Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Season Opener

I had my first BLT of the 2011 BLT season. Yes, I view the eating of BLTs as a seasonal thing. Why is that you may ask?

Brandywine Tomato Slices fresh from our  garden
Brandywine Tomato Slices Fresh from ourGarden
What you do not see is two slices of bacon busted up into four pieces, they are covered by tomato slices and the lettuce.

You see, I only eat BLTs with tomatoes fresh from the garden. From now until October The Wisconsin Snow Bunny and myself will only be eating garden fresh tomatoes.

The tomatoes that go onto my sandwiches will also be the brandywines from our garden. Then in October, when our vines are dead and the last of our garden tomatoes are gone, I will go to the grocery store and start buying them again. I will continue to make and eat sandwiches, but I will not make nor eat any more BLTs.

The variety of tomatoes we typically plant are two. Our slicing tomatoes are chiefly brandywine tomatoes. Brandywine Tomatoes are an heirloom variety of tomato and are also indeterminate. By heirloom we mean a variety of tomato that has been around for a long time, they are not a great tomato for grocery store marketing for a number of reasons.

By indeterminate we mean they will keep producing tomatoes until they die and grow with a vining habit. Determinate tomatoes (e.g. roma) will grow, set flowers, produce fruit, and then die. Indeterminate tomatoes on the other hand will produce fruit cycle after cycle.

Brandywine tomatoes can be large. A couple of summers ago we harvested a tomato that was over 2 pounds! However, the fruits can be less than pleasingly shaped, with the possibility of multiple lobes forming and usually around those lobes you will find scarring and they often catface. This is the big reason they are not found in grocery stores, this tomato can not handle the abuse all produce takes in the logistics of getting from field to the grocery store (and that is not a rap on the grocery industry).

Brandywines require a bit of attendance and care when growing. Since they are vining you need to trellis the tomato plants and prune them. To trellis them I get some T-posts and support the vines with some string that I run from T-post to T-post, by weaving the string around the vines so the plant is supported from both sides.

As the summer progresses I then will often supplement the water as needed and add fertilizer. I alternate between a powder, granular, and liquid fertilizer. I occasionally spray the plants with insecticide and fungicide. However, I do so reluctantly as I am concerned about killing polinators.

I encourage you to go out next spring and purchase a couple of brandywine starts. Plant them, care for them, wait for them, and I guarantee you, you will develop some tradition like I have!

Good Stuff!

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