Old Tomatoes, New Tomatoes

March 22nd, 2011

It’s that time of year again folks – tomato decision time. So many choices, and I’m going to stick to my resolution to have only 10 tomato plants. Last summer was horrible for tomatoes – very hot and very dry and too many stinkbugs. I could have planted way more than 10 plants and still not harvested very many tomatoes. In fact, I think last year’s harvest was the worst since we started the kitchen garden at Tangled Branches South in 2007.

There was one bright spot on the tomato scene last year though, and that was ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry‘. That one plant yielded more than the other 9 put together. Luckily, we like it a lot. So it’s definitely on the list for this year.

A couple of new-to-us varieties also performed better last year than the others and have earned a place in this year’s garden – ‘Jaune Flamme‘ and ‘Ten Fingers of Naples’. ‘Jaune Flamme‘ was highly praised by MSS of Zanthan Gardens, and I agree. A great-tasting tangy little tomato and a good yielder in a difficult year. ‘Ten Fingers of Naples‘ was planted on a whim. I’m always on the lookout for good paste tomatoes but the seeds were a freebie from Sand Hill Preservation Center. They turned out to be a cute little plum tomato (really more of a pear shape) with a very nice flavor. Susceptible to blossom-end rot, but maybe we’ll get rain every 3 days this summer (I can hope).

The rest of last year’s varieties and my thoughts on each one:

  • ‘Black Krim‘  A pretty good medium-sized black tomato. Not as much cracking as my favorite ‘Black Russian‘, but I thought not quite as flavorful either. But ‘Black Russian‘ is such a pain to grow, so ‘Black Krim‘ will be in the garden this year again. For what it’s worth, this seems to be happier in cooler weather – it produced well early and late, but not midseason.
  • Virginia Sweets‘ Loved, loved, loved this one in 2009. Hated it in 2010. In the cool rainy summer of 2009, I got enormous wonderful-flavored yellow/red bicolor fruits from a huge plant. In the hot dry summer of 2010, it grew fairly well, but yielded next to nothing. I’m giving it another chance this year and hoping for good weather.
  • Striped Roman‘ My favorite paste tomato. It didn’t do well last year, but I know it can do better. This variety has been a constant for the last 6? years and I see no reason to change that.
  • Brandeva‘  A stable cross between ‘Brandywine‘ and ‘Eva Purple Ball‘, trying to get the flavor of ‘Brandywine‘ in a pretty package such as ‘Eva Purple Ball‘. It was OK, but I want to date other tomatoes. It won’t be back for 2011.
  • John Baer‘ A small fruited heirloom. I don’t see why anybody would have saved it based on my last year’s results. It produced poorly and the tomatoes didn’t taste good. I don’t plan to try it again.
  • Hungarian tomato from eBay (Garafarm brand seed packet). I couldn’t read the Hungarian label, but this was an average red tomato. Not bad, but not great either. I’m looking for superior tomatoes, not OK ones, so this will not be back this season.
  • Break O’Day‘ I apparently got some wacky collection of seeds that happened to be labeled ‘Break O’Day‘. In 2009, this was a very nice tasting green-when-ripe tomato. It’s supposed to be red. Last year, it was a strangely shaped pinkish tomato. I’m tossing those seeds out. I’d like to give ‘Break O’Day‘ another chance because I’ve read good things about it, but I’m not planting it this year.

You’ve heard the saying that generals are always prepared to fight the last war? I’m going with more of the type of plants that did well last year – mainly small-fruited varietes. This year’s list includes some previous favorites, and only two large-fruited varieties.

Old friends:

  • ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’
  • ‘Striped Roman’
  • Virginia Sweets’
  • ‘Ten Fingers of Naples’
  • ‘Black Krim’
  • Jaune Flamme’

The newcomers. Links are to descriptions from Tatiana’s excellent TomatoBase.

  • RiesentraubeIf this produces as described, I’m going to have awfully many cherry tomatoes this year.
  • Tess’s Land RaceI really don’t need another small tomato, but here it is anyway. Sounded interesting.
  • CeylonCute shape, but I really don’t need another small tomato.
  • German Pink Ah, a big tomato. This is one of the varieties that gave rise to Seed Savers Exchange. Slow Food USA has included it in their Ark of Taste, but I think it’s in little danger of extinction.

That’s the list for 2011. I started ‘Jaune Flamme’, ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’ and ‘Ceylon’ early this year, and am going to set them out extra early, maybe under a row cover or similar, hoping for early yields. The rest will be sown tomorrow. That’s the plan anyway.

Early Tomato Plants

l-to-r: Matt's Wild Cherry, Ceylon, Jaune Flamme

What are your thoughts on tomatoes this year?

Previous tomato lists:

8 Responses to “Old Tomatoes, New Tomatoes”

  1. Megan says:

    I am a new gardener, and my goal is to focus on tomatoes this year. Just a few questions (a few, I promise!): Do you use containers or do you plant in the ground? What kind of support do you use for your plants (bamboo, wire, etc.?). Where do you buy your seeds?

    I am in Northern VA too and am happy to have found your blog! Thank you in advance for any help you can offer.

    • entangled says:

      And I’m happy to meet a new gardener! Thanks for stopping by!

      I’ve grown tomatoes many different ways over the years. When I only had the suburban garden in northern VA, I used large planters – first whisky barrels and then big plastic planters. The soil is such heavy clay there that I didn’t think I had much chance of success in the ground. In 2006, though I did plant a few tomatoes in the ground there. Now in the kitchen garden in central VA, I only plant in the ground. I have very light sandy soil there – very easy to dig and plant.

      I used to make homemade tomato cages out of stakes and twine. Just 4 wooden stakes (maybe 4′ ft. long?) around each plant with horizontal rows of twine wrapped around them. That worked well enough when the plants were in containers. I then moved on to Tomato Ladders from Gardener’s Supply Company. These were fine in the northern Virginia clay, but the legs are too short for the sandy soil at Tangled Branches South. My latest tomato support is Texas Tomato Cages. They’re shockingly expensive, but they really do work well and should last a very long time.

      Seeds…..I get them from lots of sources. Some of my favorite seed companies are: Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Pinetree Garden Seeds, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Tomato Growers Supply, Seed Savers Exchange, & Sand Hill Preservation Center.

  2. Megan says:

    Thank you very much! I have a feeling you will be hearing from me a fair amount throughout the spring and summer.

  3. Funny how our lists are so different… and yet we aren’t THAT far apart. Matt’s wild cherry was a little too wild for me, but a great taste, still too small for what I do.

    I love Cherokee Purple, and German Pink. My paste tomatoes are Amish Paste, Long Tom & San Marzano (and a few Roma).

    Will have to look for Virginia Sweets. Sounds like my kind of tomato!

  4. I love heirloom tomatoes and am always looking for different varieties to try. Thanks for your tomato review!

  5. Beth Riddick says:

    For those looking for heirloom tomato seedlings, may I advertise an upcoming event? Over 30 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, plus peppers and Asian eggplant will be offered at the Herndon Stingers fundraiser on May 7 in Herdon. The Stingers are a FIRST LEGO Robotics team, and we raise this money to pay for our season and to start new teams at our school. Please see our web site for more info: http://www.Robottomatoes.org.
    Thanks, and Happy Growing!

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