The Yellow Pear Tomato Experience

I have to say that growing the yellow pear tomatoes has been nothing like I thought it would be.

1. It took SO LONG for these tomatoes to ripen.
2. The plants have grown SO TALL. Like five and a half feet tall, and that’s in the smallest possible pot recommended for tomatoes (6 gallons or so).
3. The tomatoes taste SO GOOD. Little tomatoes have never been my favorite, but of course I’ve always gotten my tomatoes from the grocery store.
4. The yellow is quite pretty.

They’ve been not without problems, however. I went outside the other day to get the mail or something, and the tall, spindly stalk had collapsed under its own weight. I don’t think anyone bumped it, and the slight breeze was no way strong enough to blow it over. Regardless, there it was, flopped over on the ground. The stem had split up two sides, but hadn’t severed, so when I lifted it back into place you almost couldn’t see the break. Almost.

I decided to perform surgery. A long time ago, when my plants were all little, I marked which variety was which with wooden chopsticks. I also had a roll of that green plant-tying tape on the patio, for reasons I cannot explain. With Husband’s help–he’s a physical therapist, and good at wrapping things–we put a nice little splint on the branch to prop it up. (I guess that’s not surgery; it’s just first aid.) The stick seems to be providing good support. I pushed the pot closer to the wall so this branch could lean against it, and two days later the leaves still seem green and the budding tomatoes remain attached.

I’ve badly removed branches from tomato plants while pruning before, and ended up not with nice, clean breaks but rather strips of plant that peeled away from the stem, and those have closed up. I’ve seen clean breaks heal with the cellulose equivalent of scabs, too. I am very, very optimistic that I’ve saved this half of the plant, which is good for the ego because 1) I kept something living alive and 2) it means that I still have a chance of winning the unofficial contest I am having with my BFF, who is raising a plant from the same litter of seedlings, and who keeps reporting to me how many tomatoes are growing. If I lose the branch, it’ll be a major setback in my tally. There were more than thirty tomatoes growing a few days ago.

The episode made me reevaluate my staking strategy for the rest of the plant, too. I couldn’t believe that the skinny little stem could support all that growth straight up, and turns out that it couldn’t. When I pushed the pot closer to the wall, the other branch, which had been supporting itself against the upright planter, flopped over. I caught it (it’s a slow-flopping branch), and repropped it, but it really wasn’t sufficient. I grabbed a small dowel that was lying around (from some real estate agent’s Memorial Day flag that was left on our patio), but it was too short to help in any meaningful way. Rather than go digging around for a longer stick or actually going to a nursery to actually buy an actual tomato cage, I stuck the dowel in the top of the upright planter and tied the plant to it there. It looms ahead in probably a way too ugly for the HOA people to tolerate, but it’s keeping the plant upright (if fixed in the shadow of the upright planter), and the plant is using it as an excuse to grow even taller.

(I actually had a Roma stem collapse on me, too, but this plant is much smaller and it has three or four stems growing, so I could just tie it upright to one of the healthier stems. So far, so good. One of those stems is tied somewhere to a stake. The center may hold.)

Seriously–I wasn’t expecting the height on this plant that I’m getting. It’s unbelievable, and I only have it in a six-gallon pot (which you would know if you’ve been reading my blog for more than the pictures). I can’t imagine what this thing would be doing in the ground. Probably turn into an organism large enough to get even SkyNet’s attention.

I’ve been waiting so long to pick any of these tomatoes that I confess I gave in as I was splinting the broken branch. It’s partly my neighbor’s fault, who dropped by to see the new kitchen just as we were wrapping the stem. She saw those four yellow tomatoes dangling there in peril and picked them. We all ate one. I wonder, however, if they could have been even brighter yellow, and therefore even sweeter. I know I’ve been picking the red tomatoes too soon; maybe I picked the yellow one too soon, too. There was a bit of a tang on it that maybe is to be expected, which I might have known if it was a variety of tomato I was in the habit of buying. I can absolutely wait until they turn bright yellow before picking them again; it’s not like I ever have enough tomatoes hanging from the vine to make a salad or a salsa. They are ripening in fits and trickles, and I wonder if you need like twenty plants growing at once to have a reliable supply. When we lived in Connecticut we inherited a tomato garden that had thirty plants, maybe. Maybe not. I dunno. I didn’t help garden; I think they were all volunteers that grew by themselves after we moved there. My mother had enough on hand to do some serious canning one year, and we ate spaghetti sauce for a year. It was very yummy. Nostalgia aside, I don’t have enough pots to have that and all my tomatoes are small anyway.

I’m starting another batch of yellow from seed, because supposedly the growing season in our neighborhood can take you through October. That would be pretty cool if I were harvesting bunches of these at once, if only for a while. My serrano chile plant appears to be thriving, and it would be cool if I could bring some kind of homemade yellow salsa to some fabulous Labor Day party that someone will maybe invite me to. Now that my cookbooks are all neatly arranged on my new countertop in my new kitchen, I have easy access to the salsa book that’s been eluding me. Perhaps I’ll find just the perfect recipe in there. Perhaps it will also call for mango or tomatillos. A girl can dream, can’t she?

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