Sunday, July 17, 2011

2011 Tomato Reviews

As you can see, the first half of this year has been rough. The only thing I got a decent harvest out of was the tomatoes. I didn't get enough to can a batch of sauce or salsa, but I did get enough for fresh eating and a few extra to throw in the dehydrator. It was still an interesting trial to see which ones did best in very hot, dry conditions.

Bloody Butcher

Transplant Date: March 10
First Harvest Date: June 1

Looks: This tomato is a weird size. It's too big to be a cherry tomato, and too small to make good sandwich slices. It's about golf ball sized. I quartered them and used them in salads. They're perfectly round and red.

Taste: Not that great, to be honest. Very sour, without much sweetness or complex flavors. The skin was kind of tough too.

Growth: This was supposed to be an early tomato, but I actually got my first ripe one after I had already picked some Cherokee Purples. The plants themselves were ok but seemed slightly less robust than my other varieties. The yield didn't seem that good either.

Grow again?: No. I don't really see the point of growing this one again once I run out of seeds. It doesn't seem to have any stand-out qualities, either in earliness, flavor, or yield. Maybe it doesn't like the climate here. It was also the first one to die once things got really hot.

Cherokee Purple

Transplant Date: March 10
First Harvest Date: May 30

Looks: Not your standard looking tomato, that's for sure. Mine are purple with green shoulders, and kind of a striped appearance. Lots of cracking on top. Uneven sizes and shapes, though most are of a good sandwich size.

Taste: One of the best tomatoes I've ever tasted! Nice and sweet, but also a lot of savory flavor and just the right amount of sour. These tomatoes don't even really need salt to taste awesome. I ate a lot of BLT's this summer with Cherokee Purple tomatoes. They're also great on burgers. About the only complaint I have about them is that they have such a meaty flavor that in some applications they can overpower things. They were ok in fritattas, but didn't seem to go that well with the delicate eggs and cheese. A more fruity flavored tomato would probably be better for that, while Cherokee Purple should stick with the heartier dishes.

Growth: Weirdly enough, this was my earliest tomato, by a little bit. It wasn't supposed to be. It's supposed to be a later variety, at least according to most seed catalogs. It must depend on the climate. Cherokee Purple is a popular variety around here. My CSA farmer also grows them, and I see them a lot at the Farmer's Market. They seem to love heat. My plants were large and robust, and weren't only the first ones to produce tomatoes, but also the highest yielders and the last ones to die in the heat.

Grow again?: For sure! Those Cherokees knew what they were doing when they bred this tomato. I'm tempted to grow it every year, even though there are so many other tomato varieties to try.

Mini Orange

Transplant Date: March 25
First Harvest Date: June 5

Looks: A large yellow or light orange cherry tomato. Too large to be bite-sized. I had to halve them for salads.

Taste: Really bland. Almost as bad as Yellow Pear. They weren't sour or sweet or much of anything. My search for a good tasting yellow tomato continues.

Growth: Not that great. I don't think they did well in the drought this year. They didn't do much better than Bloody Butcher. Low yields and quick to die in the summer heat. Then again, they got planted a bit later than my other tomatoes.

Grow again?: No. I planted all the seeds I had and didn't bother saving any more. The flavor just didn't impress me. There are so many other great tasting tomatoes out there, that I don't feel the need to bother with one that tasted so bland. The drought should have concentrated the flavors of all my tomatoes, so if they taste this bland during a drought, during a wet year they'll probably be even worse.

Rio Grande

Transplant Date: March 11
First Harvest Date: June 2

Looks: A red paste tomato about the size and shape of an egg, maybe a little larger...

... and as you can see above, nice meaty interior with few seeds.

Taste: Just fine for a paste tomato. To be honest, I didn't eat a lot of these fresh. Most of them went into the dehydrator. I'm a little more lenient with paste tomato flavor, since they're not meant to be eaten fresh anyway. The important thing is for them to have high yields, thick and easy to peel skin, and to have fairly dry flesh without much gel or seeds. This tomato seemed to do well for all of those things.

Growth: Not bad, considering the conditions. Like most paste tomatoes, Rio Grande is a determinant. Last year's paste tomato was Hawkins Plum, and Rio Grande did much better than Hawkins Plum did last year. One notable thing was that RG had no Blossom End Rot! Last year I lost about half my HP fruit to BER, but this year, under much worse weather conditions, RG had no BER at all. I'm sure that if they would have gotten more water this year, I would have had enough Rio Grande tomatoes to can some sauce.

Grow again?: Yes. I saved seeds from this variety and plan on growing it again. I think this has a lot of potential to be a good canning tomato during a year with better weather.

Oh, and if you remember which tomatoes I said I planted this spring, you may be wondering what happened to Arkansas Traveller. I think I planted them out too late. They never managed to set fruit before I had to quit watering the tomatoes due to the water restrictions. I still have plenty more seeds left, so I'll give them another chance next year. It's not really fair to compare them to tomato varieties I planted out much earlier than them. I've heard a lot of good things about AT's performance in hot climates, so I look forward to giving them a fair chance next year.

Fall Tomatoes

This year I am also growing fall tomatoes as an experiment. To be fair, I only planted varieties I already grew this spring, to see how they do in the fall. I planted the rest of my original Rio Grande seeds, but only one plant came up (good thing I already saved seeds). I also planted some more Bloody Butcher tomatoes (trying to use those seeds up) and Cherokee Purple and have several plants of each of those. I'll let you know how they do. Who knows, maybe Bloody Butcher will redeem itself as a fall crop.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Amanda A great post about your tomatoes. I love growing food and with 10 acres from time to time have free range rare breed pigs, cattle or goats. Cheers MaxfromAustralia