The Best Tomatoes and Peppers for Your Garden
This spring season has been a gorgeous one. We are inching into summer at a nice pace this year and the warm season vegetable seedlings are chomping at the bit to hit that sun-kissed (and rain-splashed) garden soil. I am anxious once again to get plants in the ground and growing, anticipating the ripe flavors of summer – nothing more so than tomatoes. But a big part of the fun of it is in the growing, waiting, and watching.
While observing the spring migration of birds in western Wisconsin on a late April weekend, I went through my collection of scratch paper notes and bird checklists that I’ve accumulated over the years. Some of the notes triggered memories of various gardens I’ve had and many times I could distinctly remember certain tomato varieties, sliced fresh with my pocketknife and eaten in the field, warmed by the sun – or eaten on fresh garlic tomato sandwiches. I had to laugh because I can’t say any other vegetable has that kind of hold on my psyche. I have no definitive counts of either but my tomato-growing life list might rival my birding life list. I always hope that this year’s selections for the garden are good ones.
With that anticipation in mind, as we jump headlong into the gardening season, I wanted to introduce you to a few of my tomato and pepper favorites – ones that have made an impression on my tastebuds.
Colette's Favorite Tomatoes
For starters, one of my all-time favorite tomatoes that can serve a wide variety of uses in the kitchen is the Italian Heirloom. This dense, meaty slicer/canning tomato stopped me in my tracks. I remember saying out loud that this was the best tomato I had ever eaten, and no one else was in the kitchen. A number of years later it won the Seed Savers Exchange annual tomato tasting contest. You will make prize-winning sauce with this one, with only a little added salt.
A newer and delicious favorite is Brandywise. Brandywise is a hybrid developed to incorporate the flavor of heirloom Brandywine but with better disease resistance. The outcome is a welcome addition to the garden. This tasty red slicing tomato is very productive and much more resistant to our more troublesome disease issues like early blight. The plants grow big so stake accordingly or keep your pruning shears at hand.
Pink Berkeley Tie Dye
Another newer variety making a name for itself is The Pink Berkeley Tie Dye. It is a winner in more ways than one. An excellent option for container-growing, this compact plant produces rich, sweetly flavored fruits that rival all the dark or purple tomatoes you have eaten before. The beautiful fruits are port wine-colored with metallic green stripes, making a striking statement on your patio. Your BLTs will thank you.
Another fun and easy favorite to have at hand is Tidy Treats – a cherry tomato plant that, as its name implies, stays a bit tidier than its wild and vine-y cherry cousins. Loaded with bite-sized red fruits all summer long, compact plants grow to a determinate height but still appreciate a cage for support and ease of harvesting. Another great patio container companion.
Colette's Favorite Peppers
King of the North
An old heirloom sweet bell pepper favorite of mine that does well in our northern climate is the King of the North. With so much talk of kings lately, I wanted to bring the gardening focus to one that truly rules the garden. An early-yielding plant grows strong and sturdy to protect and hold up large, fire-engine red fruits, whose flesh is thick, crisp, and so sweet. Keep picking fruits and this plant will keep producing. A whole row of these plants is a regal sight.
Candy Cane Chocolate Cherry
A newer pepper to catch my attention is the Candy Cane Chocolate Cherry. This mini bell variety is so stunning you’ll want to take pictures! Not only are the plants variegated green with white, but the fruits are too – they start off green with white stripes and ripen to a rich chocolate and cherry-red striped. A great plant for containers, either on its own or in a big pot mixed with summer herbs and flowers – the play of colors is endless with this one. Your patio snacking collection just got tastier and more colorful.
Hopefully, this info has sparked your excitement for growing tomatoes and peppers in your garden. The world of flavors that these vibrant veggies offer is truly remarkable. From the rich and meaty Italian Heirloom tomato to the strikingly beautiful Pink Berkeley Tie Dye, and from the compact and tidy Tidy Treats cherry tomato to the regal King of the North bell pepper, there’s something for everyone’s taste and gardening preferences.
Both Sargent’s locations are fully stocked in these varieties (quantities are limited) and our expert staff is standing by to help you have a successful, delicious gardening season.
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