Growing Tomaotes for Preserving

This year I again planted ten San Marzano vines to can for the rest of the year. Like everything else in the garden, this was a very early year, and I will probably be tearing the vines out in just a couple more weeks to make room for the autumn fava beans.


I prune each plant to two leaders, and I remove suckers once a week. In the photo above you will see the vine with mature fruit to the top (8 feet) and the lower leaves cut away to allow sun to ripen the fruit. This year I tried something new. I planted my San Marzanos  from Territorial Seed Company as usual, but I also planted a second plant to be used as root stock. When they were both about 2″ tall, I grafted the scions (the San Marzanos) onto the root stock, (called Supernatural) also from Territorial. I was skeptical, especially since most all of the seeds that I had ordered from Territorial were a big disappointment. But, as the season progressed, three advantages became apparent over the two control plants that I did not graft.


First and most important was a complete elimination of blossom end rot. I had some, not much, but some on both non-grafted plants, all minimal like the two above. Second was the girth of the actual vines. Much more robust, and there was more fruit on the grafted vines, too. Finally, and I might be imagining this, it seemed like there were lots less suckers to cut out.


The tomatoes are great, super-easy to peel, and almost solid flesh. The root stock was stupidly expensive, but I will definitely do it again next year.

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David Gingrass is a food and beverage operations professional with a career spanning more than three decades. His fascination with and love for food, wine and entertaining allows him to view his work as both a vocation and an avocation. Gingrass graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York then cooked in the Bay Area for two years before landing a job at Wolfgang Puck’s original Spago Restaurant in West Hollywood. There he learned to make the signature breads and sausages that he became known for at Postrio and Hawthorne Lane. He was soon promoted to kitchen manager and managed the operational and expense control aspects of Puck’s iconic restaurant for the next four years. Gingrass returned to San Francisco in 1989 when Puck tapped him and his then-wife Anne to open Postrio, Puck’s third restaurant and his first outside of Los Angeles. Postrio opened to rave reviews and soon became the #1 popular Bay Area restaurant in the prestigious Zagat survey. Five and a half years later, the opportunity to open a restaurant of his own presented itself. Hawthorne Lane opened in 1995 and was a San Francisco dining institution for over twelve years, catering to the likes of Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Mayor Willie Brown, James Carville, President Clinton and First Lady Hilary Clinton. He closed Hawthorne Lane at the end of its fifteen-year lease in 2009 to build a consulting practice for the hospitality industry, sharing his wealth of culinary and operational experiences with new and existing restaurants, assisting them to become successful and profitable.