Heirlooms for Oklahoma?

dragon9206December 11, 2011

Well after the inferno that was this past summer, I feel that I need to change my gardening techniques. I have a shade cloth idea in the works, and I'm collecting all of my parent's bagged leaves for mulch. I have gotten several seed catalogs in the mail, and I'm already planning on what I will be planting next year. This year was a total washout for me. :( My intention is to plant only heirloom/ open pollinated varieties. No hybrids.

My question is, what varieties of vegetables have Oklahoma gardeners found to be the best for our area? (I'm north of Tulsa)

I mostly just plant paste type tomatoes. I tried Opalkas, but between the heat and the spider mites I didn't get anything. I want to try them again. Looking at Federle to try next year. I would also like to find a really tasty squash to can my own pumpkin pie filling. Any suggestions or experiences you all would be willing to share?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Dragon, I could probably give you 50 heirlooms that I like, but Dawn and Jay would probably add another couple of hundred each. LOL Some years I plant almost nothing but heirlooms and other years I plant both hybrid and heirlooms. I actually have had good luck with heirlooms and didn't notice a big difference with the hybrids I have planted, with a few exceptions.

You say that you plant mostly paste tomatoes. Is that because you are going to can them? Most paste tomatoes are not that great for fresh eating, but are good canners. I happen to like the taste of Opalka, but it is not very productive for me.

If you are planting nothing but heirlooms then I would suggest that you get a Baker Creek Catalog or go to their website at www.rareseeds.com, since they only sell open pollinated seed, many of which will be heirlooms.

I am not a big winter squash grower, but for your application I would probably plant Seminole or one of the butternut types. Squash vine borers and squash bugs are problems in Oklahoma, but butternut might be one of the more resistant types against borer problems.

Tell us what kind of tomato taste you like and maybe we can offer more assistance. I like the black tomatoes and I have had good luck with things developed by the Univ. of Arkansas because our NE Oklahoma climate is very much like Arkansas.

If you want to add a couple of cherry types then I would recommend Black Cherry which is an OP, and Sungold which is not.

Tell us what you like and we will try to help. Carol

Here is a link that might be useful: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

    Bookmark   December 11, 2011 at 11:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks Carol!

I should have clarified my intent with the tomatos. lol Neither me or my husband are big fans of fresh eaten tomatoes, but we use them in cooking. He is a big salsa person, and we love making our own spaghetti sauce.

I ordered most of my seeds last year from Seed Savers Exchange, and I got some fall garlic and hill onions from Southeastern Seed Exchange. I think I have requested a catalog from Baker Creek, but I haven't gotten it yet.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 12:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Most heirloom paste tomato varieties produce well here most years. You really cannot judge any variety solely on how it performed in 2011 since the heat and drought were off the charts during the tomato-growing season, so you might want to give the varieties you tried this year another chance to impress you.

Tomato flavor is subjective and we each have taste buds that taste things differently, so you might not like the flavor of the varieties that I like and vice versa. That's why it is good to experiment with different varieties, to see which ones taste best to your taste buds. However, I'll be happy to list for you some of the paste tomato varieties that our family likes. The list is a combination of those that produce best in our climate and taste good too. I have grown some paste tomatoes that produced huge amounts of tomatoes but which were absolutely lacking in flavor, so I strive to find the best producers that also exhibit good flavor.

Here's a few heirloom types I like to grow for salsa and sauce-making:

Black Plum (the most unique flavor)
San Marzano
San Marzano Redorta
Martino's Roma (incredibly productive--produces such heavy loads of tomatoes that unstaked or uncaged plants topple over to the ground, and they are not tall plants so you'd think they could stand upright)
Speckled Roman
Amish Paste
Rutgers (original strain seems to have stronger flavor than the later improved strains) I think Souther Exposure Seed Exchange carries the original strain.
Heinz 1439
Heinz 1350
Opalka (has great flavor, but does not produce heavily enough for me)
Grandma Mary's Paste

I sometimes plant hybrid paste tomatoes and of the ones I've grown, Viva Italia was superior in flavor to the rest. Burpee's Big Mama produced huge, huge yields in a bad drought year, but the plant was a disease magnet and the flavor of the tomatoes was nothing special.

My favorite tomatoes for sauce-making and salsa making are not necessarily paste tomatoes, though. I like to make both sauce and salsa from a variety of heirloom tomatoes all thrown into the pot together. You can get an amazing blend of flavors, but you do have to cook the sauce down a little longer because regular tomatoes have a higher water content than paste tomatoes.

When I mix together regular heirloom tomatoes in sauce or salsa, I like to use a combination of the following: Black Krim, True Black Brandywine, Dana's Dusky Rose, Black Sea Man, Cherokee Purple, Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter, Estler's Mortgage Lifter, Pruden's Purple, Stump of the World, JD's Special C Tex, Royal Hillbilly, Tennessee Britches, German Giant, Dr. Wyche's Yellow and Red Ponderosa or Pink Ponderosa.

I am pickier about the varieties I use in pasta sauce, and not as picky about the ones I use for salsa. To me, when I make and can salsa, the tomato is just the "base" flavor, and the more important flavor comes from the peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, etc. I am perfectly happy with salsa made from grocery store paste tomatoes in a bad year when my garden doesn't produce enough for all the salsa I want to make.

If you want to make your own sun-dried tomatoes, I heartily recommend "Principe' Borghese" but we cannot sun dry them here in our climate's humidity most years, so you need a dehydrator.

Making your own pumpkin pie filling will be problematic if you intend to can it. Due to density issues with pumpkin that can affect the safety of the finished product, canning pumpkin as a puree or pie filling is no longer recommended by the National Center for Home Food Preservation. However it still is safe to can it in chunks using a pressure canner. Then, to make pie, you drain the chunks and then mash them into a puree when you are ready to make a pie from them. Most good winter squash used in making pumpkin pie can be stored for months in a cool, dry location, so you can just store them and then use as needed when you want to make a pumpkin pie. I've stored winter squash a year or longer on shelves in my garage and tornado shelter, with no discernable loss of flavor. It is a lot easier than canning or freezing chunks! You also can freeze pumpkin or dehydrate it.

As Carol mentioned, Seminole is a great heirloom and is one of the most drought-tolerant and insect-resistant winter squashes that I've ever seen, in addition to being a high yielding variety. There are other heirloom winter squash, but be sure you choose a C. moschata type as they are the most resistant to damage from squash vine borers. The squash vine borers can kill your plant in a week, but if you are lucky, they might not find your garden for a few years. I gardened for 5 or 6 years here before the SVBs found me, and in those years, I raised between 1 and 2 dozen different varieties of pumpkins and winter squash. Since the SVBs found my garden, I mostly just plant Seminole because it won't die and the SVBs can't kill it.

I've linked the info on preserving pumpkin from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. The NCHFP is the government agency that is the final word on how to safely preserve foods using approved methods.

Here is a link that might be useful: NCHFP Info on How To Preserve Pumpkin

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 5:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My husband is the only one in our family who really likes tomatoes fresh so I grow mostly pastes too. Nothing in my garden survived our water restrictions and wicked heat this year, but the previous year I ran a test of 8 Romas and 9 Amish Paste to see which was more productive for me. They both did pretty well though the Romas seemed to do a little better, giving me more tomatoes for less plants. The major difference was the Romas were more meaty and seemed to make a thicker sauce than the Amish Paste. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend either as they both grew gangbusters with very little care and attention, but if you're making spaghetti sauce I would recommend Romas. The Amish would probably make a really good salsa though.

I also grew one Dr Wyches tomato which my kids kept eating right off the plant so I have no idea how it cooks up because we didn't get a singe one into the house. It did seem to taper off production earlier in the season than the pastes and my Cherokee Purples.

Cherokee Purple has become my husband's absolute FAVORITE tomato. They grow just as well as the pastes and seems to be a good "all around" type of tomato. We add it to salads, foccacia bread, summer pastas (spaghetti and veggies and olive oil), etc. My son eats them like an apple. Some of these made it into my tomato sauce to help even out the batch and add a little added interest.

This year we're trying Tess again...if we can manage to give her enough structure to crawl up.

I use Baker Creek for most of my seeds. You'll love that catalogue when it shows up--it's a great coffee table book :-)

Anyway, these are what seem to work for me and mine. Our garden is nowhere near the size of many of the others so we haven't tried as many varieties as everybody else but I figured I'd throw in my two cents.


    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 3:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here's a link to a thread in which we discussed good squash for Oklahoma conditions. There's certainly no arguing that Seminole is a good one. The thread started out discussing Old Timey Cornfield Pumpkin, which is an heirloom from SC.

My squash had to be planted four or five times this year (any variety) because the squash bugs would wipe out the seedlings. Nevertheless, Old Time Cornfield Pumpkin did finally produce a late crop. Only one fruit turned buff before frost. But out of desperation, I picked and brought all sizable fruit under cover. So far a number have colored up and, they have proven to be quite tasty. So apparently this one is mature before it turns buff.

I will give this one a rest in 2012 and try renewing seed for Warsaw Buff Pie Pumpkin (both strains which I have), as my seed is getting old. This is a very high quality pie squash and generally quite insect resistant. But in 2011 nothing did well.

We grow Baker Family Heirloom, as our main crop tomato. It's good for fresh eating and canning. But in 2012 I intend to plant an early, large planting of Roma VF. Our tomatoes bombed in both 2010 and 2011, only in 2010 we at least got to eat some. This year we only harvested some Black Cherry tomatoes. The rest never produced. So, in order to get our canned reserves back up, I want to grow a big crop of Roma VF and CAN LIKE CRAZY!

Tahlequah, OK

Here is a link that might be useful: Old Timey Cornfield Pumpkin

    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 6:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you all so much for the advice and info! I'm definately planning on trying the Opalkas again, though I might not try the Oxhearts. I had good luck with my peppers this past summer, all except my poblanos. They did nothing until the heat broke. Are these a pepper that prefer cooler temps? Should I start them extra early, even before my other peppers? I work at a greenhouse right now, so I have the ability to start mine where I work. :) Is there some trick to growing those?

I got lots of carrots this year, but they didn't have a very good taste, what can I do to improve their quality? I grew Scarlet Nantes and Paris Market, but they just weren't sweet.

My garden did actually did pretty well in 2010. This is my first house, and my husband and I put in a garden as soon as we moved in. It's a raised bed, one rail road tie wide by four long. (across the back of our lot where it gets the mose sun) I have an herb bed in a pre-existing flower bed, and I just expanded that for the perennial onions and fall garlic. I have gardened with relatives for a while, but I am still learning veggie varieties, planting and growing techniques, and successive plantings methods.

I'm not sure why I thought I needed to can pumpkin, I actually knew they should last until thanksgiving. lol. Over complicating myself! It's good to know that it's the moschata varieties that are SVB resistant. My aunts zukes have been demolished 3 or 4 years running. Are there any zuchinnis that are SVB resistant? I keep seeing this "Ronde de Nice" that looks interesting, but it seems to be a C. pepo. What sort of potatos does everyone like? I have had some luck with those, but I think I have had some wire worm damage.

Also, if you save tomato seeds, do you need to seperate different varieties to avoid cross polination? If so, how far do they need to be seperated?

    Bookmark   December 18, 2011 at 1:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I will address the saving of tomato seeds question. Over the next few days if I get snowed in I may add a little about tomato varieties. I've have a few I prefer.

Many will tell you that you need to isolate anything to save seeds from it. I isolate very few things and overall have had good results. As far as I know I haven't experienced a cross yet. And if I do I may really like it. There are a few things to do that helps cut down the chances of a cross when you don't isolate and this goes for peppers also. First I don't have a lot of active pollinators which helps. The last few years I've planted flowers between my tomatoes and peppers so have seen more pollinators. First I save seeds from the early fruits if possible. If saving seeds from later fruits I select fruits from the middle of the plant and not on the outer edges where they maybe touching the neighboring plant or be very close to it. This has worked well for me. I space my caged plants 40-42 inches apart and the sprawlers 4' a part. Like I said so far I've had good results. Knock on wood. If I would experience a cross like I said I might like it so that doesn't really concern me. I've been told if you pay attention to where the fruit is located on the plant and also select early fruit if possible the chance of a cross is 5% or less. Jay

    Bookmark   December 19, 2011 at 12:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What I do for saving tomato seed, is to plant my varieties in blocks of at least four plants, preferably more, per variety. I usually separate them by at least 20' and try to plant something tall in between. Jay's ideas are all good. I'm sure that conditions and location make a huge difference. In recent years I have had to increase my isolation distance and yet, I've still encountered more crosses (mainly in beans).

There are ways to bag blossums. If one opts to do this, then they don't have to isolate plants at all. It will just be a committment to more work, and it would be best to save seed from a number of plants, per variety, in order to best preserve each variety.

Glenn Drowns mentioned to me that drought conditions cause bean flowers to open wider, and thus to become much more prone to crossing. That's interesting, and appears to fit my experience.

Having put in my two cents, I would always recommend that one try to save tomato seed, as long as absolute purity isn't required. It's so easy and, no matter how you plant your tomatoes, the majority will be pure.


    Bookmark   December 19, 2011 at 5:46AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Intercropping Tomatoes
with Sweet corn? Is it doable? with so many tomato...
Onions and corn are in the ground. potatoes cut I am...
Gogi berry bush
3 years ago I was gifted a tiny gogi berry plant. ...
check in, all ok? sure was windy and lots of hail
All quiet here now, near NW 14 and Villa. Sure hope,...
Lettuce and spinach
Is it to late to plant spinach and lettuce? It was...
Sponsored Products
"Lismore" Votive Holder - CLEAR
$80.00 | Horchow
Arlington Silver Two-Light Clear Heritage Handcut Crystal Wall Sconce, 14.5W x 1
$295.00 | Bellacor
Uttermost Montrose 35" High Mahogony Wall Mirror
Lamps Plus
Linen Twill Windowpane Throw
$299.00 | FRONTGATE
The Orleans Multi-function Vintage Storage Unit
Heirloom Classic Wool Blanket
$219.00 | FRONTGATE
Montana Woodworks Homestead Media Center Stained and Lacquered
Beyond Stores
Hudson Valley Lighting | Hanover Ceiling Light
$568.00 | YLighting
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™