because I was battling deer during those years), but this year Orange Russian 117 has been one of my most productive tomato plants–perhaps the most productive. In late October the plant is still going strong.

Orange Russian 117 was bred by Jeff Dawson of Sebastopol, California, in the 1990s. Seeds are available from Tomato Fest, Tomato Growers Supply, and a few other sources.

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