The Heirloom Tomato Plant Sale & Tomato Facts

Our Heirloom Tomato Plant sale is coming up on May 5th at the Wine Center. I’ve asked our resident garden gnome, Chef Matt Lowe, to talk about one of our favorite vegetables and share some tips and facts about them. -Justin

Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetable grown in home gardens. But in some ways they can be one of the most frustrating pieces of a home garden. Maybe you live in a cool climate or have a short growing season and your dreams of BLTs never quite match the reality. Today we’re here to offer some advice and maybe a little help.

We grow a lot of tomatoes here at Kendall-Jackson. In fact, we love the fruit so much we’ve been throwing a tomato festival for a while now. On September 15th we’ll be celebrating the 16th Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival. At the festival we focus on only 175 of the at least 7,500 different varieties of tomatoes that exist in the world.

Why just 175 types? We zero in on open pollinated varieties, and their seeds that can be saved and handed down like heirloom jewelry. In fact, if you’ve ever eaten one of these tomatoes and thought, ‘this tastes just like Grandma’s tomatoes,’ it’s because they are your grandmother’s tomatoes.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to wait until September to get your own tomato plants going, and we’re here to help. On May 5th from 10am to 5pm we’re having our annual Heirloom Tomato Plant Sale at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center.

It’s not cheating; think of it as a head start on those delicious BLTs you’ll be eating late in the summer. We get the plant started then you can take it home, plant it and watch those tomatoes grow.

Now, if you’ve already bought some tomato starts at your local farmers market and are ready to transplant them, pick a place in your garden with well drained soil. Take off a few of the lower leaves and bury about 50 to 75% of the plant in the ground. See those fine hairs on the stem? They’ll become new roots giving your new tomato plants a jump start in the garden.

Like I mentioned earlier, we grow a lot of tomatoes at the Wine Center. So I thought we shared some of our tomato knowledge with you:

  • Hybrid tomatoes (the ones that have an F1 after their name) are cross pollinated to combine the best characteristics of both parents, like disease resistance and increased productivity.  Early Girl and Sun Gold tomatoes are both popular hybrid varieties.
  • New varieties of open pollinated tomatoes are still being developed & discovered, such as Pink Berkley Tie Dye from Brad Gates at Wild Boar Farms.
  • Short growing season? Look for varieties of tomatoes that have a 50-60 day maturity rate, such as Oregon Spring, Siberia and Stupice. Paul Robeson is a mahogany tomato and it does well in cool climates.  It is great for BLT’s like its warmer climate cousins Mortgage Lifter, Cherokee Purple and Black from Tula. They all take about 75 days to ripen.