Ann Wright: Tomatoes — A most colorful fruit! | TheUnion.com

Ann Wright: Tomatoes — A most colorful fruit!

Ann Wright
Columnist

Today from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Master Gardener's Demonstration Garden at the Nevada Irrigation District Complex in Grass Valley (1036 W. Main St.), tomatoes will be in the spotlight at the very popular annual "Bite Me" Tomato Tasting and Open House.

This very popular event offers dozens of varieties of tomatoes to examine, taste and to rate. Tomatoes will be lined up like little soldiers awaiting inspection.

Participant "Judges" will have the opportunity to taste and compare a huge variety of tomatoes which contributes valuable information for Master Gardeners to use in choosing plants to start for next spring's plant sale.

So come to the garden today to help decide which tomatoes make the grade!

And, if tomatoes are not enough, workshops and tours of the demonstration garden will also be provided at the open house. Two workshops will be offered — from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. "The Amazing Mason Bees" will be presented and from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. "Salvias" will offer insight into these wonderful perennials, many of which are very attractive to pollinators.

Tours of the Demonstration Garden will follow the workshops, and Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions about tomatoes and other home gardening concerns.

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The garden is full of color this time of year, and tomatoes certainly stand out amidst the fading green of corn and bronze of the fennel.

Ripening tomatoes herald autumnal celebrations of this versatile fruit. (Botanically speaking, tomatoes are true fruit as they bear seeds.)

Tomato tongue

As September is upon us, it's time to "speak" tomato. The language of tomatoes is almost as beautiful as the colorful fruit.

"Heirloom" varieties suggest tradition, ancestry, color and form. Heirloom tomatoes are open pollinated, which means saved seeds produce fruit that is identical to the parent plant.

"Hybrid" tomatoes are a cross between two parents, where two different varieties are cross-pollinated, usually with human intervention.

"Grape" tomatoes are small, oval shaped berry-like fruit with firmer skin. Grape tomatoes are generally smaller than "cherry" tomatoes, which are a favorite to many. Despite the small size of these taste sensations, some cherry tomato plants may grow to over 6 feet in height.

Alternatively, the massive "beefsteak" tomato is a type of its own and may reach a sizeable two pounds.

"Slicers" are generally round, and uniform in shape, also known as a "globe" tomato. "Plum" is the description of paste or Roma tomatoes which are medium to small in size and shaped like red ovals. These have thicker walls and fewer seeds than some of the other varieties.

After having grown a favorite heirloom or open pollinated tomato, saving the seeds may assure enjoyment of this plant and the fruit next year. If saving seeds is on your radar and perhaps you are uncertain how to go about it, join Master Gardeners for "A Home Gardener's Guide to Seed Saving" — a workshop to be presented from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 15 at the Demonstration Garden. This workshop will help participants learn why saving seed helps save money and increases sustainability.

Highlights include:

Discovering the benefits of seed saving and how to preserve heirloom varieties for posterity.

Explore the differences between hybrid and open-pollinated varieties.

Learn to identify characteristics of the best plants for seed saving.

Learn about seed harvesting and proper storage techniques.

On Sept. 22, from 9 a.m. to noon, Master Gardeners will host the Fall Plant Sale.

Plants will include cool season leafy greens such as lettuces, greens, mizuna, chard and kale. Milkweed and other perennials will also be offered for sale at this seasonal event.

Keep in mind that fall is the optimum planting time for perennials, as the winter rains and cooler temperatures allow the plants to become established before warm season rolls around again.

For example, milkweed planted in the fall will die back but will reappear the following spring — just in time for Monarch migrations.

For questions about these or other Master Gardener events, contact the Hotline at 530-272-0919 or check the website at http://www.ncmg.ucanr.org.

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.