I grew up with fresh tomatoes – dad worked a huge garden in our backyard – and there is nothing like the warm juicy goodness rolling down your chin. Windowsills held nearly ripened fruit safely away from squirrels. It’s no surprise, then, that tomatoes may be my most favorite vegetable.
Tomatoes and peppers find their way into at least one of my meals each day: morning juice, scrambled into eggs, pasta and curry sauces, roasted, grilled, etc. Both are also incredibly easy plants to grow, making them a cornerstone for many first time gardeners.
I started 7 tomato and 8 pepper varieties last Friday -half for me and half for my farming mentor Kelly. The variety of colors and sizes are mind blowing and may seem overwhelming. When looking at plants or seeds, consider the primary use for your bounty:
- Cherry and grape tomatoes and thumb size peppers are perfect for salads and scrambling into eggs.
- Roma tomatoes have less liquid, making them a winner for ketchup, tomato paste, and sauces (less boiling off of juice). If you like drier salsas and relishes these are a great choice.
- Large varieties – 1 pound tomatoes, 6 inch and larger peppers – are ideal for slicing and canning. I prefer juicy varieties and love to eat them straight from the vine. If you like BLT sandwiches look for tomatoes described as “meaty”.
The tomato planting trays rested on heat mats under grow lights, covered with a second drip tray rather than the typical clear greenhouse cover to better mimic being underground. Pepper trays had a similar set up but no heat mats. I had tomato sprouts on Tuesday morning and swapped the pepper trays over to the heat mats. I expect to see sprouts there by the weekend.
Plants are on schedule to transfer to the ground in early May. I love enjoying the canned tomatoes I put back last summer, but I cannot wait to begin harvesting fresh juiciness from strong vines. I’m growing many new pepper varieties this year and look forward to learning how they do in my soil.