Golden summer: tomatoes and tomatillos

A few times a year I like to take a moment to assess the vegetables I’m growing, their positives and negatives, and whether I’ll grow them again. This year I’m growing a few varieties new to me, so I’m going to look at those today: two tomatoes and one tomatillo.

Let’s start with the tomatillo. This is not a vegetable I always grow, because it takes up space–two plants are needed for cross-pollination, and they are not small plants–and because I always seem to have insect issues. Both those things are true this year as well, and yet I’m glad to have been tempted by catalog copy and fallen for Chupon de Malinalco tomatillo. It just isn’t like anything I’ve grown before.

The fruits are huge–over two inches long on average–and generally pear-shaped. They ripen quickly to a bright yellow, and the flavor is sweet-tart, great for salsas. The negatives: they’re hard to keep up with, and fall off the plant when fully ripe. Once on the ground, or even when hanging low on the plants, they get eaten. I don’t know by whom, though it could be rabbits, since they get into our community garden all the time. The fruits higher up are not safe either, since fruitworms and other pests get to them, and often I’ve removed the husk to find so much damage it’s not worth cutting away the bad parts. But with these larger fruits, often the damage is minimal and I can save some parts, which is an advantage over the smaller tomatillos I’ve grown before.

I also grew Uluru Ochre dwarf tomato this year. This variety is one of many developed by the Dwarf Tomato Project, and like others out of that breeding program is short with rugose (crinkly) foliage, and produces full-size tomatoes with delicious heirloom flavor. This particular variety has a color I’ve seldom seen before, not a yellow tomato but a golden one.

I’d call it between yellow and orange with hints of green and brown. The taste is on the sweet side, but with enough acid to balance it.

I would definitely grow this tomato again, but I learned a few things about it that I’ll bring forward into next year. These dwarf tomatoes were developed specifically for container use, and I grew mine directly in the ground. To slow down fungal diseases like early blight, I prune the lower branches off of tomato plants to limit splash-up of spores lurking in the soil. But you can’t do that to dwarf tomatoes, or you lose half the plant–and as a result, my plants are definitely seeing some fungal disease. So I will either plant them in a container next year (I have limited sunny space at home where tomatoes won’t be snacked on by critters, but maybe something can be arranged) or at least in the raised bed in my plot, where the fungal spores might be fewer.

The plants also seem to have a partially determinate habit. Or at least that’s how they’re behaving for me. A couple of weeks ago all the fruit began to ripen at once, and I harvested an absurd number of gorgeous tomatoes from my two plants, but now there are only a couple of small green ones and no sign of more coming along. This may also be explained by the disease pressure or by the very hot weather, so we’ll see: either they will produce more tomatoes or they’ll be pulled out in the next week or so.

But what I have is gorgeous and tasty, and one feature I appreciate is the relative neatness of the fruit; unlike many heirloom tomatoes, there isn’t much cracking, catfacing, or other nasty bits to cut away. (If you like a heirloom-flavored medium-sized red tomato that resists cracking to the point of near-perfection, my favorite (also in the garden this year) is Rose de Berne. But Uluru Ochre is pretty close.)

Another tomato I’m trying this year because the catalog description grabbed me is Wapsipinicon Peach. Besides being fun to say, this is a tasty medium-sized yellow tomato with a soft matte skin that does kind of look peachy, though the name could also reflect the sweet fruity flavor.

It’s also easy to cut up with no nasty bits, although I have noticed some stink bug damage lately. The plants are hanging in there against fungal disease (I haven’t been very good about cleaning up this year) and still producing regularly. I’m not totally blown away by this tomato, but it’s good to eat and reliable, so I’d grow it again.

Anything new and special in your garden this year? Share in the comments!

By Erica Smith, Montgomery County Master Gardener. Read more posts by Erica.

One thought on “Golden summer: tomatoes and tomatillos

  1. kent phillips August 4, 2023 / 9:36 am

    I’m growing a tomatillo in a double 5 gallon bucket and on July 31, harvested 6 nice fruits. Bought the plant at a nursery and it’s a standard tomatillo. since it’s the only on I have, much like my tomatoes, it appears to be self-pollinating. I’ve read the articles that say tomatillos require a second plant, so I guess my bees are providing the service from other tomatillos in the neighborhood.

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