Tomato Favorites From 2008!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

There comes a time to reflect on your summer tomato garden -- which is usually at the end of a growing season. At that point, you have a pretty good idea of what tomatoes did well in the backyard garden, what tomatoes you will grow again, and absolute DISASTERS that will never be allowed in your garden again. Like everyone else, I have that list:


Without a doubt in my mind, the answer is CAMPBELL'S 1327. If you're unaware of this variety, yes, this is the tomato that Campbell's Soups used for eons for their famous cans of soups and sauces. They gave up on this tried and true original with the advent of genetic engineering and plant breeding, and Campbells uses paste tomatoes that are grown by the millions in the South, Central and North San Joaquin Valley. Like many heirloom varieties, the 1327 was not abandoned because Campbells developed a "better tasting tomato." What they did develop was a tomato that could withstand shipping over long distances and bumpy valley roads. Thank goodness someone saved seeds from this wonderful, former, processing tomato because it is a true winner. The Campbell's 1327 is an "indeterminate" tomato, which means it yields crop after crop after crop during the summer. My one plant yielded five crops -- with anywhere from 15-20 tomatoes per harvest. The Campbell's 1327 produces round, red, 1 lb. lip-smacking tomatoes with a high acid content. It's good in salads, sauces and is perfect for canning. I will grow this variety for years to come.


The PINEAPPLE BEEFSTEAK is an absolutely WONDERFUL tomato and I hope to grow it again next season. The plant was given to me by South Natomas grower Nels Christensen, a member of our Fruit of the Heirloom (FOHL) club. Like most heirloom tomatoes, it took time to set fruit. But it was well worth the wait. The Pineapple Beefsteak averages about 1.5 lbs., and gets the Pineapple name from its incredibly sweet and lush taste. If you're looking for acid content, this is not the tomato for you. But, if you prefer sweet tasting tomatoes, well, this is one I highly reccommend.

The BLOODY BUTCHER will also have a home in my 2009 tomato garden. I was given two of these plants, courtesy of Farmer Fred Hoffman, and they were an instant favorite. It's not necessarily the taste that knocks you out. It's good -- yes -- but not out-of-this-world great. What sets this plant apart from others however, is the PRODUCTION. Bloody Butcher produced early, mid-season and late season. The golf-ball sized, red, round tomatoes produce in clusters of five or six. It produced the first tomatoes of the season, in late June, and kept the production going until late September. This is a great tomato for snacking on while in the garden.

The CELEBRITY is one of my most favorite hybrid tomatoes of all time. It is not an heirloom, and was developed in the early 1990's. Much like the Campbell's 1327, the Celebrity produces an abundance of large, red, round tomatoes. This is an excellent salad tomato.

ANDREW RAHART'S JUMBO RED is another "must have" in the heirloom tomato garden. Although it did not produce many JUMBO sized tomatoes, it put out a fair amount of production. The tomato taste is slightly sweet and acidic. This one reminds you of tomatoes from the past. There's an old world taste there that is hard to describe.

Other winners from this year's garden include Marianna's Peace, Pruden's Purple and a tomato plant that was mislabeled "Rainbow." This wasn't a Rainbow Beefsteak. Not even close. I'd love to grow it again, but the seed source is all but gone now -- out of the picture completely. This plant didn't produce a darn thing until it grew to a height of five feet. And then, without warning, it fruited a crop of about fifty tomatoes. They were dark in color, much like Cherokee Purple, and also had green shoulders. But this was not a Cherokee Purple. I'm not sure what it was, but I hope to get the opportunity to grow it again someday.


OMAR'S LEBANESE: This is another heirloom favorite that I've wanted to try for years. The plant grew well enough, but didn't produce much. I did get three or four late tomatoes. And they were absolutely delicious, no doubt about it. But, in terms of production? A real stinkeroo.

GREEN ZEBRA: I keep longing for the day that I will have another productive Green Zebra plant. I nearly had it this year. But, it produced late, producing in abundance, and I lost the vast majority of the crop when the weather turned cold. I love this tomato and will try to grow it again next year.

COSTOLUTO GENOVESE: My absolute favorite tomato from 2007 absolutely fell flat on its face in 2008. And this one was all my fault. When volunteer Genovese plants began popping up in the garden last spring from numerous tomatoes that had hit the ground in 2007, I was ecstatic. What I could not plant, I gave away to friends and neighbors. BIG MISTAKE. The tomatoes were small, almost cherry sized, and did not have that "Genovese" taste that has made it a favorite of heirloom gardeners all over the world. I am starting over with new seed this year. We'll see what happens.


Any tomato plant that contains the word "paste" will get tossed. I cannot grow them. Most get infected with Blossom End Rot, and it spreads to other plants. No thanks. No room in the garden for any paste tomato of any shape, size or color.

No comments: