not quite at home here

The lovely Costoluto Genovese, an Italian heirloom, supposedly well-known in the cuisine of that region and responsible for some heavenly tomato sauces, as it has small seed cavities and lots of meat.  (Although when I mentioned this to an Italian couple over for dinner, they had never heard of it.  I tried to pantomime the shape of the fruit in the air — the plants had not even bloomed back then in early June — assuming that their fluted shape would be unmistakable.  Still got blank looks.)

I love their unusual shape.  Reminds me of the slightly flattened, scalloped pumpkin Cinderella’s coach was made of.  Yet I’m despairing of getting any ripe fruits at all from these plants.

I have six plants.  One has still not bloomed.  The others have tomatoes in various sizes on their vines.  Some of the vines are fantastically developed and overflowing.  Some are weaklings and easily flop over if they are not staked every six inches along their way – little prima donnas.  Well, they are Italian.  The tomatoes are not very large, in general, and the plants are certainly not prolific.  If every single fruit ripened simultaneously on all the plants I have, I might have enough to make spaghetti sauce for two.

Heirlooms are unpredictable.  Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it before.  But Cherokee Purple is doing amazingly well, putting out enormous tomatoes of unparalleled rich, complex taste, with consistently meaty flesh.  The Rutgers are pumping out tons of mid-sized globes that are a perfect balance of acid and sugar, the true summer tomato taste I know and love.  Roma has just taken a wee pause for the first time since early June, and has been the backbone of our tomatoes-for-cooking supply for over two straight months, steady and dependable.  I think the question is whether the heirloom likes your soil and weather conditions — and poor Costoluto is unhappy here.

F. comes from a spot in Europe not very far from Genoa, and he positively wilts in the summer heat and humidity, even though he’s been here over four years now.  I’m still adjusting to my new life here.  It’s been almost eight months now, but it was a huge transition for me to move to this small semi-rural community from bustling midtown Atlanta.

I think this tomato is just trying its best, but feeling overwhelmed by the hot sun and heavy air.  Upstate South Carolina is a different world from northern Italy.  Sometimes our local conditions don’t suit us… or are not conducive to our best performance.  That can happen whether we are transplants or natives.

Oh, well.  Live and learn.

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