In a burst of optimism and positivity I’m doubling our tomato plantings from nine plants to eighteen this year. Last year only four produced at all, given our sad lack of summer and other weather prevarications, and we only ended up with a counterful of fruit, dashing hopes of tomato sauces and salsas. But lessons were learned (namely Calgary weather sucks), and this year I started eighteen seedlings all to myself. Not to be outdone, my significant other decided that he has superior skillz in tomato raising. He thinks he can get twice the harvest for half the work. He feels that I spend way too much effort on these guys what with all the planting, lights management, kelp fertilizing and hovering that I did. He is convinced that all HE has to do is stick them into pots on the deck and leave ‘em alone. To this I say, bring it on. I’ll pit my maxi-kaps and feeding techniques against his pots any day. So he started several plants of his own. This year if the (weather cooperates) we’ll either be drowning in tomatoes or buying a greenhouse.
But I’m trying all sorts of varieties this year, from the faves of last year – Ildi, Valencia and Carbon to maters I’ve never heard of – Ardwyna, Slava and Silvery Fir. Below is what I’ve started this year, from small to large with a hybrid thrown in for comparison. I want to know if the superior yields of a hybrid tomato can be pitted against the best of heirloom taste. All descriptions are from the sites that sell them. Photos are from all over the place. (Actually it’s hard to believe but there are very few photos of some of these, often just one! So if I take photos as they grow I’ll be doing a valuable public service. Yeah.) If you’ve grown any of these before, let me know how they were – cause I’m seduced by all of them.
Tiny lemon-yellow and lemon-shaped, zesty tomato on 1-2 ft vines. Produces hundreds on a plant. Great for containers. Early. Grow outside.
German Lunchbox Cherry
Deep pink colour, oval shape. Semi-determinate plants produce well and start to ripen early. Exotic rich flavour, starts out acid, then sweet. Grows well in the greenhouse and keeps for weeks once picked. Rated 10 for flavour. Rare.
This interesting variety has an absolutely unique tropical taste when it is orange – not quite red and not quite gold. Rich and fruity tomatoes droop in long trusses on vigorous vines that keep on producing all summer. A must for garden snacks. Resistant to Fusarium wilt race 1 and Fusarium wilt race 2. This variety requires more heat and time to mature completely.
Vine (indeterminate), Matures in 65 days. (hybrid seeds)
First to ripen in a very cool season, of the larger varieties. The fruit has broad shoulders and pointed bottoms. Semi determinated plants give decent full season production. Texture is meaty, nice acid/sweet rich flavour, great slicing tomato that keeps well on the vine and once picked. Rated 10 for flavour. Rare heirloom
From the Czech Republic. Name means “glory” and it is a glorious one. Blight resistant.
Bright red small fruit, famous for its very unique dense carrot-like foliage. Determinate plants produce very well and early. 2-3 feet. Texture is moist, skins are tender, and tomatoes have a very strong, lingering flavour. Excellent sandwich tomato and a favourite for cheesemelts. Rated 10 for flavour. Russian heirloom.
Long, fat and tapered. Good in large containers and greenhouse. Excellent flavour for sauce. Few seeds. Early and abundant production.
FULL SEASON: (the hardest to grow in Calgary, but man oh man – the payoff)
This is a huge golden orange, almost round fruit, very solid and heavy. Has a meaty texture with a sweet flavour and a touch of acid. Excellent slicer. Rated 9 for flavour. Indeterminate.
Taste test winner in 2007 and 2008! 8-12 ounce uniform tomatoes that ripen to dark red with blackish overtones. Deep red interior. Fruits are flattened round and smooth, without cracking or blemishing. Rich, sweet, complex flavour. Excellent for salads and sandwiches. Indeterminate.
Sudduth’s Brandywine – no photo
Grown by Sudduth family for nearly 100 years. Up to 2 pounds. Dusty rose. Unsurpassed acid but unique and complex flavour. Indeterminate.
Yellow Mortgage Lifter
Bright yellow colour.Nice meaty texture and thin skins, with a rich, medium zesty flavour .An excellent producer on semi determinate vines.Always dependable, best grown outside.Rated 10 for flavour.
Big Beef – the dark horse for comparison
Big Beef tomatoes are really big, 10-15cm (4-6″), unblemished tomatoes grow in record time on vigorous vines. Firm, meaty and wonderfully sweet with an acid balance that gives a rich taste that always wins at taste trials. AAS winner. Grows to 1 pound. Round to globe-shaped. Flavor is full and hearty with lots of sweet juice balanced with that wonderful tomato acidity. These giants slice up perfectly for big sandwiches. Fruit stays large even at the end of a long harvest season. Resistant to Fusarium wilt race 1; Fusarium wilt race 2; nematodes; Verticillium wilt; Tomato Mosaic virus. Big Beef requires more heat and time to mature completely.