End of Season Tomato Review

Homegrown Evolution had ambitious plans to review each and every tomato variety out of the garden this year, but alas, we fell behind in our bloggulating duties and planted way too many tomatoes. So here, as “winter” appears in Southern California (it’s raining, that’s how you tell), we’ll review what worked and what didn’t work.

The tastiest tomato award goes to the Pineapple variety pictured above. Not only did this heirloom tomato have the best flavor, it was also the prettiest tomato we’ve ever grown, a brilliant yellow with streaks of red in the middle of the fruit when you slice it. And they’re just about as big as a Cadillac Escalade. We saved some seeds and will definitely be growing these again next year.

The most productive, trouble free and productive tomatoes this year were plain old Romas and San Marzanos, both of which provided a summer of tomato sauce and enough extra fruit to do some canning. Two hybrid cherry tomatoes we grew in self watering containers, Sun Gold and Sweet 100 also did well. The Romas have the additional benefit of being fusarium wilt and verticillium resistant. It may be organic gardening heresy to say this, but hybrid tomatoes such as Roma are the best varieties for beginning gardeners to grow due to their trouble free and disease resistant qualities. The down side is that you can’t save the seeds.

We also grew Syrian Giants, but unfortunately our Doberman Pincher ate most of them on late night raids. Perhaps because the Syrians grew in less than ideal partial shade conditions, they weren’t that tasty. See also our earlier reviews of Banana Leg and Red Currant varieties.

Most of the tomatoes were grown in cages made from concrete reinforcing wire (instructions on making tomato cages here) in raised beds with a drip irrigation system as pictured above. As an experiment for folks in apartments or with limited space, we grew a bunch of tomatoes in self watering containers on a strip of concrete next to the back wall of our garage (note crappy picture below). You’ll see that we were too lazy to put the container tomatoes in cages–don’t do this as you’ll have a sprawling ugly mess! Nevertheless, the containers worked.

So readers, leave some comments! Tell us your favorite tomatoes this season. Weigh in on the heirloom vs. hybrid issue. We’re sure that forward thinking folks planning seed purchases for the spring would appreciate the advice.

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  1. Oh wow, it never occurred to me that you could grow tomatoes from your own seeds. I mean, of course you can! Do you guys have a linky that I could read about how to do it? I’ve just started my own veggie garden this year, and I’ve grown everything from seedlings, but I would love to plant from seeds in the future, especially if they are my own seeds.

  2. Ech. My tomatoes didn’t do well, thanks to awful weather issues this year. I got my first edible tomato on November 1st! And the flavor was disappointing.

    All of a sudden, my plants are setting fruit like crazy! My powers heirloom (a yellow plum) just set its first fruit a few days ago. My black prince and black plum are going nuts setting fruit right now. It’s freaking Thanksgiving! I hope some make it to ripe stages!

    Basil was a gangbuster crop for me, and lettuces have worked out well. I’m about to try growing broccoli for the first time. Once I switched to your homemade sub irrigated planters, my life got much easier. My habanero plant loves its planter!

    I tend to avoid commercial hybrids. The only 2 hybrids I plan to try are from little tomato guys, and they’re very inventive breeds. It’s just a fun experiment, really. If I like them, I’ll clone by cuttings for 2010.

    Tomatoes to grow for 2009 are as follows (depending on space constraints after the Feb. move):
    Beiju (purchased seedling)
    Brown Derby (purchased seedling)
    Japanese Black Trifele (seed trade/gift)
    Purple Haze (failed in 2008) (purchased seedling)
    Bolzamo (personally saved seed)
    Israeli (personally saved seed)
    Jaune Flamme (failed in 2008) (seeds from tomatofest site)
    Orange Mama (sweet orange roma) (seed trade/gift)
    White Currant (seed trade/gift)
    Sweet Pea Currant (failed in 2008) (seeds from tomatofest site)
    4-6 mystery varieties brought back from Spain

    Things that I’m NOT trying again in 2009:
    -Costoluto genovese tomato – kept dying, reports of iffy taste
    -San Marzano tomato – blossom end rot magnet!
    -Armenian tomato – not my kind of ‘mater, really
    -african blue basil – it’s kinda thick and fuzzy
    -Starting seeds indoors – big failure when they move outside! I’m direct seeding into SIP’s
    -top-watering seedlings – too much damping off. Yet another reason to direct seed into SIP’s

    Wishful thinking for 2009:
    20+ tomato varieties
    blue corn to grind for meal
    herbs that don’t die
    peppers that don’t die
    praying the garlic turns out well!


  3. My favorites this year were Extreme Bush from Victory Seed. Wow, did these things produce! They are dwarf plants so they stay small and tidy in patio pots nearly all season. Semi-determinate, they bear huge bunches of medium-sized slicers. When the fruits are ripening, you’d swear that that few leaves couldn’t possibly support that much fruit!

    Second fave, that I’ve grown for years, is a red currant tomato – I think I got it from Victory also, but might have been somewhere else. These tomatoes are tiny tiny, but wow, what flavor! A burst of the most intense, rich tomato flavor you ever did have. They’re great as a handful tossed into a salad, but most of them don’t ever make it into the house because my kids and I devour them in the yard. The vines grow to 7-9 ft so I plant them in large pots and twine them through my baker’s racks. And today, Thanksgiving day, there are still ripe tomatoes out there. They are vigourous volunteers, so I always have some for the next year.

  4. German Red Strawberry Tomato!!! Hands down, the best tomato I’ve ever had! I found these beauties at the local farmer’s market this year and saved seeds so I can try to grow them next year. They actually do have a strawberry-like shape to them, with a bright pinky red flesh that is firm without too many seeds inside… a good fresh eating tomato you can chomp into like a piece of fruit or slice for salads and sandwiches. This tomato is everything I ever wanted a tomato to be…

  5. Don’t the varieties cross in your garden? I have read a rule of thumb that plants should be grown at least one quarter mile from other varieties in order to prevent crossing. Or do you isolate and hand pollinate the flowers? I’d like to save seeds but I don’t want to be limited to one variety.

  6. Every heirloom tomato I’ve ever grown from seed has been hardier, i.e. it grows up like a strapping youth and is still looking fine after winter passes. And the tomatoes have really cool names, like Hillbilly Potato Leaf.

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