Friday, March 5, 2010

Why These Tomatoes

Sun Gold Tomatoes

Here are the tomato varieties that I'm growing, and why.  Some tomatoes are in more than one list:  If you're planning on canning, all tomatoes except red will need some added acid (like lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid) if you're canning with a hot water bath (instead of pressure canning).  I think the USDA even suggests adding acid for most modern reds.  I freeze tomatoes quite a bit, and you only need to throw them in a bag or container, so you can freeze the low acid tomatoes too.

Most of these are indeterminates, meaning they will keep growing and producing blossoms and fruits as long as the plant lives.  A few are determinate, meaning they tend to be more bushy, and have a finite fruit set. (beaverlodge plum, roma, rutgers).  In the north this doesn't much matter, as the determinates seldom run out of fruit, and the life of the indeterminates is cut short by frost anyway.  But determinates are more practical if you don't want to stake, and don't want your plants to sprawl all over the ground.

Somewhere in each description there's a link to seeds (and a description there, too).  For some of these tomatoes there are other sources, and some of those are less expensive.


Beaverlodge plum (from Territorial Seeds).  A small plant, and good flavor for such an early tomato.  I can grow them in a pot in the back yard. 2-3 oz

Glacier:  A variety I haven't tried, listed as very early.  3-4 oz

New Girl: An early variety with much better flavor than Early Girl, but otherwise filling that niche.  New Girl is from Johnny's, and they had a seed crop failure this year.  This is one of many reasons to save seeds from year to year, and these are last year's seeds. 3-4 oz

Sun Gold: My wonderful, favorite, fruity, orange cherries (shown above) They are usually the first tomato to ripen in the garden, even though they aren't advertised as early.  I'll probably have ripe cherries the first week of July, on the couple of plants I started yesterday.


Delicious - I haven't grown this variety for a number of years, but it will give me tomatoes consistently more than a pound, with very good flavor. (This variety holds the all-time record for size, at 7 pounds 12oz.)

Burpee's Big Boy - One of two tomatoes I'd grow if restricted to two varieties (the other is Sun Gold). About the first big hybrid, introduced 60 years ago, when flavor was still the primary interest.  Not only is the flavor great, but the aroma is, too. The tomato of my childhood.  10-16 oz, generally. (Usually available locally as a plant- Claussens, at least) Any of the big beefsteaks are pretty similar, except perhaps for aroma.

Supersonic - A sturdy hybrid that's been around a long time.  Good flavor. My friend JP grows this as his primary tomato.  A little smaller than Big Boy, maybe 8-14 oz.

Rutgers:  A non-hybrid, that at one time accounted for 75% of the tomatoes grown in the U.S., so if you're remembering that "old-time tomato flavor" this could be what you remember.  Not quite as productive or disease resistant as hybrids, but worth growing just the same. 6-8 oz.

New Girl, Glacier, Beaverlodge see above

Red paste: Big Mama and Roma, see below

Red Cherry: Super Sweet 100, see below


Brandy BoyBurpee's hybrid version of Brandywine.  More productive and disease resistant.  Very large fruit with outstanding flavor.  I find them a little temperamental (they don't always ripen properly), or I'd grow more of them, and I have in the past.  The fungal disease we get strips the leaves off plants and without leaves tomatoes can be very acidic, but that is never a problem with pink tomatoes.  Very sweet and meaty.  Another comparable tomato is Rose, from Johnny's, or Pruden's Purple, which is smaller and earlier but with  similar flavor.  Or of course Brandywine, for which you can probably find plants locally. About 16 oz. (but I grew a 36 oz Brandy Boy or Rose a number of years ago). Seeds available on some Burpee seed racks. (Depot Home and Garden, locally)


Jubilee - My favorite orange, but evidently that's an opinion not shared, since I have to hunt for the seeds.  Orange blossom may be available locally and is similar. I use this variety for making orange tomato/orange marmalade.  Along with the pinks and yellows, orange tomatoes have less acid. 6-8 oz.

Sun Gold - See above or below


Yellow Bell - One of my all-time favorite varieties, which was lost to me for a number of years, after it was discontinued by Pine Tree Gardens.  I found it online this spring from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and I can't wait to grow it again.  The last time I grew it the tomatoes were plum shaped, and not as flavorful as I remembered, from the pear shaped bells - so there may be some variability in the variety, and I'm prepared to save seeds from the tomatoes I like.  This is not a hybrid, so saving seed will be possible.   Very meaty - essentially a paste tomato -  and it stays on the vine a long time without over-ripening.  3-4 oz

Lemon Boy - A good sized truly yellow tomato, with mild flavor as all yellows have.  May have just a hint of citrus if you use your imagination.  6-10 oz (Usually available locally as a plant- Claussens, at least)

Yellow Pear - A cherry - see below

PASTE TOMATOES (high pulp, few seeds. Ideal for canning)

Big Mama - Burpee's large pendulous paste tomatoUnlike many pastes, it is thoroughly ripe on the inside when it's red on the outside.  Not a lot of fruits, but they are large. 4-8 oz

Roma - Haven't grown this for a while.  Good flavor, though San Marzano's is probably better.  Very productive.  Ripe fruit sometimes drop.  3-4 oz.

Yellow Bell - see above

All of these have tender skins, making them available to home gardeners, but not commercially available since they don't ship well.  They also crack easily after a rain, or after picking.  Flavor's great, though.  But if you've become fond of the chewy grape tomatoes you might find the texture of cherries too soft.  You can find grapes to buy, including as plants.  I haven't tried any.

Sun Gold - See description above, too (and picture at the top of the post).  I often just eat these in the garden while I'm working, and I give a lot away (though they do crack easily).  Good over a wide range of ripeness. These will make your friends happy. (Usually available locally as a plant- Claussens, and Gardener's, I think)

Super Sweet 100  - Similar in size to Sun Golds, and similar in flavor too. Not quite as fruity.   The skins tend to be a little tougher than the Sun Golds, and they don't have as wide a range of ripeness.  This is probably what you used to have available to you as a cherry tomato at farm stands. (Sometimes available locally as a plant)

Yellow Pear - A beautiful pear-shaped cherry tomato.  Very prone to splitting.  I got a Burpee cherry mix from the seed rack at Agway, with these 3 varieties in it, and that's a very good mix. - But whether I have any yellow pears will depend on whether I beat the odds when I grow 5 or 6 from the pack.  I have seeds for the other two varieties that I'll grow separately.  It looks nice to have a bowl with all three varieties, or to use all three in a pasta salad, etc.

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