Thursday, February 01, 2007

The quest for San Marzanos

The other day while flipping through my Sunset magazine (seriously my favorite magazine ever) I came across a new tomato varietal that I was not familiar with, the San Marzano tomato. I pulled out the little blip about it and set it aside for AB.

Last year we were horribly disappointed with our local selection of tomato plants. Granted we didn’t get ourselves to many of the specialty nurseries around, and relied on what we could find at a few nearby places. At the last minute, ok, probably well beyond the last minute, I picked up a pack of seeds and tossed them in the garden in hopes that one or two would pop up and yield a decent heirloom plant. No dice. After 4 years of gardening in our little plot we get plenty of things that pop up and grow wild, arugula, cilantro, Roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, an occasional cabbage (one popped up last November of all times), so I was a little surprised that not a single heirloom seed popped and prospered.

This past summer our garden went somewhat neglected. AB did a good job of maintaining his tomatoes, Leif loved picking spinach and chard early in the summer, everything else grew wild or flittered into oblivion. Reason? I was early in my first trimester of pregnancy and horribly sick when everything started yielding. Going out and working in the garden was one of the last things on my mind.

This year I resolved to pare everything back to a tolerable level. Maybe six tomato plants, spread with great distances between them, some chard and spinach and maybe a few cabbages since those are the only things we consistently eat from the garden. We usually hit our very fantastic Farmer’s Market regularly and I resolved to buy everything else from there.

Sounded good in theory. Until the San Marzano tomato flew across our radar. It is cited as an heirloom “for canning, paste and a killer spaghetti sauce”. Well with that endorsement AB sent me to the website and has in the past few days talked about “I can’t wait to try that new San Marzano tomato!” I figured since it was in Sunset and all, I better get us in line for seedlings to ship later this spring.

Well to my surprise (or maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised), the San Marzano is available as seeds only and I wasn’t able to find seedlings. (Ok, I didn’t look *that* hard.) And with that, my thoughts of a low scale “tomato only” garden from seedlings went out the window.

I have never grown tomatoes from seed (on purpose). Suddenly I thought of how much fun it would be to undertake this task with Leif. I went through the Seeds of Change website and picked out a total of 4 interesting looking tomato plant seed packets (San Marzano, Red Calabash, Pleated Zapotec and the Arkansas Traveler). Against my better judgment I took a look at their other vegetable seeds.

I checked out after $60 spent for a seed growing system with earth plugs and seeds for shell peas, snow peas, leeks, carrots, cucumbers, spinach, broccoli raab, chard and two basil varietals. I was unimpressed with the cabbage selection and so will seek those seeds elsewhere. Restraint? I have none.

Not like I have anything else to do this spring… right?

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