Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I ended the gardening season promising myself I was going to cut down on the number of tomato varieties.  This is what I usually do, and sometimes I've succeeded.  I used to plant about 25 varieties, and was down to about 12 this year, but then the catalogs came.  I'm a sucker for new varieties, even though I've discovered over the years that when a new vegetable is introduced the descriptions of its flavor, size, vigor, disease resistance are all a little more optimistic than - over time - the plants can live up to. There's a reason the old vegetable varieties are still around.  They taste good and generally yield well and tolerate less than ideal conditions. Nonetheless, I try out some new ones every year and I probably always will.  Hope springs eternal in a gardener's breast, or she probably wouldn't be gardening.

 If I had succeeded in paring down for next year I would have grown just 5 varieties: 
Sun Gold cherry tomatoes
Big Boy
Lemon Boy
Orange Jubilee
Big Mama

If I had to choose one it would be, strangely enough, the sun golds (pictured above).  From mid-July to mid-October hardly a day goes by that I don't walk by the plants and eat a few of the fruity little jewels.  After trying lots of varieties of red tomatoes I've settled back in to Big Boys as the bulk of my reds.  The aroma as well as the flavor really mean tomatoes to me, as we mostly grew Big Boys through my childhood.  The Lemon Boys have a nice mild flavor even when Septoria Leaf Spot has stripped most of the leaves from the plants.  They keep very well on and off the vine, and are tasty over a long period of time, unlike lots of tomatoes that have to be picked and eaten at the peak of ripeness.  This is also somewhat true for the Orange Jubilee, an underused orange that I have a hard time finding now (totally tomatoes calls it golden jubilee - I hope!)  I like to make an orange tomato/orange marmalade, and these are the ideal tomatoes for that.  Big Mamas are very large paste tomatoes that ripen all the way through and stay on the vine well, which is not as true of San Marzanos, which really set the standard for flavor for paste tomatoes.

The other tomato varieties I grew this last summer were:
Golden Mama (yellow paste. insipid tomato, but very productive and they resisted the blight)
Big Beef
Supersonic (good flavor, about the size of a Big Boy)
Rutgers (at one time 75% of tomatoes in this country were Rutgers, and if you miss that old time tomato flavor this is the tomato for you.  Not a hybrid and not as disease resistant as some.
Costoluto Genovese - a neighboring gardener grew them and gave me some plants.  They succumbed to the blight, so I only got a couple, but the flavor was very good
San Marzano
Brandy Boy - Burpee's hybrid version of a Brandywine.  Outstanding tomato, but last year they didn't ripen well for me.  Johnny's version or a hybrid Brandywine is called Rose, and I may go back to them.
New Girl - Johnny's seeds.  An early girl but much better flavor than Early Girl.


  1. Gorgeous photos. I miss summer tomatoes already.

  2. Have you tried the black prince variety? It knocked our socks off last summer.

  3. Hi onepot - Didn't notice your comment - sorry about the late reply. I have not tried it; where did you find it? I've grown black pearl, which was a Burpee cherry tomato, and it didn't impress me. What did you like about black prince? Tell me more!