WICHE: The 2011 tomato trials

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Some types worked just fine, but otehrs...

By Jeneen Wiche

This year turned out better than last is the first piece of good news! In 2010 I wrote, “Sadly this year was sort of a bust for the vast majority of what I planted.” I can’t do that year after year so thank goodness the tomatoes and zucchini kept pace this time around.

Since 2006 I have been bringing my personal tomato trials (and tribulations) to my readers. It is a good way to assess the season and the growing selection of heirloom and hybrid varieties available to us. I really do try to plant something different each year so I can attest to a tomato’s true characteristics…this is what I experienced this year.

For flavor I think the tomato that stood out the most for me was Ox Heart. She isn’t the prettiest tomato (heart shaped and pink-red with yellow shoulders), but the flavor of the fruit can be best described as luscious and perfume-like.

I know, I know, a bit melodramatic but the taste did stand out from others, maybe there’s a lower acidity level in Ox Heart. But no denying it is a good meaty tomato.

Black Prince was the perfect heirloom for me last year in the heat so this year I tried a similar variety called Black Trifele.

The plant stayed clean, grew vigorously and produced and ripened consistently through the heat. The oblong medium-sized fruit are mahogany-red with green shoulders; the taste is robust and full-bodied. Only down-side is that they seem to bruise easily.

My past experience with paste tomatoes has limited my experimentation with anything other than Roma. This tomato is the most reliable with good form and function for cooking down into sauces or canning. It also holds up well in the dehydrator.

I found a green tomato that I really like this year: Aunt Ruby’s German Green. This one is not as piquant as so many of the green varieties seem to be. Carolina Gold was a good yellow for those who need a low acid tomato.

Firm but with some flavor, it can get a little mealy when the heat goes above 90, though.

Campbell 1327, Delicious and Amelia produced large tomatoes that were sturdy and tasty. Campbell was early to ripe which was appreciated because Early Girl comes early but she doesn’t taste as good. Amelia is coming on strong just now which is a good reminder to plan for early and late varieties.

Black Cherry is a large mahogany-red cherry tomato that has good flavor but the skin was sort of thick, its yield is more modest than a Sweet 100, which you cannot beat for volume and flavor. The Sweet 100’s are so prolific they are usually cut in half and put into the dehydrator for perfect “sun-dried” tomatoes enjoyed during the winter months.

Mortgage Lifter and Brandywine Pink are legendary for a reason: you really can’t beat their flavor. They are good producers of light colored medium to large fruit. They make for the perfect tomato experience. Brandywine has a tendency to split in years when the rain comes and goes so be sure to mulch it well to moderate soil moisture.

The only real bust this year was Costoluto Genovese. It is a beautiful small fluted tomato, but the skin was tough and the fruit was sort of mealy.

I did use them in cooking, so it wasn’t a total loss! It seems that skin thickness was the issue this year, which may have much to do with the heat.

Tomatoes just don’t function well above 90 degrees.