In the Garden:
Lower South
January, 2010
Regional Report

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These 'Yellow Stuffer' tomatoes are edible containers for some tasty summer cuisine.

Stuffing Tomatoes

Tomatoes are the queen of the vegetable garden. You've no doubt tried your share of large slicer types, paste/sauce types, cherries and grapes. But have you tried stuffers? They have been around for years but are fairly uncommon in our gardens.

While any type of tomato can be "stuffed", stuffing types have interior cavities that are hollow, much like a bell pepper. In the past few years I have tried a number of these and found them to be unique indeed.

If you are a tomato aficionado you should give the stuffer types a try. Most have a hollow cavity although some of the ruffled or ridged types of tomatoes are promoted as stuffers even though they may not have a truly hollow cavity.

Some of the hollow to semi-hollow cultivars sold as stuffing tomatoes include Burgess Stuffer, Early Yellow Stripe, German Striped Stuffer, Green Bell, Liberty Bell, Red Cup, Red Stuffer, Ruffled Yellow, Striped Cavern, Schimmeig Striped Hollow, and Yellow Stuffer.

I have grown a few different stuffer varieties in my gardens. In my experience the stuffer types, like most heirloom tomatoes, tend to be late-season tomatoes (long in days-to-harvest interval). As such they are not as productive as earlier season varieties in our southern climate.

They need a little fertilizer to get the plants started but should not be pushed too hard until they have a chance to set their first fruits, which can take a while. Otherwise you will tend to get vines at the expense of good fruit set.

Start your transplants early and bump them up into larger containers to get a head start on the growing season. Our southern climate brings us hot weather too soon for most late-season tomatoes to do their best before rising temperatures hamper fruit set.

Next summer some of my firm slicer types will no doubt end up stuffed with a variety of fillings. Stuffed tomatoes are a wonderfully tasty treat and a real hit for a lunch gathering with friends.

When it comes to tomato stuffings the options are truly limitless. Most folks go with some type of meat salad such as chicken, tuna fish, or deviled ham. I like egg salad with bacon bits. Fruit salads are also very popular. Cottage cheese is another option. The sharp flavors of feta cheese can't be beat either.

Some garden cooks bake the stuffed fruits like you would stuffed peppers. I find that they tend to fall apart in the process but maybe I just don't know how to do it. I will attest to the value of sprinkling cheese on a stuffed tomato and briefly toasting it in the oven to melt the cheese!

Let your creative imagination run and you'll find a hundred great options. An internet search for "stuffed tomatoes" or something to that effect will load you up on enough recipe options to keep you busy for many summers to come.


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