Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tomato Trials 2008

I'm always game for trying new vegetable varieties, especially when it comes to our garden favorite, the Tomato. In 2008 I trialed several heirlooms varieties. The real test, for me, is the comparison to Brandywine, which I have grown for many years. So far, nothing has come close to Brandywine's great taste!

This is Cherokee Purple in the not-quite-ripe-yet stage. You can see the darker shoulders, which have yet to turn color. I also grew Cherokee Chocolate and Black Krim, but found all of these varieties to be rather bland tasting, and also pretty soft texture wise. I prefer a firmer tomato. In years past, I have also tried Pruden's Purple, which didn't pass the test either.

*** Update: 3-24-09 ***I just read that Black Krim should be harvested before fully ripe, with shoulders still green and before it gets soft, for the best flavor..... so I might have to give it another chance. :-)

Another heirloom variety I tried was Arkansas Traveler, shown here with tiny yellow Signet marigolds. It would probably be in the pink category, as it doesn't get to be a true red. Nothing to get excited over here, taste-wise. One pink variety that I grew for several years that I did like is Caspian Pink, which has a very good taste, but doesn't produce many tomatoes.

Zapotec Pleated looks cool, but when you slice it open there are lots of empty spaces inside the folds, and I'm sorry to report....the taste leaves you pretty empty, too. I had tons of green ones left after frost, which ended up in the compost pile.

I received seed for this heirloom, Nyagous, as an extra in a seed trade. The tomatoes are a smaller size, firm, with black shoulders, and grow in clusters. And the taste is......wonderful! It is both sweet and tangy, with lots of rich flavor. It hails from Russia. I grew it in a 3 gallon container, because I ran out of space. I can't wait to see how it produces with a spot of honor in the garden this year.

I also grew an heirloom Cherry tomato called Ana Asa, looking for something to possibly replace my old standby, hybrid Super Sweet 100 Cherry , but there was no comparison, taste-wise. I seriously don't think there is a sweeter or better tasting cherry than Super Sweet 100, but I am open for suggestions. :-)

Brandy Boy is a new hybrid I tried for the first time last year. It is a cross between Better Boy and Brandywine and is supposed to produce more tomatoes on the plant, but still have that great Brandywine taste. I found it lived up to both of these criteria.

So...what are my Tomato selections for 2009?
Maybe next year I will do more trials, but this summer I intend to keep it simple and grow only the tried and true:

1. Hybrid Goliath, as my main crop tomato. I love everything about this tomato! The taste, the large number of tomatoes it produces and the firm, perfect, blemish free fruit. I have been growing this one for nearly 20 years now. I am not a purist when it comes to Hybrids vs. Heirlooms....nothing can beat some of the Hybrids for production and reliability. As long as the seeds are available, I will grow them. (I am still using seeds from a packet I bought in 1999!)

2. Brandywine - several plants, for the unbeatable taste!

3. Brandy Boy Hybrid - this time side by side with Brandywine to really compare fruit production.

3. Heirloom Pineapple - one plant, for dear husband who really likes this one. The tomatoes grow HUGE, the color a mottled red and yellow combination.

4. Super Sweet 100 Cherry - We eat these like candy....usually standing right there in the garden. These are a big hit with my now 3 year old granddaughter!

5. Nyagous - for the taste and nice salad size.


“Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes
What would life be like without homegrown tomatoes?
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love and home grown tomatoes.”

John Denver, 'Home Grown Tomatoes'
(from a song written by Guy Clark)


Chris said...

What a nice collection of tomatoes you have planned for this year. Reading that list makes me want to try "just one more variety" but I better stick with the three I have selected. When do you start tomato seeds in your zone? I still have a while to go and am getting impatient.

Kylee said...

I wish I liked the taste of fresh tomatoes! I love the look of the pleated one and the black ones. Last year I grew Brandywine for the first time and Romie LOVED them. Also grew Super Sweet 100 and they were winners, too, as were Sungolds. This is Romie's verdict, though, since I don't like them. I might do juice this year, though. I've done that before.

Mrs. Mac said...

I appreciate your review of the tomatoes you have tried. I'll be back for a second look as I find and compare more tomatoes myself.

Connie said...

Chris - I generally start most of my tomato seeds around March 20, except for a few which I start a week or two before that....to give me some early tomatoes. It is nice to be growing again!

Roses and Lilacs said...

I loved this post! In the summer we have tomato taste trials here at work. Fun.

My favorite is Cherokee Purple closely followed by Black Krim. Now I've heard there are many, many different Brandywines circulating and they are each quite different. Guess I haven't come upon the 'real' Brandywine cause the one I grow is a distant forth.

I like Sweet 100 but stumbled on Sweet Million a couple years ago and thought it was a lot sweeter. Hard to find tho.

I'll look for Brandyboy this year;)

gardenerprogress/Catherine said...

They all look delicious. I'm trying Brandywine for the first time this year from seed. They sound like they'll be delicious! Good luck with all of yours!

Michelle said...

Hi Connie, Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.

It's always so interesting to see what tomatoes are other gardeners favorites. Brandywine is so so for me and so is Pineapple. I think the difference is climate, summer days here are not very hot, and evenings are almost alway cool. I think those tomatoes need more warmth to develop good flavor. The tastiest tomatoes that I've grown so far are Paul Robeson and Aunt Ruby's German Green. I'll be growing those this year and trialing a number of other tomatoes that are supposed to do well in cooler climates.

Anna said...

Choosing which varieties to grow each year is also part of the enjoyment of growing your own tomatoes :)
I hope that they all do well for you this summer.

tina said...

I had heard so much about the real tomato taste last year that I had to try the recommended varieties. I liked the Bradley the best, but will compare it with Brandywine. You have quite the variety!

O.I.M said...

when i decided to try brandywine this year it was based largely on your glowing reviews of the flavour...looks like you've got a few more i'll have to try :)

Cat said...

I love the John Denver lyrics ending your post, Connie! I'm SO tempted to begin planting, but it is really too early for me. Someday I will live in a tomato-growing climate, until then, Cosmonaut Volkov and Rutgers are my favorites. However I DO miss Brandywines ever so much.

Heather said...

Hi Connie, now I know who to ask when I am ready to plant seeds and grow tomatoes from scratch. Wow.

Kim and Victoria said...

I'm so excited about tomatoes this year. Usually hubbie deals with them, but I started them from seed this year. Yours look great. Next year I'll have an opinion on ours.

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Brenda@View From The Pines said...

I grew up with freshly ripened tomatoes a part of nearly every meal during the summer season. Can't find any like them. Served on a plate and ready to savor.

Anonymous said...

I have tried quite a few of the same ones as you-with the same results. These days, I grow mostly smaller tomatoes, usually from seed. It is still quite wintery here, but I am getting excited about my garden.

Gail said...

Connie, Beautifull tomatoes...and the names are just as delightful...cherokee purple, Chocolate, Brandywine....I read about the traveler tomato not too long ago...I don't think you can beat the taste of Super 100 Cherry tomatoes. gail

joey said...

I have a passion for tomatoes and yours look terrific, Connie! Nothing beats the taste of a sun-ripened tomato ... I've tried a few times to grow them without any luck :( I'll just have to keep popping over and enjoy yours. Happy spring!

ChrisND said...

You definitely got your value from the Goliath Hybrid seeds...10 years is pretty good. How do you store your seeds? I will actually "try" to grow tomatoes this year. Last year we grew some, but I sort-of abandoned them. Based on your review I will have to make sure and get the Super Sweet 100 going.

We won't start our tomatoes for about a month still. Can't put them out until Memorial Day.

Susie said...

Hi Connie-thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your sweet comments. I loved your post on tomatoes. I work in retail sales at a nursery and we sell all types of tomatoes. I have not grown Brandywine before and after reading your post I'm sure I want to try them. We haven't gotten them in yet. I thought I had wanted to grow that Arkansas one you mentioned but now I'm not so sure. The Sweet 100 I grew last year and loved it! That is a definite again for this year. I grew Lemon boys last year and loved them so I hope we get these in again.

em said...

connie, thanks for the review! i'm still trying to decide what to grow this year! also, thanks for the comment on my blog. if you go there, you can see how the potager has progressed!

Karen said...

Since you are open, I would like to suggest Honeybunch cherry tomatoes. I thought they were prolific and trouble-free AND completely delicious! I already have mine ordered for this year. You can find them at www.burpee.com.

Ginger said...

Thank you for the advice on seed-starting! I need to get some longer chains!
I grew all of my veggies from seed last year and it took sooo long!! Looks like 2009 will be a repeat at this pace.

Next year, I'm going to have longer chains on my light AND a heat source!

islandgardener said...

I totally agree that Super Sweet 100 is THE BEST cherry tomato! I actually plant Patio tomato in the ground, not in a pot as the name suggests. It is small, but has a good yield, and the taste is good. I also like Fourth of July, an early yield (as is Patio). I agree with your choice of Brandywine as a superior tomato. However, my favorite is Green Zebra! It is a bit tart and the color adds much to salads!