Even if you've never grown tomatoes, the intense flavors of these beauties will convince you to give it a try.
Striped tomatoes may look funny, but they are sure to bring a colorful surprise to your garden and table this summer. Tomato expert Craig LeHoullier loves growing them at his Raleigh, North Carolina, home. In his new book, Epic Tomatoes: How To Select & Grow the Best Varieties of All Time, he shares his strategy for backyard success.
Light: Full sun
Soil: Rich, well-drained soil amended with organic matter
Fertilize: Use an organic food such as Dr. Earth Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer (5-7-3); planetnatural.com. Add pine straw or hay to keep roots cool, conserve moisture, and discourage weeds.
Select: Craig's favorite is 'Tiger Tom,' which has yellow stripes on red-orange flesh and a juicy, sharp-sweet flavor. There are many more to choose from, depending on how you plan to use them in the kitchen. 'Green Zebra' is a popular salad tomato with such immense flavor it's often mistaken for an heirloom. The new Artisan series offers striped selections that are small, including cherry tomatoes such as 'Pink Bumble Bee' and 'Sunrise Bumble Bee.' Among our favorite julienne selections (named for their elongated shape) are 'Pink Tiger' and 'Lucky Tiger.' For a great slicing tomato, try 'Pink Berkeley Tie Dye,' 'Solar Flare,' or 'Copia.' And if you're making sauces, grow a great paste tomato such as 'Striped Roman.' To buy any of these selections, look for tomato seeds or plants at your local nursery, or order online at johnnyseeds.com, rareseeds.com, or victoryseeds.com.
Plant: You can grow tomatoes in the ground, in raised beds, or in large containers. They thrive in well-drained, fertile soil amended with organic matter such as chopped leaves or composted manure. Choose a spot that gets at least six hours of full sun daily, and plant after all danger of frost has passed. Add mulch, water regularly, and supplement nutrients in the soil with organic fertilizer. As plants grow, add support with wooden or bamboo stakes or galvanized tomato cages.