Thursday, April 1, 2010

Patrick's Picks -- Larry Moore's Tomatoes

Patrick Picks
February, 2009

HEADLINE: Patrick's Picks: Stretching the Tomato Season with Larry Moore.

It takes skill and experience when selecting your tomato varieties to ensure a harvest from the Fourth of July to the first major frost. Larry Moore, the co-anchor of KMBC Channel 9 News since 1972, is a passionate tomato grower, who through trial and error has developed a season-long program with hybrids that deliver excellent flavor.

Larry's enthusiasm for growing tomatoes is regularly demonstrated on air when he shares his bounty with co-anchors. Larry says "I keep growing tomatoes because there is nothing more tasty and delicious than home-grown red-ripe tomatoes. Tomatoes like sweet corn are best if eaten within 8 hours."

Larry always selects five varieties of tomatoes each year. He says "Early Girl Hybrid assures me of red ripe tomatoes by the Fourth of July weekend." As the name implies, Early Girl is one of the earliest producing varieties with tennis ball sized fruit in as little as 52 days. However, the later varieties will always have superior taste.

His favorite main producer is Celebrity ripening in about 70 days. With superior disease resistance, this All American Selection from 1984 has stood the test of time as a high-yielding variety. Larry says "They turn out 7-9 ounce tomatoes during the most trying of conditions--too much rain, drought, cool nights or extreme heat. The flavor is superb and the yield is tremendous."

Larry says "Big Girl and Big Boy come on in late July in or around 78 days".According to Gerald Klingaman, a retired extension agent with the University of Arkansas, Big Boy was one of the first hybrid vegetables, coming to the market in 1949 and is often listed among their top five all-time flavor favorites.
and is often listed among their top five all-time flavor favorites. pumpkin

The last of Larry's favorites is Burpee Supersteak Hybrid producing its fruit on average around 80 days. Like any of the steak tomatoes, Supersteak is known for its rich "beef steak" flavor and meaty texture. "They turn out two-pounders and each one is to die for. They are significantly affected by weather. Usually I get two to three two-pounders off each plant. However, this year because of cool
weather and fluctuating conditions, I got only two two-pounders off our plants. They produce lots of other tomatoes, too. Not all of them are two-pounders."

Larry says "My favorite moment with Supersteak tomatoes is when I pick a big one and duck into the kitchen. I get two pieces of toast, a leaf of lettuce, and three big slices of bacon, put them all in sandwich form, and then add a slice of this steak tomato with a dob of mayo. What a feast! It makes the growing of tomatoes well worth the work.”

To ensure all five varieties are producing through the end of the season, Larry applies two handfuls of soybean meal to each plant. Soybean meal is a high nitrogen (7-2-1) organic fertilizer manufactured in a pelleted form. Applied during Labor Day weekend, all his five varieties will still be producing until the first killing frost. Larry said "I'm still picking lots of tomatoes this year and it’s late October”.

CAPTION: Larry shares his bounty from this year’s mid-season variety Celebrity.
Patrick Muir is a Johnson County Master Gardener living in western Shawnee. You can find column archives and a listing of retailers participating in the Patrick's Picks Program at


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