Friday, August 10, 2012

2012 Tomato Reviews

This year was so much better than last year weather-wise! We actually got rain! The main problem I had with the tomatoes was because I didn't bother to cage them, and they got enough rain to grow into a jungle of vines. This caused a lot of loss due to tomatoes lying on the ground and getting rotten or eaten up by bugs. I picked up a lot of good looking tomatoes only to have earwigs and ants pouring out holes in the bottom. Last year it was so hot and dry that the tomato plants didn't grow big enough to need cages, so this year I didn't bother with it. I won't make that mistake again.

Also, in general, everything was late this year, not just the tomatoes, because this spring I moved and also at around the same time got married. So that didn't leave a lot of time for planting or tending the garden. With that in consideration, the tomatoes did quite well.

Arkansas Traveler
Transplant Date: March 31
First Harvest: July 3

Looks: Good sized, round, pink globe tomatoes. Occasional slight ribbing on the top. Good looking tomato.

Taste: Very tomato-y. Not particularly sweet, but good rich flavor.

Growth: They were a bit late to harvest. They were the last tomato I harvested from, even though they were planted at the same time as my other tomatoes. However, after that they turned out to be the most heat-tolerant tomato this year. I was still harvesting some into August, though the fruit got much smaller, to about the size of a golf ball.

Grow Again?: Yes, this one performed well. It lived up to its reputation as a heat-tolerant variety. Seems like a good, all-purpose, reliable tomato with good yields. I planed some more for a fall crop this year. I haven't successfully grown fall tomatoes yet, but maybe it'll work this year.

Big Beef X Eva Purple Ball
Transplant Date: March 31
First Harvest: June 30

Looks: More pink globes. Very similar to Arkansas Traveler. In fact, it was nearly impossible for me to tell them apart. They were pretty much identical in size, shape, and color.

Taste: Maybe a little sweeter than Arkansas Traveler?

Growth: I got these as a bonus in a seed trade. I didn't ask for them. They were sent with some other seeds I did request. They're supposed to be a stable cross between Big Beef and Eva Purple Ball. I haven't grown either of those varieties before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I ended up with two plants that grew tomatoes like this, which I think is what they were supposed to look like, but then I got another plant that grew these pink Roma-looking tomatoes, like a pink paste tomato, and another plant grew very sweet little pink grape tomatoes. So I don't know if the seeds were mixed up or the cross isn't as stable as they thought.

Grow Again?: No, I used up my seeds and didn't save more. Too confusing. I'm not even sure what these tomatoes are supposed to be like, so I think I'll just try to get some Eva Purple Ball instead. I did save seed from the mystery pink grape tomatoes that I got, because they had such good flavor even my veggie-hating husband liked them. I'm going to grow the seed some time and see if I get more tomatoes like that. Maybe I'll have a whole new variety on my hands!

Big Month
Transplant Date: March 31
First Harvest: June 11

Looks: This was this year's paste tomato, and it did well. I had never heard of this variety before I saw it in the catalog for Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. If I recall correctly, it's an Italian variety. The fruits were almost rectangular in shape, a good size, bright red, and dry and meaty inside like a good cooking tomato should be.

Taste: Was just fine for a cooking tomato. I ended up drying a lot of them, because I was very busy this summer and didn't have time to do a lot of canning.

Growth: I planted four plants, which gave pretty good yields. Like most paste tomatoes they're determinate and give their crop mostly all at once. Next time I'm going to try growing more and canning some.

Grow Again?: Yes, this seems like a pretty decent paste tomato. No problems with Blossom End Rot, which a lot of paste tomatoes are prone to. I saved seeds and will grow again.

Spear's Tennessee Green
Transplant Date: March 27
First Harvest: June 11

Looks: I got this in a trade, and it was the first green-when-ripe tomato I ever grew. I got beefsteak tomatoes with cracks and ribbing on top, grassy green on top, with yellower colors on the bottom. Here's what it looked like sliced open:

As you can see, inside it would turn sort of pinkish, almost a watermelon-like color. Very strange looking tomato, but that's what I was expecting.

Taste: Sadly, the LOOKS of this tomato was much more interesting than its taste. At best they were bland like store tomatoes, but at worst, they actually tasted bad. I've never had a tomato that tasted bad before, but sometimes I'd get some that had this bitter aftertaste. I thought maybe it was because they weren't ripe enough. It is hard to tell when green-when-ripes are ripe, but even after leaving them on the counter until they just about rotted, they never tasted any better. It's a big disappointment because I've heard so many good things about green-when-ripes.

Growth: The plants themselves were vigorous and healthy, but the fruits got terrible Blossom End Rot. I think I lost more fruits to rot than I actually got to eat, which turned out to not be such a big loss. But I would say that the huge, sprawling plants turned out to be a bit of a waste of space in the garden.

Grow Again?: Obviously not, though I feel bad about complaining about this tomato so much. Please keep in mind that just because a variety does badly for me (or well, for that matter) doesn't mean it will do the same for you, especially if you live in a different climate than I do. Remember, heirloom tomatoes are not one-size-fits-all. That said, I've already ripped my STG tomato plants out to make way for a fall planting of Arkansas Traveler and Cherokee Purple. I cut back the other Arkansas Traveler and Big Month plants in hope of them giving a second harvest when it cools down. I do plan on giving some other green-when-ripe varieties a try some day.

So there's Tomato Class of 2012. To recap, Arkansas Traveler was my favorite. Big Month also did admirably. Spear's Tennessee Green was maybe the worst batch of tomatoes I've ever grown. Reports of this year's garlic and peppers will be coming soon!

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