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Pick Three!

May 3, 2012

The best tomato on the planet, in my humble opinion, is Pineapple. Tomatoes are on everyone's list of favorites edibles.

Credit: All photos Doreen G. Howard
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A gray-bearded man in the audience stood up and asked me, “If you could only pick three edible plants to grow, what would they be?” 

I was speechless for the longest two minutes of my life, as I pondered what would I grow if I had to buy everything else at a grocery store.  Finally, I haltingly replied, “Pineapple tomato, Jimmy Nardello sweet pepper and Ashmead’s Kernel apple.  No, make that Chojuro Asian pear.  The apple needs another tree to pollinate it.”

No tomato can come close to the fruity flavors of the two-pound Pineapple yellow and tangerine beefsteak;  nor, can you equal or surpass the crisp, sweet, red thin flesh of the heirloom pepper.  And, Chojuro’s aromatic butterscotch flavor and crunch cannot be found in any other Asian pear.

You'll never find Chojuro Asian pear in any store.  That's why I grow it!

During the last few weeks, I’ve spoken before a number of groups in four states about gardening. The man’s question was the first time I’ve been so taken aback and stumped.  Only three edibles?  What an impossible choice!  Curious as what others would reply, I put the same question to a group of friends who are garden writers, nursery owners and plant producers.

Many of their responses were geographic, what grows well in their climate.  Others were totally unique, like Boston resident Hilda Morrill’s.  “I was born in Puerto Rico and learned to garden from my maternal grandmother, so my choices are bananas, avocados and pineapples!”

Homegrown vegetables have no equal, and many cultivars are not available commerically.  That's why the people I interviewed picked their favorites, even though I limited them to only three!

Another East Coast gardener, C.L. Fornari who lives on Cape Cod picks Sungold tomatoes, Rainbow chard and  Maxibel haricot verts (bush beans).  The tomatoes don’t make it into the house, she says.  “Rainbow chard is beautiful, you can harvest it from mid-summer to hard frost and use it as a wrap,”  C.L. says. “I roll it up with goat cheese, fasten with tooth picks, brush with olive oil and throw it on the barbeque.

Denise Schreiber of Pittsburgh, author of “Eat Your Roses”, selects Delicious tomato, Yukon Gold potatoes (for their buttery flavor) and any old-fashioned watermelon with sweet syrup that runs down my chin, she adds.

In Bowling Green, Ohio, British transplant and radio show host, Kate Copsey likes Black Prince tomato for its great taste, Anaheim peppers that are moderately hot and good producers and Russian Blue kale that can be picked throughout the winter.

Cathy Wilkinson Barash, in Iowa's heartland, votes for edibles that are long-lasting or easily “put up” for future eating.  She plants Jacob’s Cattle beans, Waltham butternut squash and Purple Cherokee tomato.

Brandywine is the tomato by which all others are measured.  And, you don't find it at the store.

Notice a Tomato Trend?

As Texas folksinger Guy Clark puts it, “There are two things in this world money can’t buy, true love and homegrown tomatoes”, quotes Teri Dunn Chace of Little Falls, New York. Brandywine tops her three picks, along with Genovese basil and Sugar Ann sugar snap peas.

Heading to the West Coast, Rose Marie Nichols-McGee in Corvallis, OR likes the new blue-skinned Indigo Rose tomato, Wild Garden Mix kale and Katie’s Sweetmeat Winter squash. Another kale lover is Tanya Kucak in Palo Alto, Calif.  She picks the perennial version of it, Tree Collards, along with Tommy Toes tomato and La Vigneronne pole beans. Her neighbor, Gerald Burke, who spent 25 years in the seed business, chooses Black Seeded Simpson leaf lettuce, Cherry tomato and Danvers Half Long carrot.

Ros Creasy in Los Altos, Calif. is widely known for pioneering the edible landscape.  It was difficult for her to narrow down choices to just three.  But, she managed, based on superb flavor: Sun Gold tomato, the original Sugarsnap edible-podded pea and Berkley blueberry.

You’ve read the experts’ choices. Now tell me what your three picks are.


Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.

In stores now!

Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including amazon.com.

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Comments

I live in Portland, Oregon

By Lezlie

I live in Portland, Oregon and my 3 favorites
are early girl tomato (reliable even when it is not a "tomato summer"), black beauty eggplant for its plant beauty and easy delicious to grill on bbq, and blue lake pole beans, which are great in the Pacific NW.

1. Tomatoes - Brandywine for

By Turbokat

1. Tomatoes - Brandywine for canning & Beefsteak for sandwiches.
2. Peppers - Cubanelle, Poplano & Yellow Bell
3. Squash - Zucchini, Yellow Crook Neck & Butternut

I live in Northern Illinois!

By Ed Hanus

I live in Northern Illinois! I always plant 2-4 Early Girl Tomatoes at the end of May. They start producing in about 55 days, more than I can use. So I share with my daughters.They are full of flavor and great for anything you want to use them for, from sandwiches to salads or cooking. Marketer Cucumbers and Sweet Bell Green Peppers round out my crops. The kids are grown so that's about all we need. Although this year I planted a couple of Pie Pumpkins. I haven't done that since the girls were small.

I like a large, pink, slicing

By kprairiesun

I like a large, pink, slicing tomato like Delicious with old-fashioned flavor, pickling cucumbers and dill. Then I can can and make great dill pickles and dill, hot green tomato pickles! My Mennonite friend's recipe uses mostly fresh dill leaves and is mild and flavorful. Brandywine, etc don't do well with our hot nights, so like Delicious.

San Marzano tomato. It

By David A. Schaefer

San Marzano tomato. It provides a versatile tomato especially great for sauce - wonderful in midwinter. Any butternut squash. Another versatile vegetable you can make soups, mash, broil etc. Last Fortex pole bean. If you like true bean flavor this is the best bean ever!

Dave Schaefer
Concord, MA

I've been sooooo disappointed

By Niurka

I've been sooooo disappointed with growing tomatoes in south GA. There is a virus or fungus that has destroyed my beautiful plants with tomatoes on them. Which kind can I buy that would be resistant to this mess? H E L P !

It's not the tomato type, but

By Doreen G. Howard

It's not the tomato type, but the tomato mulch. The South is famous for early blight, which destroys tomato plants when they're young. When you plant, mulch each tomato with at least 1 foot of straw, shredded leaves or other organic mulch. That keeps raindrops and sprinkle water from splashing up onto plant lower leaves, spreading the blight spores which reside in the soil.

I live in NW Florida and in

By Elizabeth Bush

I live in NW Florida and in the past have also had the same problem. A couple of years ago I discovered Predator Nematodes, which you can get at www.wormsway.com. Predator nematodes eat the bad nematodes that can bore into your tomatoes and other vegetables and will eventually kill them. It has helped in the garden and I have also tried the topsy turvy tomato planters and they are doing great. I have even planted squash and cucumbers in them. I only buy heirloom tomatoes because to me they have a better flavor. Some of the varieties I prefer are Brandywine, Box Car Willie, and Rutgers. Hope this helps.

A good sweet yellow/ orange

By Vheidle

A good sweet yellow/ orange pepper, Yukon gold potatoes, and good beefsteak tomatoe.
I would really like to taste this pineapple tomatoe everyone is talking about tho

A good heirloom tomato (I

By NinaG

A good heirloom tomato (I grow my own plants from seeds I save each year), half-runner green beans for eating fresh and canning and transparent apples for freezing and canning.

What is your favorite

By Doreen G. Howard

What is your favorite heirloom tomato, Nina? I save my own seeds, too, and it was a tough choice. So many second-place winners like Black Krim, Green Zebra and Texas Wild.

I live in NE Ohio. The

By NE Ohio

I live in NE Ohio. The choice was difficult and it took a while to come to a decision. My picks are Kentucky wonder pole beans for flavor, ease of harvest, extended harvest, and seed saving; Waltham butternut squash for flavor, production,long storage, and seed saving; ever bearing red raspberries for their yumminess and ease of care once established.

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