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.
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.
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.
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.
‘Sioux’ or ‘Super Sioux’
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?