Garden Gossip

with Ted Smith

Last week we posed the question, “what’s in a name”? A quick examination of several oddly named flowers and vegetables helped us discover that sometimes there can be quite a bit in a name. This week I’d like to continue the discussion by looking at more plants with some really fun, and sometimes informative, names.

Arguably the most commonly grown vegetable (fruit) is the tomato. Originally from South America, tomatoes have conquered the world. They are now grown everywhere that there are humans. Tomatoes range in size from that of a currant to fruits in excess of a kilogram. They can be found in colours from white to black and every shade in between. Many tomatoes even display a rainbow of colours in a single fruit. They range in shape from perfectly round to pear, oval, heart, flattened, ruffled, ribbed and just downright lumpy. Tomatoes are the ultimate examples of diversity. The really fascinating thing is that the various names associated with tomatoes are equally diverse. Tomatoes have been a part of the recorded word for at least 500 years and in that time, they have accumulated some very interesting monikers. Some are funny, some are literal and some just defy explanation. Last week we looked at Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter tomato. This week I’d like to continue our name theme with an emphasis on the love apple and its various aliases.

So where better to start than with a tomato called simply Ugly? A European variety that has been around for hundreds of years, Ugly is just that. And yet, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While Ugly is a large convoluted tomato prone to cracking and scarring, the flavour suggests this variety might have been better named Ugly Duckling. On a slice of toast with mayo, Ugly is a thing of beauty.

One particular tomato that should be of great interest to area growers is a variety named Defiant. So named for its incredible disease resistance, Defiant does indeed defy the odds and survive where lesser tomatoes give in to disease and fade meekly away. Anyone in the area who has seen their tomato plants succumb to blight would be well suited to try Defiant. A small to medium sized red slicer, Defiant may be the best hope of producing ripe fruit for anyone who has the fungus responsible for blight living in their soil.

Garden peach is perhaps one of the more literally named tomatoes you will find. Ripening to a rich golden glow with pink blushes, Garden Peach is just the right size and colour to be mistaken for, you guessed it, a peach. To make things even more convincing, Garden Peach has also gone so far as to adopt the soft fuzzy skin of its namesake tree fruit. One bite is all it will take to convince you that no matter the name, this is indeed one peach of a tomato.

How about Malakatovoya Shkulka? I’m just throwing this one in here for the sheer preposterousness of the name. Go ahead and try to say it. An unlikely mustard brown exterior belies the crisp lime green flesh that oozes juice and flavour. Difficult seeds to find, this Siberian stalwart should be in everyone’s garden just so we can chuckle as we try to say that name.

Another strangely, yet literally, named tomato is the Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge. A rather bland and tasteless variety (to me), I had to grow them just for the name. They are indeed orange fleshed tomatoes with purple smudgeded skin when ripe. This is one case where a promising name failed to deliver.

Perhaps one of the greatest tomatoes of all time has a name that shouts out that very fact. Gold Medal is indeed the gold standard for flavour and looks. This fruit is a gold medal winner in my garden every year. Massive fruits come in shades of gold and ruby-red. Large enough that slices dwarf the bread they adorn, Gold Medal wins for size as well. Perhaps the greatest surprise with this tomato is when one cuts it open to be greeted by dizzying swirls of reds and golds like a tie-dye party gone awry. Gold Medal screams for attention on the plate and delivers on the palate. Trust the name and look this one up.

Finally there are the Zebras. White zebra, Yellow Zebra, Green Zebra, Red Zebra, Black Zebra and Giant Zebra. This is a family of striped tomatoes whose beauty is unsurpassed. Sitting in a bowl they may look like works of art but one bite and the bowl will soon be empty!

And a few honourable mentions to look for include such names as Hillbilly Potato Leaf, Banana Leggs, Silvery Fir Tree, Believe It Or Not, Black Pineapple, Big Rainbow, Chocolate Sprinkles, Bumble Bee, Dancing With Smurfs, Japanese Black Trifele, Old Ivory Egg, Speckled Roman and Green Sausage.