It seems fitting on the two-year anniversary of Diary of a Tomato that we return to how it all started, growing winter tomatoes. There are many reasons not to grow tomatoes in Maine. The temperatures tend to be too cold, the climate too wet, and the season too short. There does exist, however, a window of opportunity, and we’ve had some success by focusing on the smaller-sized varieties. We usually grow a couple of cherry tomatoes, this year it’s been Sungold and Peacevine. Mostly, though, we grow tomatoes for winter storage.
Winter tomatoes, also known as keeping tomatoes, are harvested before frost and stored in a cool, dark place, where they’ll keep until spring. Of the three Italian varieties we grew this year, the Pomodorino del Piennolo (above, top, and below), was a new addition. It started out as a seedling from friend John Forti, who knew of our interest in these tomatoes, and gave us one grown out from tomatoes brought back from last year’s Terra Madre. The fruit developed with a lobed belly and prominent point, or “pizzo,” which are characteristics of Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio.
This southern Italian cultivar struggled, but bore enough fruit for us to sample and save seed from — just squeezed out onto a paper bag, labeled, and left to dry until next season.
It’s been a challenging year for growing tomatoes. A long, cool spring slowed the developing plants considerably, only to give way to a period of intense heat, an equally unfavorable condition. We were concerned for the other two winter tomatoes, especially the Pomodorini Appesi Aprile. We named it after the masseria in Puglia where we first learned about pomodorini, and where the seeds came from.
These Pugliese pomodorini are rounder than the Piennoli del Vesuvio, and without the pointed tip. Fortunately, because they tend to develop later, the plant began to produce vigorously once we moved into the more settled weather of late summer and early fall. It’s still a race, though, for the fruit to ripen before first frost.
The third variety of pomodorini is the Ponderosa del Oro (above and below). Like the Aprile, this year’s crop is from saved seed, and is hopefully now adapted to northern conditions. While the deeper-colored Aprile has better flavor, the golden yellow Ponderosa produces sturdy, long-lasting fruit, and can keep up to May.
Summer squash, filet beans, Shishito peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, radishes, kale, chard, and salad greens
Canned crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce (red and yellow), roasted tomatoes (paste and Juliets), chicken stock, vegetable stock, and corn (whole kernel and creamed). Frozen summer squash flatbread and ratatouille.