Friday, December 3, 2010

2010 Overview - Tomatoes

I won't be doing many overview posts this fall as switching gardens really messed up things like yield. But I will do a couple. Mostly from the new house. Tomatoes are probably the most important, so I'll start there.

I have another issue with my move. I can no longer find my record sheet for when things were planted. I think they were planted around their target date which was April 17th. They went in the ground around May 24th. So they were 5-6 weeks old when planted. I know some people like 8-10 week old transplants, but for me they have always grown better if they start small. The main reason for that is once they get big I have no good place to put them and they get stunted by bad conditions. If I had a place where they could grow a foot tall and could get a nice 4-6" pot they would be fine. But I don't have room for that. So they always go in small. It works pretty well.


They were planted in the rock wall garden. The summer was very hot and dry. I had to hand water about every three days. Even with that when I finally pulled them at the end of the season, the soil was bone dry to at least eight inches (as far as I looked). However their roots were deep so they all survived quite well. The soil was slightly alkaline to start and some plants showed a mild iron deficiency, but overall they did well in the slightly alkaline soil (7.2). There was very little blossom end rot. Usually I have much more. I'm guessing it is the soil pH that did it as water was always an issue.

They were planted as usual for me. The bottom leaves were cut off and they were planted a couple inches deeper than they were in their pots. In the holes I put a cup of 5-3-3 organic fertilizer, 1 cup of bone meal, and 1 cup of powdered eggshells. They were all given 18" wide cages. Unlike usual summers I never sprayed the plants (usually spray with compost tea and aspirin mixture). The summer was dry and fungal issues weren't too bad.

I planted 14 varieties. One plant of each. One plant died and had to be pulled very early on so I really only had 13 varieties. I picked 186.38 lbs of tomatoes for an average of 14.5 lbs per plant. This is a higher than normal yield here.


I had two Sungold F3s. EmmaAnn and GabrielleAnn. EmmaAnn was planted between the other two and she had issues. She never grew very well and got diseased very early. She was pulled before any harvest. GabrielleAnn quickly took over Emma's cage. She was fairly healthy and grew well into the neighbors lilac. She probably got over 10' tall, but I couldn't reach that high and kept trying to keep her in bounds. Her fruit was not quite as tasty as a Sungold usually is. But she didn't have a lot of cracking. Since it was so dry cracking was a common problem whenever we got rain. Next year I should grow her progeny alongside a real Sungold to test the difference. She put out a whopping 26.84 lbs of cherry tomatoes. She was my second best producer of all the tomatoes.

Chocolate Cherry was constantly fighting some illness. I've no clue what it was. It grew and produced anyway. The flavor wasn't as good as last year's harvest. It wasn't as sweet. Very similar to the GabrielleAnn in that way. It still got tall. Almost as tall as GabrielleAnn, but it didn't have the fullness. It was an open spindly plant. It produced 9 lbs of tomatoes.

Principe Borghese is usually not thought of as a cherry, but they were cherry sized and slightly elongated. The strain I had was not particularly dry. And though I dried some, the other cherries were almost as good at drying. One of the paste tomatoes would have been a better choice. The taste however was very good fresh. It was quite sweet and tasty. PB produced 10.14 lbs.

Paste Tomatoes

This year I wanted to try out a lot of different paste tomatoes to see what would grow best in my garden. The issue is that the weather was so abnormal it wasn't a good test of what grows well in colder climates. But I will go down the list of bad to good as they did this year.

Opalka only produced 7.65 lbs. The plant was not very healthy and couldn't fight off the russet spider mites that plagued us (first time I've had issues with these). All the other paste tomatoes didn't have as much of an issue. The taste was nothing to write home about. It was fine. It made fine sauce. But it just wasn't very productive nor was it early. It was two weeks later to produce than Amish Paste.

Romeo Roma had the typical roma shape at the start of the season, but switched to a more heart shaped tomato by the end of the season. I've no clue as to why. The main claim to fame with this tomato is that it is a huge one for paste tomatoes. Some were over a pound. The plants grew very much like the Chocolate cherry. They weren't bushy, but long and lanky. Also the stems didn't seem as strong as most tomatoes. I had to tie it to the cage to get it to grow up. It really wants to sprawl even when it isn't weighed down by its massive fruit. The plant wasn't very productive. It gave 6.23 lbs. But it was easy to process as the fruits were huge and hollow. The seeds came out fast. The taste was fine, but nothing to write home about. It was one of the latest tomatoes to ripen in the garden, so not really best for my normal climate.

San Marzano is the standard of paste tomatoes. It performed well at 11.11 lbs. It tasted good. The fruits were fairly small, and hard to tell from Opalka once picked. Good but still isn't going to make the cut into next year's garden.

Heinz 2653 is not an inspiring name. Any name with a number in it just has to leave you flat doesn't it. Well I picked it because it does well in cool summers. It is a short determinate (the other are all indeterminates). This plant and Amish Paste both produced during the week that the cherry tomatoes started producing. So they are early. Heinz also has a very fast production then it is over and out of the garden. It could have been pulled as early as mid August. Which means that I can plant a crop of spinach after it or a cover crop that has time to grow. It produced 10.98 lbs and can probably be shoved together closely as the plants are small. Its taste was very good. Better than San Marzano. I will grow this next year as out of all the ones I trialed, I think it can handle my normally cool summers.

Amish Paste was the best of all the paste tomatoes in the garden. Unlike the others it has a heart shape. It is the best tasting of all the paste tomatoes. It is good enough to eat fresh in salads. It started producing early and it produced an amazing 18.66 lbs. It is amazingly vigorous. It needs a huge cage next year. The one I had wasn't tall enough. It does have one flaw however. It is slightly moister than most paste tomatoes. So it does need a bit more boiling than some of the others. But then to me it seems more like a hybrid eating/paste tomato as it can be used either way. This too will find a place in my garden next year.

Chinese Heirlooms

I grew a selection of three Chinese heirlooms this year. Hong Yuen (4.71 lbs), Peiping Chieh (6.06 lbs), and Early Kus Ali (11.79 lbs). None of them were a tomato I'd grow again. None of them tasted all that good. Better than store bought? Yes. Like a good homegrown tomato? No. In addition their description was that they were all good for fresh eating and for canning. I found that not to be true. They were watery and the flesh was thin so not good for canning by any means. It is true that Hong Yuen would make some cute canned whole tomatoes as they are all uniform small tomatoes, but the yield was so low that I couldn't get enough to can at any one time. None of these will be grown again.


I grew two varieties of slicing tomatoes. The first is my tried and true Market Miracle. I know it does well in cool summers as it did well last year in our record breaking cool June. But it pulled out here too. It puts out a lot of very pretty unblemished red tomatoes. They don't hold a candle in taste to the Cherokee Purple, but they are still good and reliable. This year they were planted on the wrong side of a taller determinate. So it was in partial shade a good part of the day. It still produced 20.20 lbs which is the third best producer this year. It is a good plant for bad conditions.

The best of all the tomatoes this year was Cherokee Purple. It survived into late October, which probably won't happen in a normal year, but it held up better than any of the other non-cherry tomato. It was hands down the best tasting tomato of the year. Better by far than any other. And it produced a total of 42.99lbs. Amazing. I have no clue if it will do as well in our normal summers, but for this summer it was king. We even had some that ripened on the counter for Thanksgiving and though they were picked green and were the last ones to make it through I got comments on how good the tomatoes were. And they were. They had lost their intense sweetness, but their underlying flavor still held up. The last couple were eaten on November 26th. I can't say enough about this plant.

I will put out a list of seeds that I saved in the next couple of weeks. It will include the best of the tomatoes that I grew this year so if you want to grow them too you can. However don't ask now, wait until I put up my list as I can never remember who asked for what. It is better for me to do it all at once.


  1. That cherokke purple is sure hard to beat in taste...I'll be trying the San Marzano this year, and hope it performs well in my climate. I really like your planting method, and might adopt ift for myself.

  2. Your harvest photos look great!

    The Cherokee won my taste test a few years ago - back when I had enough varieties at once to compare. They are fantastic! I had a few good ones this year too. I always love the big old fashioned meaty tomatoes best though - Giant Belgium and Brandywine are my favorites.

    My Opalkas and big version of San Marzanos (San Marzano Gigante 3 from Territorial) were both enormous this year, and as you said, hard to tell apart, though not very prolific for me. But I will grow both again next year.

    I haven't given it much thought yet, but I'll probably grow all of the same varieties again next year. Maybe I'll skip the Early Girls and Beaver Lodge. They are early, but I'm not so fond of the thick skinned varieties.

  3. I really followed your blog since then because I got so many planting tips coming from you. I do have a garden right now and mostly planted with tomatoes. . I like your tomatoes,looks healthy. Hope mine too in due time:)

  4. Great account. We don't really get warm enough to grow tomatoes reliably here in Scotland. So it's a victory simply to get fruit - and the only distinctions we use are cherry, normal and beef. Paste tomatoes? I get the idea -a bit like canning potatoes(?)! For the first time in 15 years I tried 6 varieties (soon becoming 5) this year. The sole conclusion was that Sungold stood out from the rest. I take it the Anns are different crosses and not nicknames you've given your plants...?

  5. Nice tomato review Daphne. I am just amazed at how much your Cherokee Purple produced. We still have 2 tomatoes left. I'm sure that they will be eaten today or tomorrow.

  6. EG, CP has become my favorite. I just hope it grows well next year too.

    Kathy, If I were to grow another large tomato it would be Pineapple. I keep thinking about trialing it, but it is so late. I went to Verrill Farms for their tomato fest last year and that was really high up there in taste for me.

    daphne, good luck with your tomatoes.

    Mal, The Anns are hybrids that are being grown out. I might backcross the GabrielleAnn next year, but maybe not. They are F3s of Sungold. The first year there were six all starting with the first six letters of the Greek alphabet (why have have Gabrielle). Paste tomatoes are indeed canning tomatoes - well sauce tomatoes. They have less water than most. Their flesh is much drier and usually not good to eat straight. Sometimes they are hollow on the inside. Since they have less water it is easier to cook them down into a thick sauce - or into tomato paste. Hence paste tomatoes.

    Robin, I'm amazed too. I don't think it will be replicated as this year was hot and long, but not too hot, just the right amount of hot for them.

  7. I love reviews. So much info is wonderful to have when looking for a new variety. It's even better that you're so close, so I can tell how it will do. Amish Paste has been my workhorse tomato for a few years now, but I was looking for another to add. Cherokee Purple is on the top of many lists, so I believe that will be the winner.


  8. Thanks for the great tomato review. I was looking for a good paste tomato, and now I believe I'll go with the Amish Paste for next year. Your review is very thorough and is a big help to others. Thanks!

  9. You always do such a great job with the reviews - providing useful insights and specifics that were likely to have influenced the results. Makes it easier to take your experience and consider how it applies to my own situation.

    I definitely will be growing Market Miracle tomatoes again. Thank you for sharing seed with me this year as it was one of the two tomatoes that performed despite our horrible summer conditions this year. It's definitely a keeper.

  10. Kudos on your tomato review ... I always learn when I drop by here. Thanks.

  11. That's a lot of eggshells. I will have to start saving mine in the frig.

  12. Robin, I can't read all of the posts that I missed but I knew that searching for your TOMATO REVIEW would give useful information as always.

    How much space do you allow for your tomato plants to grow? We have had 70+ degree weather here for over 2 weeks. I am trying to spend lots of time in my garden.