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August 2008
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Opalka – A Heirloom Tomato

Heirloom tomatoes are just that, family heirlooms – grown from seeds saved over generations by families that grew or liked a particular tomato. Tomatoes can have up to thirty-one flavor components and, like wine, are described by growers with phrases like “intensely rich with sweet overtones” and “smoky and complex.” The whole principle is to have a seed bank of healthy, tried-and-true varieties of anything, including flowers and veggies of all sorts. Opalka was brought from Poland to New York around 1900.
Opalka has a thinner, more tender skin, a deeper red color both inside and out, is sweeter tasting, more flavorful overall, has denser flesh, fewer seeds, far less gel and open space inside, has a more sturdy growth habit and better leaf coverage. This is an excellent variety for making sauce or eating fresh. It is commonly styled as a paste tomato. Paste tomatoes are varieties that are specially adapted for cooking, particularly tomato sauces.
The Opalka is a long, red paste tomato that could easily be mistaken for a red jalapeno were it not for its sweet, floral aroma. The 5″ long, 3″ wide fruits have a pointy tip and grow in clusters. They are meaty with few seeds. Paste tomatoes are, of course, well suited for slow, long cooking, and the Opalka is a paste tomato first and foremost. But what sets this cultivar apart from other pastes, is its delicious, complex raw flavor, best ordered midseason.
Grows 6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m) tall. Needs a full sun. Takes around 70-80 days to reach maturity. For collecting the seed, allow the fruit to ripen, clean and dry the seeds, and ferment the seeds before storing to get rid of any bacteria. Seeds can be stored in airtight jars in a cool place for 5-7 years.
If you garden on a terrace, grow your tomatoes in a pot with a capacity of at least 10 to 15 gallons, and fertilize every few weeks with seaweed solution. You may have to water twice a day, so put those babies on a drip system with a timer if you work long hours.

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