One of the best things about growing your own produce is the profusion of varieties. In the grocery store, you're lucky to find one or two varieties of tomato, but if you take a look in a seed catalog, there might be dozens to choose from.
One of the treats of summer is a fresh tomato and here are a few of my favorite varieties:
Stupice: Pronounced "stew-peets," this is a super-early variety from Czechoslovakia, which is nice because I hate to wait for my tomatoes to ripen. They tend to be slightly larger than a golf ball in size, and each plant yields lots of tasty tomatoes.
Sun Gold: My absolute favorite cherry tomato. The bright yellow and orange tomatoes liven up the look of a fruit basket, and they are ridiculously sweet. The only problem is that it's so hard to resist eating them that few of them make it into the house from the garden.
Brandywine: An heirloom classic. Brandywines have low yields and are slow to grow, but the result is worth it: a massive, beautiful beefsteak tomato that can weigh up to a pound. There are subvarieties that range in color from pink to yellow, but my favorite tactic is to buy seeds of assorted colors and see what comes up.
Kellogg's Breakfast: Another great beefsteak tomato, which turns a gorgeous pale orange when ripe. This variety has just the right mix of acidity and sweetness, and these tomatoes are great on hamburgers. Plus, they grow so large that one slice can cover an entire sandwich.
Yellow Pear: Exactly what it sounds like, a small yellow pear-shaped tomato with a delicate, tangy flavor.
Black Krim: There's a story behind this one. My father bought some Brandywine seeds about 15 years ago, but accidentally ended up with mislabeled Black Krim seeds. He fell in love with the tomato and saved the seeds from that year; a few years later, he lost the saved seeds and tried to order more, but ended up with a different tomato.
After a decade-long quest to recover the tomatoes, he's finally found them under the name of Black Krim, an heirloom tomato from Ukraine so good it's almost decadent, reddish-purple shading to black, with a tendency to crack on the shoulders. These tomatoes are very salty and tangy, with just a hint of sweetness. They're probably my favorite tomato, flavor-wise, but sadly, I'm not allowed to eat many of them this year - my dad is saving most of the seeds. He's taking no chances on losing this tomato again.
If all this talk of tomatoes makes you want to start a garden of your own, here are some tips:
* Don't plant beans or peas in the same row as tomatoes; the extra nitrogen harms them. Try borage instead - it will repel tomato hornworm moths.
* Try growing heirloom varieties, which can be bought from the Seed Savers Exchange or other seed companies. Heirlooms can be prone to cracking and lack the uniform red color that supermarkets look for, but they're more flavorful and contain less sodium than hybridized plants. Also, they breed true, so you can keep seeds from year to year without worrying about too many unwanted recessive traits.
* Different sizes of tomatoes are good for different purposes. Cherry and small pear tomatoes are great for snacking on or adding to salads, while plum tomatoes make good paste, and a slab of a beefsteak tomato goes well on a sandwich.
Angelica Previte is a senior at Weber High School and an inveterate bibliophile. She can be contacted at anprevite@gmail.