A preview of rooftop garden delights

A while back, we mentioned that the Bistro is putting in its rooftop garden so we’re ready to start producing the freshest possible tomatoes and veggies for your lunches and dinners. To really whet your appetites –and maybe even give you some ideas for your home garden — we thought we’d let you know which varieties we’re planting this year. We’ve got plenty of tomatoes of all varieties, but also some veggies we think you’ll find quite tasty when they come straight from our rooftop to your plate.

First, because we always put in so many and they’re so appreciated in this part of the country, let’s talk tomatoes. Here’s what we’ve planted…

Patio: These are dwarf tomatoes that, as you might guess by the name, are ideal for cultivating in patio gardens. They produce relatively large fruit and a good yield. For those who love the taste of a fresh homegrown tomato, they’re one of the most popular container plants.

Early Girl: Home gardeners who’ve been waiting all winter for a fresh tomato love the Early Girl hybrid, because it usually produces fruit within 50 to 62 days of replanting. Given how brief a window we often have in this region for growing tomatoes, we want them as quickly as we can get them! Once it gets started, the Early Girl produces lots of fruit all summer long.

Celebrity: Celebrity tomato plants produce good salad tomatoes: round and firm, with a juicy taste balanced between sweetness and acidity.

Better Boy: Better Boys are another favorite home gardener’s choice because they’re reliable, flavorful, disease resistant and prolific. When you need plenty of tasty tomatoes for your summer, Better Boys are a best bet.

Bush Goliath: It may produce Goliath-sized tomatoes, but this one is more of a David-sized plant. It’s a compact tomato that produces fruit larger than you’d expect from a patio-sized variety. This is another good choice for gardeners who want a reliable tomato source all summer long.

Big Beef: This is another disease-resistant reliable fruit producer that grows sizable, tasty tomatoes throughout the summer. Puts those pink ones you find in the supermarket to shame!

Golden Honey Bunch: Sure, it sounds more like a name for a cereal than a tomato, but don’t be deceived. These babies take only 65 days to grow and produce loads of golden-orange grape tomatoes in large clusters that really do look something like bunches of grapes! Not only that, but they’re delightfully sweet.

Rutgers: Rutgers tomatoes, the descendants of a line originally developed in 1934, were once a hugely popular tomato for commercial processing. Home gardeners still love them today for their flavor, color, smooth skin, fleshy fruit and vigor. A great sauce tomato.

Japanese Black Trifele: The name may say “Japanese,” but actually this variety of tomato has Russian origins, and it may say “black,” but the fruit of these tomatoes is more mahogany-colored and somewhat pear-shaped. It has a rich, complex flavor and is another reliable all-summer producer. It looks and tastes beautiful in a salad! Try one and you’ll see why Russians are willing to pay high prices for Trifele tomatoes.

Cuore di Bue: The Cuore di Bue is a classic old Italian tomato type, with a heart shape, a slightly pinkish look and a creamy texture — perfect for our caprese salads. Taste one in combination with a fresh bite of mozzarella. Bellissimo!

Stupice: An heirloom tomato from the former Czechoslovakia (the name is pronounced stoo-PEECH-kuh), the Stupice is another early and fruitful producer that makes an ideal salad tomato.

Koralik/Legend: As you might guess, this one is a result of two tomato varieties being grafted together — the Russian cherry-tomato heirloom Koralik and the early, sweet, full-size Legend tomato. It produces early, delicious, compact cherry tomatoes, and is another fine choice for the grower with limited garden space.

Chianti Rose: No, it’s not a type of wine — although one bite may go to your head. The Chianti Rose is a rosy beefsteak, a throwback to the days when it seemed all tomatoes really tasted like tomatoes. Sweet and tangy, it’s also highly productive and disease resistant.

Sweet 100: This hybrid cherry tomato grows tall and produces big, so make sure your cages are ready — they can grow to be more than 7 feet! Forget “100” — these can produce as many as 200 tomatoes per plant. Should keep us well in stock at the Bistro!

Bonnie Grape: This is another tall-growing hybrid, only the fruit it produces is grape-style rather than cherry. It supplies loads of firm, sweet grape tomatoes from vines that can grow to 8 or 9 feet. No worries about running out of salad tomatoes or components of a fine ratatouille with these around.

Of course, tomatoes aren’t the whole story in our rooftop garden. We regularly grow a collection of herbs to harvest fresh whenever we need them (the chives are already going crazy and the mint is back, too — look for them to be accompanied by more herbs as the spring goes on). Our eggplant went crazy last summer, so we’ve put in a set of Ichiban Egg (Japanese eggplant) for this season, as well as something new — Brussels sprouts. And more peppers than ever! Get ready to enjoy not just fresh red bell peppers, but also New Mexico Big Jim chile peppers (said to produce the world’s largest chiles), mammoth jalapenos and sweet banana peppers. These peppers are big enough to stuff: perfect for chiles rellenos and jalapeno poppers, not to mention accenting a sauce or sandwich. So look out…things will be getting a little hot at the Bistro for Summer 2011!

Make plans now to spend some beautiful spring and lazy summer days with us, when our rooftop is in full production and you can enjoy the most local of local produce. We look forward to seeing you!


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