buck with table of tomatoes

At last, the tomatoes in my garden are beginning to ripen. They’ve been slow due to our recent monsoon-like rains coupled with the cooler fallish temps. Plus they went in late. And I grow types that ripen late. Though the plants are somewhat challenged, I feel confident. Look, here comes the sun.

I grew many of my favorites, mostly heirlooms including ‘Brandywine,’ ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Oxheart,’ ‘Black Prince,’ ‘June Pink’ and ‘Eva Purple Ball.’ I added some new ones: ‘Crnkovic Yugoslavian,’ ‘Ivan’ and ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter,’ which produced the tallest plant I’ve ever seen. Plants are loaded up with fat green tomatoes that are ever so slowly turning red, pink, purplish-red or tangerine.

I put in some hybrids as well, as insurance against a tough year and I’m glad for this. ‘Celebrity’ tomatoes are bearing like crazy and have good flavor as do the bright cherry tomatoes ‘Sungold.’ They’re in a crowded spot, right next to ‘Juliet,’ the prolific baby plum tomato.

Also new this year is ‘Pink Cadillac,” started from seed saved from a tomato given to me by my friend Anne Q. Corr, a food writer and cookbook author from Centre County. This family heirloom is from Uniontown and was grown by John Koritko Jr., her husband’s fishing buddy.

“John brought us these spectacular, gnarly tomatoes,” she recounted. “They had intense flavor, well-balanced, but not sweet, irregular in shape, lumpy and bumpy.” They came from seeds that had been lost for a generation, and given to his sister by a neighbor in 2001 at his mother’s funeral. His father, John Koritko Sr., a coal miner in Uniontown, had grown them in the family’s garden. Called Pink Cadillac because he drove a Cadillac, he was known in the neighborhood as “Cadillac John,” wrote Ms. Corr in an article for Centre Daily Times in State College.

Bucks Dad Tomato plants

John Koritko Jr. refers to himself in that article as “The Keeper of the Seed.” Carrying on tradition, he cultivates his dad’s prized Pink Cadillacs in his large Centre County garden. During his visits to the local waffle shop, in season, “he’s known to travel leaving a trail of tomatoes,” Ms. Corr said. “He gives them away, to the waitress, the hostess, the owner.”

In an email, Mr. Koritko wrote that he’s proud to be continuing his father’s legacy with ‘Pink Cadillacs.’ He starts about 100 plants to give away to friends. This year, he has got about 45 plants in his two gardens. He uses the tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and sandwiches thick slices of the fruit on white bread with light mayonnaise. Later in the season, he cooks them down into a salsa, adding his own sweet and hot peppers. “I never sell them, just share them freely as tribute to my dad, Cadillac John and our hometown roots in Uniontown,” he added.

A couple years back, as co-curator of a food project for the Bellefonte Art Museum, Ms. Corr held an event at Mr. Koritko’s garden. Along with tips from the “Tomato Man” about cultivating heirloom tomatoes, there was a tomato sandwich tasting.

Two tables were set up in his garden, she said. “We served Western Pennsylvania-style tomato sandwiches and Eastern Pennsylvania-style tomato sandwiches. Both were on soft, white, untoasted bread, neutral bread,”  she said. The difference was in the spread. Western was Miracle Whip and Eastern was Hellman’s.

Now visiting family in Colorado, Ms. Corr said she hasn’t had a decent tomato since she got there.

Maybe she needs to come back, because soon I’ll have a garden full of ripe ones. They’re fabulous in my version of tomato sandwiches.


Original source: http://www.post-gazette.com/life/food/2017/08/23/heirloom-tomatoes-garden-recipes/stories/201708230127


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