Which tomato plants to grow for taste?

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Results of a 26-tomato taste test were published in the Dec 1999 Organic Gardening.

Cherry: Sweet 100 [Old Git agrees!], Pink Pear, Riesentrube, distant second and third.

Salad: Stupice, Champion, Big Beef, distant third. Abraham Lincoln--ugh!

Yellow: Yellow Brandywine, Azoychka Russian, Lemon Boy, distant third. Striped German--ugh!

Novel: Evergreen, Black Prince, Pink-ribbed Zapotek, Green Zebra. Green Bell Pepper--ugh!

Beefsteak: Brandywine, king of all tomatoes, biggest score of all, Dr. Neal's, Prudens Purple, tied for distant second.

Paste: Amish Paste, Palestinian, Sausage, distant second and third.

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), April 21, 1999


Old Git,

I know nothing about tomatoes, but they are on the list for growing next yr. Any opinion on one type for all around usage? thx

-- R. Wright (blaklodg@aol.com), April 21, 1999.

you need to find out what tomato diseases you have in your area and then choose those kinds that are the most resistive. And that doesn't always work either. In my area, an all around tomato called CELEBRITY is the best performer. I imagine that it is a hybrid, but will stick with it as long as the seed holds out. Where I live I 'maters that are turning pink. We will eat them well into December here.

When you buy a tomato plant, make sure you plant it deep enuff that you cover the lower branches with dirt. Tomatos prefer to be watered from below rather than by sprinkler. If you live in a high altitude area or short growing season, you can help them along by doing your own pollinating. Remember, it takes a lot of tomatos to make ketchup, sauce, s'ghetti sauce, etc. There is a lot of cooking down that has to go on before canning it.

got basil and olive oil???

-- Taz (Tassie @aol.com), April 21, 1999.


I started several types of maters this year. By far,,,,,, Brandywine is doing the best. Every seed came up. I am growing non-hybrid. types to save seed for next year. Will keep you advised how they grow here in western PA. as the year goes on. Just a note, I will plant over an acre of vegies this year. I haven't gardened for about 5 years, because it takes so much time for a good outcome. Also, canning is very time consuming. You must do your canning when the vegies are ready , not when you are. Sometimes this means staying up till 1 or 2 in the morning. For those of you that have never grown your own food, prepare you mind for the time involved. Be vigilant daily, bugs and weeds WILL do you in!

-- SCOTTY (BLehman202@aol.com), April 21, 1999.

Burpee Delicious...yum yum...even better if you want a hybrid is the french tomato Dona Hybrid....the best ever. Brandywine grew great for us up North but they don't seem to get enough leaves down here and always burn up. Abe Lincoln originals are great,too...OP type. All available from Totally Tomatoes. We grow 8-10 different kinds each year to have eating, canning, sauce and juice tomatoes...but they best are eaten right in the garden warm from the sun and safe as we are organic all the way. Hint: Smaller plants will actually end up giving you more tomatoes than the over-priced ones in gal. pots you see for sale. Be sure and pull off the leaves and plant them deep or as we do, laying in a trench so they can develope strong roots.

-- MUTTI (windance @train.missouri.org), April 21, 1999.

Like any heritage plant, what we have today may be quite different from generations ago - choices are made when seed is saved over many dozens of years, and the original attributes are not necessarily retained. I agree that "Brandywine" is the best tasting tomato I have ever had, but your source of the seed might yield quite different results. I use the Quisenbury strain of Brandywine carried by Johnny's Select Seeds. If you are not overwhelmingly impressed by Brandywine, try a different seed supplier in future years.

Also, it really depends where you are and what your growing conditions are. I live in Greater Boston. My most dependable tomato is Big Girl (Burpee's). For me, far superior in taste and production than Celebrity and Dona listed above. These are the tomatoes I take to work since they are uniformly aesthetic and great taste - people in the know suck up to me all year to get on my distribution list. (Brandywine tends to crack. Still delicious, but not as compelling. Also, not especially meaty compared to other varieties. Brandywine is given to those who really know their tomatoes and don't care how they look.)

My "secret" to growing tomatoes is to start them really early and pot them up 2 or 3 times (in tall pots like milk cartons where I can bury them successively deeper). By 2 or 3 weeks before they are safe to plant out, they have grown past what indoor fluorescent lights can offer (the light needs to be as close as possible to as much of the plant as possible, but by this time the tomato plants are too bushy). By now, the plants are in flower, but what I am really after is a really well developed root system.

They are planted in *very* deeply dug, raised beds, for excellent drainage. When it starts to warm up, I mulch with grass clippings. I keep the pH between 6.5 and 7.0. I believe the well-developed root system and light mulch and deep soil (and favorable pH) are the reasons I do not have problems with blossom end rot. (The classic answer is bad pH, but I think it is more a matter of uneven watering, which was a problem for me when I started out with Dona's in 5-gallon buckets.)

Thanks, Old Git, for your continuing gardening series. Y2K preps were a hassle all winter, but now they're fun! (OK, so it doesn't take much of an excuse for me to head outside to play in the dirt!)

-- Brooks (brooksbie@hotmail.com), April 21, 1999.

Sorry, forgot to fill in that during that last 2 to 3 week stretch before I can plant, the babies go outside during the day (after being appropriately "hardened off" so they don't sunburn). With the far more intense light of the sun, this last spurt of growth is really impressive. They look like they have been raised on steroids compared to the runts in the garden centers. Most years I'll have a few backup plants that are a couple weeks farther behind in case I lose the first batch to frost.

-- Brooks (brooksbie@hotmail.com), April 21, 1999.

A tomato plant will produce roots anywhere along the plant for this reason I have always used the trench method to plant. By snipping off the leaves and stems I plant 2/3 of the plant underground the plant will then develop roots all along and take off! Also for Free plants simply prick off the suckers (this will boost production) and plant sucker directly in the ground! Keep it moist and in a couple of weeks you have a genetic clone of the mother plant. I have about a 80% success rate using this method all the tomatoes I care to want- during the season I sware I eat 4 or 5 beefstake a day everyday! And by the end of August my neighbors will not accept anymore.

-- Johnny (jljtm@bellsouth.net), April 21, 1999.

Gang -

Be careful when buying hybrid tomato plants or farm grown. We go to eastern Washington every year and buy our tomatos for canning - cheaper - last year they were $6 for a 30# box. Some of the new hybrids are not good for canning - they don't have a high enough acidity. Most seed catalogs will say "good for canning" or something to that effect. Ask if you are going to a farm or fruit stand. I guess I will have to try some of the heirlooms here - tomatos are sometimes hard to grow in western Washington, not hot enough or long enough growing season. (Wish it was August and I was in eastern Washington eating tomatos- Yuuuummmm!)

-- Valkyrie (anon@please.net), April 21, 1999.

I like the yellow ones, its quite a weird sensation eating a veg with unexpected appearance, like yellow courgettes,

we usually grow boring moneymakers in the UK

-- dick of the dale (rdale@coynet.com), April 21, 1999.

Superb advice from all my fellow tomato-lovers!

Celebrity is a hybrid. It has the best general disease resistance of all the tomatoes I've ever grown combined with very good flavor, & compact growth. A real winner.

Sweet 100 is an outrageously flavorful cherry! Grows quite wild, so give it lots of room. Sweet Million is likewise excellent, with better disease resistance than Sweet 100. Gotta have some cherry 'maters to nosh on while handling other garden chores. Yum!

There are indeed many Brandywine strains. IMO the best fresh-eatin' tomato I've ever grown. Interesting look to it as well.

I've had great success with foliar feeding once a week.

Potato bread, mayo, a little salt, sliced tomato = heaven on Earth!

-- Bingo1 (howe9@pop.shentel.net), April 21, 1999.

in the northern states and canada, try the early subarctic tomato Starfire. my mom has saved its seeds for probably the last 25 years. it's determinate, and early.

-- jocelyne slough (jonslough@tln.net), April 21, 1999.

I've heard good things about the SubArctic too,...gonna try some....

My best-tasting tomato crops have come from heirloom seed and plants. I had one last year, and managed to save a bit of seed,...it probably goes by some other name, but the name on the tag was "Aunt Ginny's Purple"....2 pound (!!) ribbed beefsteaks....more pinkish than purple....lots of meat, little seed. A bit persnickety about setting blossoms though....

I'm with whoever eats 4-6 a day...Love tomato sandwiches on rye bread,...a little mayo, paper-thin sliced bermuda onion, JUST a bit of cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

-- Donna Barthuley (moment@pacbell.net), April 21, 1999.

Better Boy.

-- a (a@a.a), April 21, 1999.

Can ya stand another post from Organic Gardening? Sure ya can! Feb 95, tomatoes for all regions. [Summarized]

Organic Gardening asked seven tomato experts to list their favorites--which grow best for them and which they'd grow again.

Macon, MO--so dry the ground cracked, 90+ temps. Husky Gold produced all summer long, sweet flavor. Good for slicing, eating fresh. Very thick stem, withstood early blight. Black Prince also did well, "fine, real tomato taste." Grower liked OG50 too.

Bosque, NM--Yellow Bell was preferred. "Super sweet flavor." Ate them raw all summer. Grower also liked Siletz, fended off heatwave after heatwave, believes due to "mop of thick foliage," also "tasted great."

Fetzer Vineyards, Mendocino Valley, CA--garden director grows 105 heirloom varieties. Very dry in summer, low humidity, virtually no rain, high temps (up to 105). Grower uses drip irrigation, lots of mulch. Verna Orange did well, very meaty tomato. Big White Pink Stripes has "tropical" flavor, "almost like a melon." Amish Paste is favorite sauce tomato. Also tastes good fresh. Likes Black Krim.

Battleford, Saskatchewan---grower likes Big Beef, their "best tomatoes in years." Also First Lady and Early Girl. Grower's wife likes Bonny Best, "old tomato taste."

New Mexico--Big Beef.

Harrow, Ontario--Goldbn Queen, meaty with low acidity, resistance to lots of diseases. Grower likes Evergreen too, "very sweet." Likes Bellstar for canning or sauce, slips skin easily. Prefers to Roma.

Latham, NY--Wow--Aunt Ginny (exquisite taste and production), Aunt Ruby's German Green (delicious, somewhat spicy flavor), Cuostralee (simply superb taste, extreme productivity) and Kellogg's Breakfast (rich complex flavor).

Alexander City, AL--Cherokee Purple, "nicely mild and non-acidic flavor," Brandywine, "delicious," and Oregon Spring.

Old Git's favorite tomato? The first one to ripen out on the yard!

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), April 21, 1999.

You guys are awesome. Thanks to everyone.


-- R. Wright (blaklodg@aol.com), April 21, 1999.

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