Every winter, I peruse the seed catalogs, carefully reading the descriptions of all the fruits and vegetables and imagining the feel of summer on my tongue. I’m always up for a taste adventure, so I’m often won over by some new flavor sensation. If I’m lucky, it will be something that actually stands a chance of surviving in my garden.
Tomatoes are a particularly wonderful food to experiment with. It’s interesting to see how the color palette changes from year to year to year to year. The flavors change, too. I have a hard time deciding whether to stick with the varieties that I like or to branch out into new and exciting (though sometimes disappointing) territory.
This year I tried three varieties of the trendy new blue tomatoes that get their color from anthocyanin, the antioxidant that also makes blueberries blue. I ordered them from the source: Wild Boar Farms.
Attractive with purple/blue on its shoulders. It tasted a little odd until it was super ripe and then it was pretty good but not stellar. Next year, it will probably lose its spot to a new experiment. The plant, like all the rest of the Wild Boar hybrids that I got this year, was not terribly vigorous, but I’ve gotten several tomatoes off of it. Dark Galaxy
This was the most delicious tomato of the summer. When ripe, it had a spicy, complex flavor that John and I loved. It was extremely beautiful, too. I think this one will be back next year. Blue Chocolate
Like the Blue Gold, these are best eaten very ripe, and even then they weren’t my favorites, though I liked them well enough. These had even darker shoulders than the Blue Gold, which made a beautiful tomato from the time that they are green with black contrast to when they are a deep brick color that fades to black. As pretty as they are, I’ll probably give their place to something new next year. And returning again this year after a very successful summer last year:
Orange and Green Zebra
These cherry tomatoes grow and grow and grow and they have a great flavor (light and fruity), though it is hard sometimes to tell whether they are ripe. They get streaks of orange among the green, so they’re very attractive. They are on my all time great tomato list. Next year maybe I’ll take a break from them and rotate in another of my all time greats–or maybe not. Gypsy
These were my surprise favorites from last year. I’d gotten them as a freebie along with my tomato order and the flavor blew me away. I wasn’t as in love this year, but they did grow well and produced plenty of larger tomatoes. They’re still tasty and attractive and I’d plant them again. Pearly Pink
Another great cherry tomato returning from last year. They’re fun and a little different. They have an interesting pearly sheen as they ripen from a pale to a deeper pink. They’re a little crunchy and flavorful and nice as part of a mix of tomatoes on bruschetta. The plants grew really well, despite early problems with aphids. Like the orange and green zebra, I’ll definitely keep them in the rotation of all time best tomatoes. Garlic
I’d planned to do whole complicated review of the four varieties of garlic that I grew this year, but then I looked back at my review of last year’s garlic. There was one variety that I grew both this year and last, and it turns out that this year I loved it and last year I didn’t much like it at all. So, I guess it doesn’t really matter. It all tastes good. I get the small garden sampler pack from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, so I just plant whatever they send me and never have to decide.
Still, garlic is tasty and I have fun sampling all the complex flavor variations. And finally there is the basil. I’ve mostly stopped experimenting because I’ve discovered the varieties I like and have stuck with them. Of the six varieties I have in my garden this year, only one is new. Thai Holy Basil
Spicy, gentle, citrus & clove, complex. Perfect for Thai cooking but not as much for bruschetta. Too bad I haven’t done any Thai cooking.
Lots of licorice, strong, sharp flavor. I like it and have had a lot with my tomatoes.
Pretty purple and green leaves. Stronger flavor of licorice, but smoother than the Persian. I’ve eaten a lot of this one this summer.
Spicy hot, more minty and not as licorice flavor.
Extremely citrusy and refreshing. A couple weeks ago we had an amazing sorbet at the River City Food Co-op that was made with frozen strawberries, Earl Grey tea, and lemon basil. This would taste terrific in place of the lemon basil.
Lettuce Leaf Basil
Mild, minty basil flavor. Not spicy. And finally, melons. I got to try my second variety of melon back in August. Luckily they ripened before the mildew closed in for the kill. This variety is called Rich Sweetness. Yes, I got it partly because of the name. They are supremely beautiful melons, but I wasn’t blown away by the flavor. Still, they were fun little novelties that could actually succeed in my little space.