Tomato Review #2 Banana Legs – it don’t look like a banana and it don’t got legs

It’s raining tomatoes here at the Homegrown Evolution compound and time for the second in our series of tomato reviews. Today, Banana Legs, a determinate variety with yellow flesh and light green streaks. It has a mild, low acid flavor and a meaty texture. Not bad, not thrilling, not nearly is as good as a similar looking tomato we grew last year, Power’s Heirloom.

We grew our Banana Legs in a self watering container (SWC) and it produced a respectable amount of fruit. With a sunny balcony, folks in apartments could do the same. For our container we used a repurposed storage bin and we’d recommend the largest container you can find for tomatoes or sticking to tomato varieties specifically bred for containers. As soon as the large root system of a tomato plant gets down into the water reservoir at the bottom of an SWC you can get some leaf curl. This did not seem to reduce the output of our plant, but it was somewhat ugly looking. We also made the dumb, lazy mistake of not caging the plant and it sprawled helplessly over the sides of the planter, probably reducing our yield. Here’s the way we normally cage our tomatoes when we’re not too busy blogging. You can also check out Bruce F’s nice staking system for his rooftop garden in Chicago.

Verdict: we gotta get some of those Power’s Heirloom seeds next season, but I’ll save a few of the Banana Legs seeds for the sake of variety.

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  1. We at the Parkwood Plaza in Pasadena have had some kind of terrible tomato infertility disorder this year. Big green leafy plants with thick stems, often with zero fruits. They grow, they bloom, and then the flowers almost always fall off! The plants get different amounts of direct sun, but even those with 8 hours every day are having the problem. Some of them have heavily fertilized soil, others have nothing but dirt and compost: same problem. They’re not wilting, so I assume they’re getting plenty of water. Any suggestions? We’re growing Black Crims, Cherokee Purples, Riesentraubs, and Brandywines. They’re all having the same issues. They’re in 30 gallon containers made out of old car tires.

  2. Zane,

    From the Texas Cooperative Extension:

    “Several conditions can cause tomatoes to not set fruit. Too much nitrogen fertilizer, nighttime temperatures over 70 degrees F., low temperatures below 50 degrees F., irregular watering, insects such as thrips or planting the wrong variety may result in poor fruit set. Any of these conditions can cause poor fruit set, but combinations can cause failures. If Extension recommended varieties are used , the main reason tomato plants do not set fruit is because they are not planted where they can receive 8-10 hours of direct sunlight daily. Any less direct sunlight will result in a spindly growing, nonproductive plant with healthy foliage.”

    Sounds like a difficult problem (or set of problems) to diagnose. My first impulse would be to set out with a flashlight at night and see if I find any bugs. Inconsistent watering is also asking for a whole world of trouble with tomatoes.

  3. zaneselvan – I have also heard that too high of temperatures could cause tomatoes to not set fruit (I thought it was over 90F, though). At a recent composting workshop given by the county of Los Angeles, the instructor mentioned how too fertile of soil (he was talking earthworm castings) could result in huge leaves and no fruit. So check whether you’re over-fertilizing, too much nitrogen. Here in the Westchester area of Los Angeles (near LAX airport) I grow can tomatoes in filtered sun. They get a bit leggy but I still get fruit. Thus I go back to the soil …

    Back to the original post – why would you save seed on the Banana Legs variety if you didn’t like them, and if you have a small property? Here I’m finding that it’s easier to pick one variety I like and let it open pollinate rather than growing lots of varieties and having them cross or having to find seed each year. This year I tried Xtreme Bush from Victory in patio pots – wow, hardly any plant and what a lot of harvest! -JP in Westchester/LA

  4. Yeah, I’ve read the cooperative extension suggestions. I’m pretty sure they’re getting enough sun (at least some of them) and given the variety of different soil mixes we made, and the uniformity of the fruitlessness, I’m going to guess that it’s not the soil. Which leaves water. What is “irregular”? How much is not enough? Or too much? How do you decide when your tomatoes need a drink? Some of them have had some little flies on the undersides of the leaves, but only a few of the plants. And again, the plants seem verdant and healthy overall… *sigh*

  5. To JP,

    I’m saving the seeds because I’d like to try growing this variety in the ground next year to see if there is a difference in taste (a little amateur science). The constant source of moisture in a SWC means that the fruit is probably less sweet than it would be in the ground (assuming a bit of water stress towards the end of the season, which tends to sweeten the fruit). I should have noted this in my post.

    To Zane,

    Did you mulch around the tomatoes? This can help maintain good soil moisture. Tomatoes suck up a lot of water and have large root systems. Water could be a factor in your problem with setting fruit. More than likely, however, it’s a number of factors like the extension service suggests, i.e. water, pests, light–all these factors together. What tomatoes need is lots of sun, regular watering (I like a drip system for this), good soil, hearty varieties, and good luck with pests.

    On the other side of the equation–for years we had volunteer cherry tomatoes that grew in bad soil, with no water in partial shade! I’ve found that we’ve generally had better luck with cherry tomatoes and they even seem to taste better. Perhaps next year I’d give cherry tomatoes a try. There is even a way to grow them here in Southern California without water if you get them in the ground at just the right time. I’m going to experiment with this idea myself next year to try and recreate the wild ones that seem to take care of themselves.

  6. swc also stands for “shallow water culture” in hydroponics.

    This is a really interesting tomato. Even though you weren’t fond of the taste, would it be good in sauces or pastes?

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