Friday, August 29, 2014

Ralph's Romas

I talk to my garden as I work in it... and imagine it might be funny for someone on the other side of the fence to hear me tell my strawberries to stop hiding when it's time to be picked, or explain to the pumpkins that they shouldn't be taking over the broad beans' patch. This week, they might have laughed to hear me exclaim over Ralph's tomatoes!

Ralph's banana tomatoes
Ralph is my Italian nonno friend who lives about a block from me. Last fall, he gave me some plums and grapes from his yard, and I gave him some pears. His lovely wife, Lydia, poured me a glass of orange juice and we had a lovely visit at their kitchen table. Ralph told me that he had grown a six foot zucchini that put him on TV and in the papers some years ago, and showed me a five foot one hanging from a vine on his greenhouse. We had a nice visit, and he promised me some cuttings from his grape vines in the spring.

So this spring, I went back to visit Ralph and get the grape cuttings, which are now doing quite well in my yard. I took him two of my heirloom tomato plants, and he gave me two banana tomato plants in return, and a few weeks later, two more plants that are now known as 'Ralph's Romas.' I suspect both are heirloom varieties that Ralph brought with him from Italy back in the '50s.

So I've been watching Ralph's Romas and bananas growing this summer, but I was paying more attention to the banana tomatoes because I've had Romas for years... and last night, when I was checking to see if any of the Romas were ripening, I got the surprise of my life. I knew there was one big one on there, and I told it, "Look at you, you're huge." It is -- the size of two of my fists held together. But then I peeked further under the plant and exclaimed, "Holy ....!!!" Hidden behind the big one was the mother of all tomatoes, the largest I've ever been able to grow, so big I can't get two hands around it.

Ralph's Romas
It seems Ralph's Romas don't want to let his zucchini put them to shame or something. I'll save seed from the monster/mother tomato, and make a whole pot of spaghetti sauce from it, I suspect. I'm guessing my rather ordinary heirloom tomato plants have no power to impress the Tomato and Zucchini King! But life isn't about impressing people... though his tomato varieties have impressed me! Thanks, Ralph!

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