Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wrapping up the Tomato Season: No. 4 Black Russians

While it took a lot (physically and mentally) to pull the last of the Black Russians out yesterday it had to be done. There were a couple of green tomatoes on the vine but on the whole the wilt plaguing the balcony had well and truly defoliated these guys. On the bright side, it finally means I get to pass detailed and anecdotal judgement on the Black Russians, hooray!!!!!!!!

Where to begin. Black Russians were the first of the non-red tomatoes to enter the balcony garden. I heard about them one day and in true inept balcony gardener fashion developed an immediate obsession. My Totally Lovely Melbourne Friend knew where to find some seedlings and drove me out to a nursery, wherein i purchased them as part of an heirloom tomato 4-pack. I then proceeded to crowd them into a pot where they remained and grew and fought for space like Mexican wrestlers.

Once these tangled overcrowded started their matrix of not-quite-harmony I began to worry - what if the closeness strangled them to the point of no fruit??? So next mission, procure another pot and another black russian tomato plant, surely then at least one should fruit. Again I didn't really size the pot correctly and this guy was always top heavy. But he did produce fruit, 26 of them to be precise.

And Mr friendly overcrowded black russian also fruited, though only about 16.

The green zebra also produced black Russians ... Ok so that doesn't really make sense, or does it. See when I saw that the green zebra might actually be nice I thought I might plant one or two more, and luckily one day by chance at the nusery I found two such willing green zebra seedlings. Oh how I was looking forward to harvesting three vines full of green zebras. But this is a post about black russians ... well it seems one of our green zebras was a little more black than green. Mislabelled, mishwatever, from early on I know he was different. No green stripes, larger fruit, something told me this was no green zebra. Indeed, it looked an awful lot like the black russian next to him. Low and behold when the fruit ripened into a mahogany/black I realised we had black russian number three in our midst.

He fruited well and was the last man standing, only pulled down yesterday due to the wilt. He produced 24 fruits, all very tasty. So on the whole how did black russian fare? It was hardy and despite the wilt also pretty disease resistant. It got a bit of powdery mildew when grown in the back of the balcony where there was less air movement but on the whole was fine. No blossom end rot which was awesome. He grew very tall, way past the stakes and the stakes taped onto other stakes. I think the last one clocked in at over two metres. A bit hard for me to handle at 5 foot 2 and a half. If I pruned him it would keep him in check but I am a gardener with a soft spot for randomness, I am not a pruner and tend to let things run free (god forbid if I ever have children, they'll roam even freer). Once at this size he also needed to be tied up with rope to keep him from falling over in the wind.

The taste was lovely. We had a black russian/black russian night where we ate black russian based pasta sauce and drank black russians. Well ok we intended to drink black russians but given the accidental non purchase of both Kahlua and Vodka we settled for a nice red instead. It worked well though given the sporadic haul there wasn't a large amount of sauce and it was padded out with a few stray San Marzanos.

Uncooked they were tasty too - with a bit of oil and salt and pepper, basil and buffalo mozzarella. Also oven dried in wedges they were uniquely smokey and tasty.

Would I grow Mr Black Russian again? Without a doubt! Although this is a type available from the Vic Market in droves (albeit it at a rather exorbatent 15 to 25 dollars a kilo) as usual it tastes so much better when grown in the home garden. As I am planning to grow another darker tomato - purple cherokee - I doubt I will plant more than one black russian but if mislabelling happens again then it wont be the end of the world.


Dan said...

I love black tomatoes, they are so rich & tasty. You had really good yields on your balcony. Your like a balcony tomato goddess :-)

Fern @ Life on the Balcony said...

You must keep excellent records. I have no idea exactly how many tomatoes I harvested last year.

prue said...

Dan - hehehe balcony tomato goddess, has a nice ring to it, better not let it go to my head. You should see the last two plants though, they are not pretty and are struggling against this wilt thing.

Fern - Anything to procrastinate from my thesis!!! Can't wait to see the final tally, because I don't really feel I ate that many but it will be huge.

Chandramouli S said...

Yummm... You make my mouth water. Black Russians seem a super hit in your garden. BTW, wouldn't tomatoes survive there after this season? Just curious.

prue said...

Hi Chandramouli - we are heading into Autumn and winter so it is just a little bit too cold for tomatoes, but we are going to try with an indoors one. Fingers crossed. Plus this wilt thing has me puzzled!