Cosmonaut Volkov a superb heirloom tomato

Cosmonaut Vokov and Tiny Tim tomatoes

The first Cosmonaut Volkov tomato ripened in time for us to take to the cottage on Thursday, and we came home Saturday to a proper beefsteak onslaught. This is a superb heritage tomato for short summers.

The cherry tomatoes alongside are Tiny Tim. They’re a hybrid, firm, less juicy and less tasty, but I won’t snub an abundance of salad tomatoes starting July 1, no, not in Ontario.

I planted Cosmonaut Volkov May 9 in the square foot garden. That’s a full week earlier than our official last frost date here in Waterloo. It was the middle of a warm spell, so I hoped we were safe from frost. It turned out we had cold weather ahead, with two or three more frost nights almost to the end of May.

I moved some pots indoors on cold nights, including Tiny Tim, but trusted the warm south foundation of our house to protect the beefsteak tomatoes. It was a lucky gamble.

The first Cosmonaut Volkov ripened on July 30, 82 days after transplant. That’s 10 days longer than advertized, but considering all the cold weather it survived unscathed, I’m not complaining. The Lemon Boy tomato planted 11 days later, replacing a patch of early spinach, also calls for 72 days and doesn’t show any sign of ripening yet.

This spring I was a little discouraged at the prospect of growing tomatoes in such a small garden. I usually like to try five or six different varieties, and we simply hadn’t enough room. Forlornly surveying the selection of plants available from a local grower at Guelph Farmers’ Market, I asked the owner which was her favourite variety of beefsteak, and she recommended Cosmonaut Volkov.

Good call! These big, smooth, attractive red fruits are the best beefsteaks I’ve grown in a long time. Taste-wise they’re sweet and full of complex flavour. They might not match Brandywines or other heritage types for colourful grotesqueness, but the indeterminate vine appears to be a heavy producer, with a few clusters of large tomatoes still coming along.

The variety, originating in Ukraine, is ideal for short summers in northern climates. It was named after Vladislav Volkov, who perished in 1971 returning from his second space mission.

As a child I hated tomatoes – until one summer I grew them myself, and found that fresh off the vine they were much more delectable. To this day, I’ve become slightly less discriminating, and yet seldom eat tomatoes unless I grew them myself. My partner is even fussier: tomatoes in general inspire a gag reflex, but he does enjoy the ones from our garden. Cosmonaut Volkov makes him crave a BLT, so we must pick up some good local bacon and lettuce from St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market on Tuesday.

This is probably one of the most productive tomato vines I’ve ever grown. It’s early August and there’s still no sign of disease. It has undoubtedly benefited from growing against our hot south foundation, and I’ve been careful to irrigate it regularly through the recent hot weather. It seems likely I’ll be able to harvest several big fruit from it every week for the rest of the summer.

For a pair of ambivalent tomato-eaters like us, the harvest will be plenty. Any extras I’ll freeze whole for dropping into a soup pot come winter. With our limited space, I can’t see much use in trying to grow enough paste tomatoes to make our own sauce. However, it shouldn’t be difficult to harvest enough beefsteaks and cherries for our limited needs from three well-chosen, well-groomed plants.

Now I’m eating one of these lovelies for lunch: one tomato alone without any seasoning but a little ground sea salt. It’s delicious and satisfying. For a square in our future gardens, I’ll be hard-pressed to find a suitable variety to rival Cosmonaut Volkov.

[Edit: Apparently I grew this same variety in our garden last summer, but it was a forgettable experience. So much depends on soil, weather and other growing conditions. Certainly, I’ll have to give Black Sea Man a try here in our new location if we’re still here next spring. But it might not be worth giving a square of our limited space up to a later variety like Brandywine.]

5 thoughts on “Cosmonaut Volkov a superb heirloom tomato

  1. I just thought that I’d comment further that you don’t need paste tomatoes to make sauce. We’ve been making sauce for the last few years with every tomato that we plant. Sometimes the sauce is yellow, orange, or pink depending on the varieties we’ve used. We cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters, depending on the size and lay them out on foil lined baking sheets. They go on the barbeque for 35-45 minutes and roast with herbs, garlic and a drizzle of olive oil. Once they’re off the barbeque and cooled, we run them through the tomato press from Lee Valley – works like a charm! Then either to the freezer or to process them and much, much better than anything in the store.

    1. Hmm, that sounds delicious and we have a Lee Valley just minutes away. It sounds like the press handles everything so you don’t have to worry about the skins.

      1. The press pulls every little bit of juice and meat from the tomato – you’ll be surprised at how little gets composted. We run the skins and seeds through a second pressing to extract as much as we can. I also used it for making plum sauce (like apple sauce – not the stuff for egg rolls)a few years ago when we had a banner plum crop.

        My mom had given me one of those metal cones with the wooden beater which I used for years but buying the press from Lee Valley was the best money spent!

        1. Sounds good. I also have one of those colanders from my mom, which I only ever used for making apple sauce. I never actually got around to making my own tomato sauce before; any extra tomatoes usually just went in the freezer whole. But with easy access to local produce I’d like to try it this year. Do you use a pressure canner for tomato sauce?

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