My tomato garden and the quest for the perfect tomato

Heirloom tomato garden planted

Is there room for one more Mortgage Lifter? That is the question I have been asking myself for several weeks. It started out so simple when I was planning my tomato garden for our lakeside cottage in Maine. After spending weeks on my computer during our very snowy winter, I had made my decision on what varieties of tomatoes I would grow.

For cherry, I would grow Sun Gold (extra sweet and fruity that did well last year) and Black Cherry (new purple-black variety with a rich, complex taste). The strange named Kellogg’s Breakfast (pale orange heirloom, very large, meaty with few seeds)…could the name come from its juice looking like orange juice. Black Krim (dark brown red, large heirloom from the Black Sea of Russia with a rich, slightly salty taste). And our favorite Mortgage Lifter (an old pink variety, very meaty with few seeds and great taste).

Two more plants than last year; I would just ask my landscaper if he would be so kind to increase my tomato garden…adding new soil and large rocks to outline and if it could be finished by the 21st of May. He said yes and everything went according to plan except for the tomatoes.

The nursery that assured me they were growing all my heirloom varieties only came through with the Kellogg’s Breakfast. No problem, I would find other varieties. The Sun Gold was easy and after two days search I found the Black Cherry. I found one Black Krim at a new nursery and they suggested a purple stripe (no further name or details) but what the heck, I was feeling desperate and even added two Big Beef (a disease resistant hybrid, high yield and old-time flavor) and Cherokee Purple (a rose purple, delicious heirloom that we had grown successfully at our home in New Hampshire) to the collection. I couldn’t find my Mortgage Lifters and I was beginning to panic.

Why the panic? My husband Mickey, said it was the best tomato he had tasted since tomatoes from his grandfather’s garden. We discovered this tomato last year after our garden was wiped out in one fell swoop by a woodchuck. (I’ll tell you that story another time). I asked a local tomato farmer what was his favorite tomato. He said if he could only plant one tomato it would be Mortgage Lifter. We planted it and he was right. I can’t tell you how many bacon and tomato sandwiches we ate last summer except to say I gained ten pounds and I believe it had something to do with those sandwiches.

I continued my search. I got a call from a friend who had found Mortgage Lifters fifteen miles away and they would hold them if I came right over. My list was complete. Tomatoes are never easy. Two days later the Mortgage Lifters showed signs of fungus. They went into quarantine and I found a new tiny one a day later.

We planted our tomatoes over the Memorial Day weekend. We ran out of room in the newly extended garden because of the extra tomatoes I had purchased while looking for the Mortgage Lifters. We had to buy two large wooden buckets for the cherry tomatoes. We also had to plant two of the Mortgage Lifters in our raised bed with our herbs and peppers.

It still wasn’t right. We both looked at the tiny Mortgage Lifter and decided to replace it if we could. The farmers market had a nice six pack of sturdy looking Mortgage Lifters. Of course we took it even though we only needed just one. We got home and dug up the tiny one and replaced it with the sturdy one. But what to do with the others? We now have too many Mortgage Lifters. Is there room for one more? If you have been counting, it is actually four more sitting in little pots waiting for our decision.

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About Karen

I travel the back roads of New England and beyond, sharing great food and interesting places.
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4 Responses to My tomato garden and the quest for the perfect tomato

  1. Jean says:

    Karen, My CSA farmers in Poland always grow Sungolds, but Mortgage Lifters is a new variety for me. (There has to be an interesting story behind that name! :-))

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jean, I think Sun Golds are so popular with gardeners because they are early, abundant and have such a sweet, fruity taste.
      The Mortgage Lifter does have an interesting story. The name was registered by a man named William Estier of West Virginia but most people give credit to a man by the name of “Radiator” Charlie Byles from Logan, West Virginia. The story goes that he crossed several of his largest tomatoes until he developed a plant that had tomatoes weighing between one and two pounds each. He sold the plants for one dollar each and was able to payoff his $6,000 mortgage within six years, thereby the name Mortgage Lifter. It is said that the story is what has keep the name alive. All I know is that it is a very large and very tasty tomato.

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