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Where’s the beef(steak tomato)?

By Amy-Lynn Albertson

Rowan County Extension Director

Summertime and tomatoes go hand in hand. Tomatoes are warm-season plants and should be planted after the last chance of frost has passed. Tomatoes do not like temperatures below 55 degrees at night.

In the summer, blossoms will drop when temperatures exceed 90 degrees in the day and stay above 76 at night. This summer we have had some extraordinarily hot days and nights. So if you have noticed that your plants are not producing, you can blame it on the heat.

The garden site should be in full sun, and the soil pH should be between 6-6.5. It is vital to rotate your planting sites so that you do not plant tomatoes in the same place the following year.

Tomatoes are determinate or indeterminate in growth habit. Determinate tomato plants grow to a certain height and then stop. They also flower and set all their fruit within a relatively short period. Simultaneous fruit set is an advantage if the tomatoes are being grown primarily for canning purposes. Indeterminate tomato plants grow, flower and set fruit over the entire growing season.

Everyone has their favorite tomato for sandwiches and salads. A favorite of many is the heirloom tomato German Johnson which is a large, pink, thin-skinned beefsteak tomato.

An heirloom from Tennessee, Cherokee purple, is another top pick. Cherokee purple is a dusky rose/purple fruit with deep brick-red interiors. The tomatoes are delicious with a pleasantly sweet and rich flavor. With thin skin and soft flesh, the fruit is somewhat perishable, but they taste so good they will be devoured anyhow.

Other summertime favorites are the Better Boy and Big Boy varieties. Both are red and long-time favorites because of their large, smooth scarlet fruit with meaty flesh and great flavor.

N.C. State University’s tomato breeding program has released several popular varieties, mountain spring, mountain pride and mountain fresh. These are red, firm tomatoes known for their taste and ability to store.

Saturday, Aug. 17, the community of Woodleaf will host the 13th Tomato Festival.

The Rowan County Master Gardener Volunteers will host a tomato tasting so you can decide which variety is your favorite. The festival is from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Unity Presbyterian Church, 885 Woodleaf Barber Road, Cleveland.

There will be entertainment all day, with music of Divided by Four and other bands.

The Little Miss Mater Sprout, Miss Mater and Mr. Tommy Toe Contest will be one you won’t want to miss. The parade starts at 10 a.m., and this year there is a special contest for kids who enter the parade. There will be lots of arts and crafts for sale and of course, tomato sandwiches.

For more information about the Woodleaf Tomato Festival, go to www.unitypresbytrerianchurch.com. For more information on growing tomatoes, visit http://rowan.ces.ncsu.edu or call at 704-216-8970.

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