Saturnian Maters :)

Indigo tomatoes on the vineI was quite taken by the pictures I’ve seen for the past couple years of Indigo tomatoes, a new variety that was marketed as being a very dark purplish blue. I wanted to try them for myself and to save seeds to sell on Alchemy Works if they were worth saving. Here they are on the vine. They are indeed a very beautiful (and very Saturnian) indigo color. They kind of remind me of the color of those purple tomatillos. Indigo does seem to be a Nightshade family kind of color–think of eggplants, black and deadly nightshade berries, etc. It suits their association with Saturn.

White Queen Tomato almost ripe

White Queen Tomato almost ripe

The plants I’ve grown are very vigorous–more so than the other tomatoes I grew this year, with the exception of White Queen. The Indigo plants have made tons of tomatoes so far, but there has been a bit of a problem with them falling off before they are ripe. I’m not sure if this is something about the variety or if it’s because of the very cool summer we’ve been having. I’ve lived here ten years now, and this is the coolest summer ever–only 2 days so far of 90F/32C, none higher, and most days in the low 80sF/26C or even mid 70sF/21C. Last night it was like a night in September. Very unusual, but apparently predicted by something to do with El Nino that I don’t pretend to understand. I am very much enjoying the temperatures, and if I had my druthers, I’d rather summer remain this way, but it is good to have a sense of whether this kind of summer is now going to be normal for us here in upstate NY. Then us witches can plant accordingly.

indigo ripeThe weather might also contribute to the Indigo tomatoes’ lack of taste. You really need plenty of good hot weather for tasty tomatoes. These are pretty mediocre. Better than the ones you buy in the store, and softer. You can see that when they are ripe, they are quite beautiful. They make me think of vampires. :) Probably if I were growing tomatoes just for taste, I would not grow these. But I love the way they look, so I might well grow them for that and have them in salads. They are not that big, so they’re handy for that. Still, they are the first to ripen so far. My Wapsipnicon Peach tomatoes, a fuzzy one that is a favorite of mine, is nowhere near ripening. One White Queen is ripening (these are beefsteak type and so will tend to ripen later, IME). Generally, the tomato plants are way smaller than normal by this time. A number of my tomato plants bit the dust early on because of the cool temperatures and my cruel negligence.

I will probably grow the Indigo tomatoes again next year. They do make me want to grow matching purple peppers. Oddly enough, the pepper plants are doing okay, despite the coolness. I did choose hybrid varieties this year, with the exception of Bullnose, which didn’t make it. I just wanted to have a lot of peppers. And here we get such a cool summer than I won’t get lots. So far, Pimiento Elite is the biggest plant and has the most peppers on it by far.

Potting up

I’ve been really a laggard this year when it comes to potting up plants I started. Even though my garden is nowhere near as big as it was, say, ten years ago, it does get overwhelming sometimes. And since I have been working pretty hard on writing and painting lately, I kind of blew off the chore (one I usually enjoy) of potting up plants–moving small plants to larger pots, where they can grow larger yet. I started way too many plants, as usual, and that made the task all the more daunting. But I knew that I wanted to finally get them done this weekend, so this morning I went out and spent three hours potting up plants and got MOST of them done. Not all by any means. I think that shows just how much I bit off that I could not chew.

Caucasus belladonnasI potted up 6 Caucasus belladonnas (Atropa caucausica) that I hope to get seeds off next year, although I might get a few this year if I’m lucky. This belladonna is supposed to have larger berries than the regular and to have purple stems. I’m not sure how different it is from Atropa belladonna, since it is a subspecies, not a separate species (kind of like the pallid henbane turned out to be a subspecies of black henbane). But it sure is a vigorous little sucker.

White henbanesI also potted up 6 henbanes, mostly white henbane. I’d really like to carry seed from this variety. The plants are much more compact and way fuzzier than black henbane. The cream-colored flowers are smaller (but those white flowers you see there are wild white petunias I am growing for seed and just because I love them). The white henbane flowers also lack the fly-wing netting of the typical black henbane. I’ve read conflicting info, but this henbane seems to have been the one that was once cultivated for medicinal purposes. One of them in this pic is a black henbane–the one that is “lax,” as they say in garden argot. You can see the leaves are much more pointy than those of the white henbanes next to it. The black henbane seems to be much more anxious to form seedpods than the white also.

I potted up two mixed pots of woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris), Western wild tobacco (Nicotiana quadrivalvis–I’ve already harvested some seeds from this), and wild white and purple petunias. The Western wild tobacco is much more delicate looking than its Eastern cousin (Nicotiana rustica). The leaves are long, thin, and pointed, and the flowers are long white trumpets that are much daintier than those of the woodland tobacco. I haven’t noticed a scent. An interesting plant I will grow again.

Pimiento EliteIt was a day for the nightshade family, as I also potted up six peppers. My peppers started off great and then sank into despondency as we have not had a warm summer. One, for some reason, has become quite large. This is a somewhat industrial hybrid called Pimiento Elite, which I believe was developed specifically to make olive stuffings from. I love pimiento peppers, though. They are thick and very sweet, excellent for pickling or frying or just eating out of hand. And they are beautiful. I have grown this variety almost since I first began gardening in the eighties. This year, though, I got a good batch of seeds or something, because this plant is LARGE, as you can see. The other varieties that seemed to do okay despite the unusually cool summer have been Lipstick and Carmen, both of which are also hybrids and which form a longer sweet pepper. In upstate NY, not exactly the pepper capital of the world, hybrid peppers can help in terms of getting any pepper harvest at all. Unfortunately, my very favorite pepper, Bull Nose, did not make it. So I hope for great things from these others.

White Queen tomatoe getting bigI didn’t grow any peppers or tomatoes last year for the first time in ages, but this year I have not only peppers but some tomatoes as well. I wanted to grow Indigo out to get seeds, and although it has been growing okay, the fruits have a tendency to drop off before they are anywhere near ripe, so I’m not sure what’s going to happen with them. On the other hand, a favorite of mine, White Queen, a Victorian variety used as a fruit in the past and which I love for its creamy texture, is doing quite well. I should get a few sandwiches out them! I decided to keep it simple and not only grow the maters in pots but just to tie them to bamboo stakes instead of how I usually support them with cords. I have only a few plants kind of in a nook next to the furnace stack. Next year I think I will grow more again, though. Even the best store-bought tomato just doesn’t cut it in comparison to maters grown in one’s own garden. And sliced on a piece of toasted, buttered German pumpernickel–you don’t get much better than that.

Three hours of potting up included dragging 3 cubic feet of peat moss up from the basement and mixing up wheelbarrows-full of peat moss, compost, and perlite. I think I overdid it a bit. :) But what’s gardening without overdoing it?