Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How Was Your Tomato Season?



How Was Your Tomato Season?
Summer Bounty!

The longer I grow tomatoes, the more my preference to grow a particular kind of tomato seems to shift. The first image that comes to mind when you think about a tomato, is the regular slicer that you would buy in a store. So, when you start thinking about growing your own, it stands to reason that you would focus on growing those kinds of tomatoes .



However, once your kitchen is overflowing with slicing tomatoes and you need to start thinking about preserving them, you realize that perhaps you ought to start growing a different kind of tomato. Let’s face it, you can only eat so many tomato sandwiches. When you want to use tomatoes for sauce, canning, drying or roasting there are simply better options than slicing tomatoes (they contain too much water and seeds). Enter the plum/paste tomatoes! Not only are they excellent for all your cooking needs, some are also just as good for eating raw.


My absolute favorite plum/paste tomato is Gilbertie. Yes, I know, it is a bit tricky to grow. It is very susceptible to blossom-end-rot during the entire growing season (not just early on). So it is important to give it some extra calcium and never to overwater this plant. Since it is an heirloom it is also susceptible to a number of diseases. On the other hand, it grows so rapidly that it often outgrows the diseases and it will keep on producing until well into October. The tomatoes from this plant are large and very meaty: they make absolutely the best slow roasted tomatoes ever!
From left to right: Gilbertie, Granadero, Juliet



I have tried a number of other plum/paste tomatoes, mostly not very successfully. I have tried San Marzano and Amish Paste and I thought they were underwhelming at best. The plants got diseased before they really started to produce and I found the tomatoes kind of small. Who wants to skin that many tomatoes if you want to can them? I did not think the taste was all that great either.
I have tried Big Mama, but holy smokes, what a magnet for early blight and septoria blight! My gardens have been pestered with both over the past several years, so why bother with a plant that is super prone to getting these diseases?

This year I am trying Granadero (Cooks Garden). I don't think I will grow that one again either. It is also very prone to every blight known to mankind (and does not recover as well as Gilbertie for instance) plus the skin is super, super thick. Forget about trying to skin these tomatoes: way too much flesh sticks to the skin. In addition, although the skins are red, often the inside of the tomato was white and hard as a rock.

I am giving Roma VF from Southern Exposure a 2nd change. Unfortunately, I find it just as "blah" as San Marzano and Amish Paste. 

Other tomatoes I grew this year were slicers: Tropic VFN and West Virginian 63, both from Southern Exposure as well. They were okay, but not outstanding. Oddly enough, despite all the diseases, the trusted heirloom Big Rainbow, out-performed all the other slicers.
Big Rainbow




Of course I also grew Juliet, my all-time favorite tomato! It is sweet, prolific and very versatile. One plant will keep the entire family well supplied for a season. (I should get royalty payments or something like that because I grow Juliet seedlings for neighbors and friends as well).


In general, I think this has been a tough tomato year. Lots of diseases and fewer tomatoes per plant than other years. I would love to hear what your experience was this year and whether you have any suggestions for plum/paste tomatoes to grow for next year.

Whatever you grew, I hope it did NOT look like this:
Seeds sprouted INSIDE of the tomato!

9 comments:

  1. I grew my usual BW Sudduth's Strain, Black From Tula, Druzba and Atkinson, but also tried hybrids Kellogg's Breakfast, which was a wonderful, mild, yellow beefsteak and Supersauce, which I didn't think it had much flavor until it was roasted. I also tried heirloom Soldaki, which I wasn't impressed. I always grow a bed of Early Girl too, as they give me most of my canning toms.

    It was a tough year with it being so HOT and humid early in the season. My toms are already pulled up for the year. I might have to try Gilbertie next season!

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  2. Thank you so much for your reply. I may have to expand my garden (it is already pretty big) and try some of the tomatoes that you have mentioned. They sound very interesting!

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  3. My best tomato this year was Stupice - it began producing early and is still going. Plants looked bad, but the tomatoes kept going. I was interested in the Gilbertie pictured. I grow a tomato very like this, and your description was exactly the same. I have it from saved seeds for years. Don't ever remember having this variety in my garden, but I'll be ordering it next year - to compare. Although my plants looked horrible this year, I still had tons of tomatoes. I thought the flavors were a bit bland though. Sandra (Annapolis)

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    1. Hello Sandra, since Gilbertie is an heirloom, it could very well be that your saved seeds are exactly that. Seeds from heirloom will come true to type, whereas saved seeds from hybrids will become just about anything. I may need to give Stupice a try next year. I grew early girl or early pick this year and I was, once again, not impressed. Yes, it produced rather early, but no earlier than Juliet. It got horribly diseased and unlike Stupice or Gilbertie, it did not continue to produce.

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  4. This was my first year trying to graft tomatoes. I had mixed success. I successfully grafted Black Trefele, Mortgage Lifter, and Juliet (as if she needs any help!). I also grew Green Zebra, Brand Boy, and Opalka. Most of my production this year was from the Juliet, Black Trefele, and Green Zebra. The Opalka produced for a little while before succumbing to disease, and the Mortgage Lifter was not a heavy producer. I think I got one or two fruits from the Brandy Boy before it, too, succumbed.

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    1. I am impressed!! So the question is, do you think the grafted tomatoes produced better than the ungrafted ones? I am curious!

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    2. I didn't do a side-by-side comparison this year. Last year, though, I was given grafted and non-grafted Black Trefele plants. The grafted were much more prolific, producing three times as many fruits with a total weight more than four times that of the non-grafted plant. I doubt this is typical, but it was impressive. That is why I tried it myself this year.

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  5. I grew Juliet, San Marzano, Brandy Boy, Cherokee Purple, and Heinz Hybrid Paste. The Juliets are my favorite for making fresh salsa. They are still producing, but are definitely hurting from early blight. I won't have them much longer. The dry August and vacation was their downfall. They could have used some water while I was away. I have grown Brandy Boys for two years. They have been productive and I like the taste. My favorite slicer replacing Early Girl. I have one that has succumbed to early blight, but another is still producing well. Just had one with a burger last night. The one that is producing is in a tomato grow bag about 10-15 feet away from the other plants. The San Marzano's make great spaghetti sauce, but they do not have much meat. It takes a lot to make some sauce. I still have a late planted one that is just about to start producing and is very healthy. The early planted ones are on their last legs. The Heinz hybrid was meaty, but I used it in salsa with the Juliets so I cannot comment on taste. It is also pretty much done.The Cherokee Purple was planted late as well. Not a heavy producer and the groundhog seems to like this one the best. It is still doing decently. It also came into production when on vacation so I have not used too many of those.

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    1. Isn't funny how the animals always know which ones are the heirlooms. It is my experience that the squirrels will eat the heirloom tomatoes well before the even notice the hybrids.

      I think there is something to be said for planting in stages. All the tomatoes that I planted in May are pitiful and sick. Oddly enough,a bunch of later planted tomatoes and some late volunteers are happy, healthy and producing. I think Mother Nature is giving us a huge hint!!

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