Strike up the band! Sound the horn! Beat the drum! Notify the press! Our backyard is fiiiiiinally yielding some ripe tomatoes. Well, one, single, glowingly ripe Better Boy tomato, to be more exact, on this happy summer day of August 26, 2011.
I planted out two Better Boy seedlings on May 9, so it has been a long wait. The plants, with abundant round green fruit, have grown to the top of the eight foot support poles and are poking through the roof trellis. As VFNT hybrids (i.e resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, nematodes AND tobacco mosaic virus) they are looking pretty good -- although there are a few brown spots on the lower leaves and some leaves are thickened and curled into themselves.
For years, these have been our workhorse must-have tomatoes. They are harder to find now because of the craze for heirlooms, but I did manage to locate a mail order online nursery in the Midwest (Garden Crossing) that carries them. B. insists on them, and, indeed, they have provided us with many a year of abundant harvests for freezer tomato sauce that gets us through the winters (ah, the grueling Northern California winters).
Better Boys were developed many years ago by a former employee of Burpee, John Peto of PetoSeed. He took with him from Burpee some seeds of a large pink beefsteak variety called Teddy Jones -- which had been one of the parents of the hybrid Big Boy -- and used them in developing his own new hybrid. So I guess the idea is that Better Boy is better than Big Boy, or something like that. Better Boy is -- or was -- a very popular variety with home gardeners and has a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the most productive: one plant yielded 342 pounds of rich red lusciousness.
From the Burpee web site I learned some more factoids about tomatoes in general: They originated in the Andes Mountains of South America and spread throughout Central America and into Mexico. In the sixteenth century they were found by the invading Spanish growing in Aztec king Montezuma's garden. The Spanish brought them back to Europe and the rest is history, some of it occurring in our backyard.