Random end of season tomato thoughts

Bumblebee pollinating a tomato flower

Tomato flowers are beautiful to us and bees.

Last month, as I worked in the garden, picking the last of the green tomatoes, ripe ‘Yummy’ peppers and a couple of overlooked carrots and green onions, I reflected on  how my tomatoes performed this season.  The best grower and producer of any tomato was ‘Giant Belgium.’  GB outperformed every other tomato in the group, with the plant itself eventually growing to seven feet tall.  Because I didn’t stake it properly (I am not a good staker), GB sprawled all over my pricey ‘Rhapsody in Pink’ crapemyrtle and ‘Belinda’s Dream’ rose.  Fortunately, these two, tough plants didn’t seem to mind.

'Rhapsody in Pink' crapemyrtle; couldn't find the one with GB on top of it.

'Rhapsody in Pink' crapemyrtle before GB began its sprawl

In spite of the wicked, early summer heat (hovering around 107F every day for two weeks at the end of June), I still picked a dozen or more of GB’s gigantic fruits.  Unfortunately, I found this pink tomato to be mealy in texture and not acidic.   Diva and I (the tomato fans in our family) like our fruit to have a bit of a bite.

'Giant Belgium'

'Giant Belgium'

My favorite three tomatoes overall were ‘Cherokee Purple’ (can’t go wrong with this dark tomato), ‘Carbon’ (love its dark color and rich, hearty taste, plus I like black plants) and ‘Super Fantastic’ (a hybrid with great taste and all around superior performance).  ‘Sungold’ (sweet, golden , cherry-sized fruit is “sweet”) and ‘Royal Hillbilly’ (delicious taste, but not so prolific) were also good.  As for the losers, there are so many it’s difficult to catalog them all.  Varieties like ‘Aunt Anna,’ ‘Fireworks,’ ‘Millionaire,’ ‘Hazelfield Farm,’ ‘Grandma Mary’s Paste,’ ‘Crimson Carmello,’ ‘Virginia Sweets’ all quickly died from disease or the extreme heat.

‘Lumpy Red’ and ‘True Black Brandywine’ produced a few fruits, but nothing to write home about.

In February, when browsing catalogs, it’s easy to get wrapped up in beautiful names and sultry seed descriptions.   After all, the wind is howling around the corners of the house, and all the frozen and canned tomatoes are growing thin.  The thought of a juicy, ripe tomato just pulled off the vine is almost more than a body can stand.

Last winter, I made a huge mistake when I ordered nearly all-new varieties just because I wanted to try them. As a result, my tomato crop nearly failed.

Unripened 'Sungold'

Unripened 'Sungold'

I think it’s good to grow a variety of tomatoes, both hybrid and heirloom.  With the heirlooms, you get complex flavors, unusual fruit you can brag on, and plants taller than you are.  On the other hand, hybrids offer consistent size and yield, and they have built in tomato disease resistance, something that heirlooms don’t always have.  Yes, I know some gardeners swear by those heirlooms they grow and select for disease resistance themselves, but they aren’t the average, busy gardener, who has kids in sports and Boy Scouts.  That gardener wants tomatoes which grow and succeed.

I’m not the only one who feels this way, I know, because Jane Black wrote about her quiet revolt in the Christian Science Monitor. I’m not quite ready to revolt myself, but I am going to give more planting space to a few, select hybrids next summer.

I’ll be planting the following varieties, and you all need to hold me to it.  I only get to try two new ones, and they must not be green, like ‘Aunt Ruby’s German Green’ or ‘Green Zebra’ because these varieties always fail in my vegetable garden.

‘Beefmaster’

‘Super Fantastic’

‘Sioux’ or ‘Super Sioux’

‘Rutgers’

‘Sungold’

‘Cherokee Purple’

‘Carbon’

‘Arkansas Traveler’

This list provides me with plenty of slicers, and I may use one of my new varieties for a paste tomato.  We’ll see.  I’m curious about your end-of-season tomato thoughts.  Which varieties did well in your garden?  Which failed miserably?  Which would you try again?

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19 comments on “Random end of season tomato thoughts

  1. Jean

    I think heirlooms are more difficult to grow the farther south you live. I’m not sure if that’s a scientific fact though. I just think the heat combined with the insects makes it more difficult. This year I grew Cherokee Purple, Sweet Million, Solar Fire, and Heatwave. Only Cherokee Purple was worth it but there weren’t that many of them. Next year I’ll go back to Sungold and one other one; not sure yet which one (I don’t have a lot of room for tomatoes). One of the farmers at our farmers’ market carried Arkansas Traveller and I liked that one a lot. Maybe I should try that?!
    .-= Jean´s last blog ..Travels and Home =-.

  2. Gloria Bonde

    Great information – I enjoyed your blog – Gloria

  3. Rose

    I’ve always planted only hybrids, but this year I tried a “Cherokee Purple” grown from seed I started. Unfortunately, most of the tomatoes in our area were hit by blight, and the Cherokee shriveled up before producing anything other than some little green tomatoes. I may try an heirloom or two next year, but otherwise I’m sticking to the hybrids. I don’t want to see my whole tomato crop turn brown before I’ve even had a chance to pick one ripe one!
    .-= Rose´s last blog ..ABC Wednesday: "Why I Garden" =-.

  4. Mom

    Hi honey, I dont grow anything and didnt get to taste a good tomato but am looking forward to those beefmasters next season.

  5. Pamela

    Hi, Dee, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I envy your tomatoes this past summer! Pennsylvania was devastated by the tomato blight and my garden did not escape. Oh well, 2010 is another year … that’s the joy of gardening. Nice post. Pam

  6. Gavin

    I love the dark tomatoes the best. That carbon tomato is one I’ll have to try. I’ll also likely go hybrid because I’m thinking that if hybrid style tomatoes keep the best properties of a couple different types of plants, they do seem like the way to go.
    .-= Gavin´s last blog ..Living Green Fence =-.

  7. Jenny B

    It sure is hard to resist those garden porn mags called seed catalogs. Those pictures of perfect fruit coupled with cabin fever setting in after the holidays are a dangerous combination ripe for indiscriminate ordering one of everything. Hope your Thanksgiving was happy–full of family and feasting.
    .-= Jenny B´s last blog ..Frisky Cheats Death =-.

  8. Lea

    I love tomatoes! And just looking at your tomatoes made me salivate.

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  10. Aisling

    Dee,

    We had almost no success with tomatoes this year. Some volunteer Jelly Bean Grape Tomatoes (yep, a hybrid) were the healthiest tomatoes in the garden. We seemed to have some kind of blight in our full sized tomato plants. Your Cherokee Purple sound wonderful; may have to try those. I generally go for one new-to-me heirloom and one tried-and-true hybrid (generally a Roma type.) I keep thinking I’m going to come across an heirloom that just thrives here and is delicious to boot! 🙂

    I wish a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Thank you for visiting my Quiet Country House today!

    warm regards,
    Aisling

  11. Diana

    In the Spring season, I had great luck with these from seed: Celebrity and Big Boy. I didn’t have much luck with Cherokee Purple, Lemon Yellow, or Omar’s Lebanese. I planted a few more that I can’t remember and don’t have my notes with me. The fall garden had Sweet Cherry Belles and Via Italia romas that were good along with a mediocre Celebrity. I planted the 3rd Cherokee Purple this fall and will not plant them again. Almost no performance every time. While others were 10 feet tall. I’m going to try your approach this Spring – more of the tried and true and just a few experiments. Happy Thanksgiving!
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..Dressing and awards! =-.

  12. Brenda Kula

    I had one tomato plant this year. It gave up the ghost when we had that horrid heat wave. I hope to do better next year!
    Brenda
    .-= Brenda Kula´s last blog ..Sweet Inspiration =-.

  13. Tatyana

    Very interesting! It looks like we have absolutely different types suitable for our climates. But Beefmaster and Sungold are performing good in my 7b zone too! Other names are unfamiliar to me, except Cherokee. Better staking is my goal for next season, too. I am looking for good supports. Randy from Randy and Meg garden gave some good advise recently. Good luck to you!
    .-= Tatyana´s last blog ..Images For You, 160 names and The Last Award =-.

  14. Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening

    Tomato blight here, too. Trying to wipe it out of my mind. We did get some Sungolds. But I agree, a variety of types is best.
    .-= Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening´s last blog ..Why I Garden =-.

  15. commonweeder

    We had tomato late blight this year. Very few tomatoes were edible. My feeling is almost any garden fresh tomato is better than a commercially grown tomato. Success is so dependent on so many things – and the particular taste of the gardener. I am thankful for all tomato varieties today.
    .-= commonweeder´s last blog ..Will She or Won’t She? =-.

  16. Kelly

    We tried several different tomato varieties in our garden this year as well. I love the flavor of the Cherokee purple. So delicious on sandwiches. We just never produce many on our vines. We did fair well with Rutgers but will probably stick with Celebrity and Better Boys next year. All in all, we were blessed with an abundance of tomatoes and I was able to can quite a bit of them.
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
    Kelly
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..In Everything Give Thanks =-.

  17. Carol, May Dreams Gardens

    ‘Aunt Anna’ was a total fail in my garden, too. I don’t think I get even one tomato of that variety to even try. She will not be invited back for next season!

    Two favorites that grow well in my garden that aren’t on your list are ‘German Johnson’, a big pink slicer, and ‘Black Cherry’, a bit of an over sized dark cherry-type tomato that has more of a “big” tomato taste.
    .-= Carol, May Dreams Gardens´s last blog ..You Might Be A Gardening Geek: Driving Edition =-.

  18. Lisa at Greenbow

    The only tomato I tried to grow this season was the Cherokee Tomato. I put it into one of those topsy turvey bags and it did very well at first. I found that you have to water it despite tons of rain. It must be a tough plant to withstand the conditions it had to deal with. You have made me hungry this morning talking about all those delicious tomatoes.