Otto and Goliath

By Mir
July 6, 2011

Longtime readers know that one of the joys of summer, for me, is my little backyard garden. What started years ago with a few containers on the deck has steadily expanded into a series of boxes where I spend half my July wrestling with vines that need to go UP THE TRELLIS, dammit, UP.

Some plants I grow from seeds. Zucchini, for example, is perfectly happy when you stick a seed in the soil and then completely ignore it for the next two months. Provided you do anything less traumatic than run it over with a car, zucchini will happily flourish until you have zucchini muffins coming out of your ears. (Or until you make zucchini fritters for dinner, like I did last night. Monkey’s comment: “YUM! These taste just like FRENCH FRIES!” It only took two cups of oil to find a way he likes zucchini, folks.)

Other plants, I go to the garden store and buy little ones, either because growing from seed is complicated or because I’m lazy. This year Otto was headed out to run some errands around Easter and I said, “Can you pick up a few tomato plants? I forgot to start seeds so we may as well.”

“Sure,” he said, because he is swell. “What kind do you want?”

I hemmed and hawed. We’ve grown a lot of different varieties, and let’s face it: if you like tomatoes, is there any such thing as a BAD kind when you’ve grown it in your backyard? I say no. So I kind of waved my hands around and suggested he “use his judgment.”

Uh. That may not have been the best word choice, especially given that Otto was primarily going out to buy tools, and was in full MANLY MEN NEED BIG THINGS mode.

He returned with four plants. Please note for the record, ladies and gentlemen, that NONE of them were either Romas or San Marzanos, which is a shame because those are really the best for freezing/canning/saving for later. Also, none of them were a cherry tomato variety, which means I cannot have the unparalleled joy of catching Monkey out in the garden, stuffing fruit off the plants into his cheeks like a chipmunk. But okay, that’s fine. What did he get, instead?

He bought Goliaths. Why? “They looked good.”

Had Otto given any thought to why these tomatoes are so named? Well, no, he hadn’t. GUESS why they’re called Goliaths! Go on, guess!

If you guessed “because they are giant-ass plants which bear humongous, mutant fruits” you are CORRECT!

I’m not really set up for plants this big in my little boxes out there, but I’m doing the best I can. He bought the plants, I planted them, and I’m determined to keep them alive and thriving. Which means I spend a goodly portion of each day inserting new supports, tying up branches which are collapsing under their own weight, and randomly declaring, “Holy CRAP, check out the SIZE of that thing!”

In the end, though, Otto wins. He always does.

Here I am looking extremely attractive, waving my arms like a lunatic and growling at Otto from behind one of the plants. (For reference: I am exactly five-and-a-half feet tall and I am STANDING ON MY TOES in this picture.)

The occasion for today’s tomato-fest is that the first one is finally ripe. I picked it, and I didn’t even break my wrist.

Um, what am I supposed to do with this? Especially when I have about two dozen more that are going to be ripe next week? TOMATO SANDWICHES FOR EVERYONE!

Otto stared solemnly at the tomato in my hand and finally said, “It’s the size of your BRAIN!”

“You’re smarter, though,” he added, lest I take offense.

I wasn’t offended. I mean, that tomato is pretty impressive, but it’s still just a tomato. What are the chances of them becoming sentient and killing us in our sleep? Really small, right? RIGHT??


  1. Kay T

    Otto might have won for now, but just wait until the end of the month. Heh, heh… slowly they turn and make you all into some sort of italian tomato paste.

  2. Samantha

    Mmm, tomatoes. We like to hollow them out and fill them with dinner (tuna or egg or greek salad) and use the insides later in gazpacho. They can’t take over the world if you turn them into edible bowls.

  3. Lisa

    Looks delicious! You could stuff them. That way each tomato would be a meal in itself. I’ve never heard of a Goliath, so let us know how they taste!

  4. Megan

    Mmmmm – homemade tomato catsup, homemade tomato sauce (both of which should totally be freezable/cannable), gorgeous tomato-basil-mozzarella salad with balsamic, pizza margharita using the super-thin, super-fast crust that America’s Test Kitchen came up with, bacon-tomato pasta… sigh. Guess who can’t grow tomatoes at her current location? Go on, guess!

  5. diane

    Isn’t there some sort of annual tomato-throwing contest somewhere? They may appreciate an (anonymous) contribution. Otherwise, I’d say it’s time to haul out the canning equipment and go for it.

    Just be sure to get the wide-mouth canning jars (which, from the looks of things, may not be wide-mouthy enough!).

  6. melanie

    I am so very jealous!

    This year we went all out on our garden including using a roto tiller to till up half the yard and then driving to my brother in laws ranch to gather and load horse poo and drive it all the way home. And no, that did not qualify as a date night.

    We have watered, weeded, loved and talked to each and every plant in that garden. We have tomato plants that are 5 feet tall, and some kind of squash that you can almost watch spread and yet, despite the beauty and the grandeur there is no fruit. Not a single tomato. Not even a zucchini! We have peppers and the promise of corn, but the rest of our plant seem to be eunuchs. We haven’t seen any bees and we are wondering if that is the problem… So if you see any bees send them to Oklahoma.. short of that, we will also relieve you of any extra tomatoes or zucchini!

  7. Jill W.

    My MIL makes a tomato tart that is delicious. I am not at home, or I would send you the recipe. It is basically pie crust spread on a pizza pan and then involves olive oil, fresh thinly sliced tomatoes, sauteed or grilled onions and bell peppers, parmesan and mozzerella and fresh basil. Yum! I am sure there is a gluten free substitute you could do for the pie crust.

  8. JennyA

    The Tomato, um… Vines at Midnight?

    That didn’t work.

    If you don’t post for a few days, someone needs to go see if the tomatoes have carried y’all off.

  9. ememby

    I’m a wee bit jealous – I didn’t plant any tomatoes this year but my neighbors planted a garden full of 20+ tomato plants. Seriously. Though none are as ginormous as yours (I thought you were kneeling in the photo). Impressive, and hopefully tasty.

  10. RuthWells

    Lovely tomato. I am holding back jealousy, as the evil squirrels ate all our garden tomatoes last year (penetrating all sorts of barriers to do so). Crossing fingers….

  11. Mary

    I have one single tomato plant. On the deck. Where the deer can’t get it. Lots of flowers. Not one single tomato. Yet, ’cause hubby assures me there will be.

  12. meghann

    I have the little tomato plant that could out in my garden. I’ve gotten a whopping 4 tomatoes so far. It keeps dying, then coming back. I still hold out hope that I’ll get one more tomato!

  13. Jenn

    One year when I was small, my best friend and I threw all her mother’s green tomatoes into the street. I can see if she’s available for a road trip next week…

    Since you have mastered frying (I gave up long ago), you could grab some of those green tomatoes and make fried green tomatoes. Yum! Also yummy is a green tomato pie (pretend they’re apples and slice them up, peeled or not, but cook them in water for about 5 minutes before you assemble the pie.) And somewhere I have a recipe for green tomato chutney which would be great for the winter months. Pickled green tomatoes could also be good. The trick is to make use of them now while they’re green and relatively small.

    Of course, the most important question is: do you salt or sugar your sliced tomatoes? My people: sugar, my husband’s: salt. In MN this debate is seconded only by the brown sugar/white sugar on lefse issue. (White sugar in our family but it’s so rare up here in NH I’ll eat it any way I can!)

  14. Katie K.

    A truly horrible movie that I have seen multiple times. It features a song called “Puberty Love.” Check it out, in your spare time. :)

  15. Walkingborder (Karen)

    Um, you are more than welcome to send me all the tomatoes you can’t eat. For reals! There are few things I like more in this world.

  16. Brigid

    We have our first batch of Romas on the counter. My cat was seen skulking away with one in his mouth. I may need to look into Goliaths for next year.

  17. emily

    Texas tomato cages – best ever!

  18. Zuska

    Do you remember the tomato cobbler recipe I was raving about last year? YUM!!! From Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” cookbook, and google-able. YUM!! In your shoes, I’d learn how to can (bottle, actually…so why is it called canning?) tomatoes if you don’t already know how (I’ve never done it, myself) since you are REALLY going to be overrun!! Then again, I’d happily eat tomato sandwiches every lunch and dinner for weeks.

  19. elz

    I have no idea what you can do with tomatoes the size of Texas. Tomatoes are on my “don’t eat” list unless they are crushed up in some yummy sauce. Blech-shudders. I’m thinking frittatas? Have fun…shudder…

  20. dad

    I hate to say it but a surplus of tomatoes that size cries out for one thing…FOOD FIGHT!

    Don’t tell anyone I said that.

    ps: You are pretty with a tomato on your head.

  21. Katie in CA

    Homemade sun dried tomatos. I have two plants, both have some sort of blight thing going on, both have fruit, but only the cherry tomato is turning red, The usable sized one is staying green.

  22. Karen

    Holy CRAP! That is one REALLY BIG TOMATO!!!…. Can’t hurt you, I don’t think. Unless someone wings it at you. No one in your house would do that, right?

  23. Lulu

    yum, tomatoes! Those look fabulous & I’m jealous — today is the FIRST DAY our weather has gotten above 80 degrees this year. At this rate, the garden will freeze out before anything ripens.

    And we do best with tomatoes with names like “Siberia.” I wish I were kidding.

    And @ Melanie, all that horse poo made your plants so, so happy they won’t produce fruit. Too much fertilizer can do that. I learned that first hand the same way you have now…several pickup loads of composted horse manure resulting in huge, gorgeous, fruitless plants.

  24. Jean

    Seriously? None of your readers have ever seen “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”?!?!?!

    Well, I have. And you might enjoy it’s cult appeal. But I doubt you will have to worry about YOUR tomatoes….

    (You can google the movie and find all kinds of related links and websites, hopefully one will get you the theme song that I KNOW you and Otto will love!)

  25. Jean

    Just double checked and “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” did indeed star a young George Clooney. I’d forgotten that tidbit. Definitely a must-see.

  26. Little Bird

    CANNING!!! You might not get more than one tomato in a jar, but, you’ll have several jars for the entirety of winter. And believe me, canning your own is miles better than buying the cans at the store.

  27. Liza

    Those are the funniest pictures ever!

    I don’t even like tomatoes, but I somehow managed to plant 10. I tried 2 from seed, then tried 2 more because I thought they weren’t coming up. Then I gave up and bought some small plants — a flat of 4, plus a slightly larger cherry tomato plant. Then all 4 seeds suddenly came up. And my officemate gave me a plant that came with his farmshare and asked if I would plant it for him and split the tomatoes.

    At least Josie likes them. I think I’ll be canning sauce.

  28. Dizzy Elisabeth

    What’s red and invisible?
    No tomatoes.
    You’re welcome.

  29. Katherine

    Okay, those are aptly named. Wow.

    Will they become sentient? Have you seen Attack of the Killer Tomatoes????
    I rest my case.

  30. momzen

    “Only two things that money can’t buy
    That’s true love
    And home-grown tomatoes”
    – John Denver

  31. Chuck

    Damn. I didn’t know tomato plants could get that big. I mean…wow. Hope you like tomatoes!

  32. Lori

    All you need now is some mozzerella . . . caprese salad for everyone!

  33. Brandy

    I am so jealous right now. We bought three tomato plants this year. One died, one is somehow not growing but trying to bear fruit and the other gave us one tomato. One. My daughter and I LOVE tomatoes. *sigh*

  34. Amy

    I grow dozens of tomato plants, and can enough tomatoes to last us the whole year. Here’s my go-to tomato solution: Cut them into big chunks and put them in a roasting pan with chunks of onions and some cloves of garlic. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast until they are all smooshy and yummy. Then pulverize however you want (blender, food processor, or food mill, which is my preference) and freeze or can. I did TONS of tomatoes like this last year. I think I had 50+ quarts.

  35. Daisy

    Yum! Are these a paste tomato or a sandwich/ salad type? They might produce a lot of salsa or tomato soup.

    As for supports, I use the spiral kind. Guide the main stalk around it, and it will support itself. It’s fun to watch nature take its course that way.

  36. Lisa

    I recommend making roasted tomatoes – they freeze well and Tom Colicchio has other recipes that use the resulting roasted tomatoes

    There is a great rack of lamb recipe that i adapted to use the slow cooker. And a reasonable roasted tomato risotto (I just don’t make the stock and use store bought).

  37. Lisa

    oh – and for supports – This year, I used a regular trellis – planted in the middle – and then pipe cleaners to attach. Last year mine grew to the size of 4 panels – it was insane!

  38. joaaanna

    We don’t have a garden this year due to the fact that I’m growing something of my own that is gonna pop here in a week or so. No time for gardening. I am so sad. Most of all – I need summer, homegrown tomatoes. I NEEEEEEEEEEEEED them. The new baby may have to do without a few things because mama needs some ‘maters.

    May I suggest for your tomato plant options next year the meaty, delicious ‘Mortgage Lifter’. It too is a big tomato, but wow, wow, wow, WOW, delicious!

    Now I’m jonesing for some tomatoes NOW!

  39. Scottsdale Girl

    Send some to meeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!

  40. liz


    Tomato sauce. Make lots and freeze for the winter.
    Chili. Ditto.


  41. Katie in MA

    I was *wondering* why you were crouching on the ground behind that plant. It never dawned on me it would be the Attack of the 50 Foot Tomato Plant!

  42. Bonnie

    didn’t read through all the comments but I saw a recipe today for home made sun dried tomatoes and it looked really easy (albeit slow) and I thought of you. Home made sun dried tomatoes packed in oil with a basil leaf would make a great christmas present… just sayin’ :)

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