Saturday, January 4, 2014

2013 Tomato Review

I am so happy.  As you may remember my macbook took a sudden fit and decided to stop working and of course I hadn't backed up any recent photos.  While we debate its replacement I have been left devoid of garden photos.  Until now.  It only worked for a few more hours but we got it up and running and I managed to retrieve these..... my tomato harvest from the 2013 veggie garden.

From the tiniest tomato to the largest
I planted approximately 25 plants this year, of 11 different varieties, so we were pretty much overwhelmed with tomato goodness.  Which also means this is going to be a LONG post!  The tomatoes did not begin to ripen until the very last week of August and we ended up picking many green in September and October as the temperatures began to dip.

I have been growing an array of heritage tomatoes for the last couple years.  Each year I test out new varieties to see what works best in our growing conditions, and what tastes best on our tongues.  This post is the result of this year's trials.

Let's start with the smallest contender.  I grew Mexico Midget for the first time last year and loved it. 


 It's a tiny tomato approximately the size of a large blueberry.  You can just see it in the foreground of the above photo.  I didn't have great germination rates last year and this year was much worse.  I replanted seed three times over without a single seed taking hold.  I tried again one last time, soaking the seeds in willow water before planting and was finally granted a single plant.  I babied that little plant along and then began the long process of hardening it off to bring out of doors.  At which time I promptly broke the plant in two. 

Thank goodness these are tough customers.  The stem and a couple leaves remained and by August that little broken plant had taken over a four foot square garden plot.  This plant is extremely prolific once it gets going and baskets upon baskets of little tomatoes are to be had.  We, and everyone we know, love this tomato so it gets another pass for next year.  I made sure the seeds I collected got some extra fermenting this year to wear off the seed coat so hopefully next year's germination will go a little more smoothly.

The next size up was the Principe Borghese tomato.  These are a cherry sized tomato and one of the first to begin producing.  Jody, aka the head taste tester, decided very quickly these were poor tasting and was not impressed.  I had read this variety was good for drying so we decided we would give sun dried tomatoes a try.

Pre-burning
Following a recipe online I attempted to dry them in the oven and promptly burnt the lot. 

Luckily we grew A LOT of tomatoes this year - I mentioned that right?  Instead of being dissuaded we then attempted drying tomatoes in the kiln.  Now, the kiln was originally built to dry wood for Jody's workshop but has since devolved into a fruit dryer.  A couple years ago we successfully dried apple slices so why not tomatoes?


A variety of tomato slices were placed on large plastic screens and then popped into the dryer overnight.  It worked!

Successfully dried tomatoes!
However, the Principe Borghese tomatoes still weren't that tasty.  So we're not growing them again. 

Going up a size we have another favourite from last year.  Black Plum has reigned supreme two years in a row for ease of germination, good plant growth, fantastic taste and multiple uses.  

Black Plum are easily recognized by their green and purple colour tones
They have a really strong smokey flavour that works well in salads, salsas, tomato sauce, soups and as a dried tomato.  Will definitely grow these again.

Martino's Roma tomatoes are pictured on the far right hand side of the above photo.   We grew these last year as well and this tomato has been a consistent performer for us, growing reliably well and producing copious amounts of fruit for such small plants.  While they are prolific they are rather bland.  Jody keeps asking why I bother with these and the answer is I like having surplus tomatoes on hand for making large batches of soup......or burning in the oven.... whichever.

A newcomer this year was Debarao.  While the seeds germinated well I had some pretty weak looking seedlings which had to be culled.  In the end I grew only one plant.  It was the tallest tomato this year but it was also the last plant to flower and set fruit.


Late set was only one issue, it also produced very few tomatoes and caught early blight.  For the trouble I don't know I would bother with this one again but Jody feels the taste was worth it so perhaps another year we will give this one a try.

Unfortunately early blight made a real mess of things this year.  Two varieties, Ace 55 and Nepal, didn't stand a chance with this disease.  I gathered a few tomatoes from each variety but generally the whole crop was a loss.  Unfortunately I wasn't very good about keeping things organized when picking and the couple tomatoes I harvested got mixed up with other varieties so I can't even verify what these tomatoes looked or tasted like.  I know they both had about 50% germination rate and were mid-season producers.  Both are mid-size perfectly round tomatoes but whether they were something to grow again remains a mystery.

Another mid-season producer with a mid-size tomato was Starfire.  I was able to recognize these because the majority of the tomatoes turned to sludge once the early blight got hold of them.  While the disease affected the plants by killing the leaves and stems much of the fruit from other varieties was still able to be picked.  However, early blight made Starfire completely unusable.   They developed yellow spots that turned to goo and we threw out more tomatoes than I care to remember.  These will not be making a return to the garden.

The final category are the biggies.  Woodle Orange is an indeterminate tomato that took its sweet time developing flowers and fruit.  I don't like a late plant but I have to admit these were a nice tomato.


Big perfectly round yellow fruit, very little seed and lots of meat.  They were a joy to cut into.  I love yellow tomatoes for a variety of soups and chili.  There's a particular flavour that is a great accent in certain recipes.  This was a healthy plant producing plenty of nice fruit and my only complaint is how long it took to grow.  Encroaching cold temperatures is always a concern so I think I'll continue my hunt for an early producing yellow.  But I won't forget about these.

Yet another tomato recycled from last year was the Rosella Purple.


These short sturdy plants always germinate well and produce a reasonable amount of very large smokey flavoured tomatoes.  If there is a single negative it is that the uneven rippled shape of these tomatoes makes slicing a bit tricky.  A fairly minor defect I think.

That leaves only one.  The final variety was the classic heritage Mortgage Lifter tomato.  This is possibly the largest beefsteak tomato you can grow.

In comparison to the tiny Mexico Midget
Seeds had about 50% germination rate and produced large indeterminate plants.  I was pleasantly surprised at how early these plants started to produce as the beefsteaks tend to take longer to come around.  However, these were among the first fruits we gathered this year.  A big complaint is how heavy these are.  While a big tomato is a sight to behold they also weigh down the plants, bending branches and dragging on the ground where slugs, mice, insects and other critters snack on them.  I haven't got the time, nor patience, to fiddle with cages and stakes trying to hold up excessively heavy tomatoes and Jody wasn't floored by their taste so this may not make a come back either.

Despite the early blight this was a pretty fantastic year for tomatoes and we still have bags and bags of vacuum sealed tomatoes in the freezer, along with soup and sauce to carry us through winter.  Now I'm off to ponder what varieties I'll be growing in the next garden season...



38 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this post. You are a much more ambitious tomato grower than I. This year we just had three tomato plants: Black Cherry, Celebrity, and Early Girl. All were satisfactory, and I really love the flavor of Black Cherry. These three were enough for the two of us. We also had trouble with late blight. I tried cutting off the stems and leaves as they were affected but I'm not sure if that slowed down the disease.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jason, I'm growing a lot of varieties now in the hope I can eventually narrow down what we like. If three is what you love then that's all you need!

      Delete
  2. Oh wow and wonderful ....exciting and fantastic post about tomatoes. You know, we ate...well the Stink dog had two and I had one...Mexico midget that is growing in the summerhouse today!! Yes!! summer on the lips. So what do we know about 'tomato cuttings' or rooting tomato stock? NOTHING says I. But, what if....those stems with the nodules growing in the summerhouse make it though to early spring or...I cut some and root them and plant out? Will they be vigorous or not. Don't know!!

    Loved your post. Rosella..did you enjoy her? Not me so much. Woodle..yes, high five but didn't get many. Shivers..there is always this year.

    b.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So exciting Brenda, can't believe you're still eating those tomatoes. Lucky you. Would love to know if you try doing the cuttings, the midgets are one tough plant, they could pull through. Won't know until you try? ;) I do like Rosella but not as much as Black Plum. I think I just prefer the darker tomatoes in general. p.s. where did you get the midget seed originally?

      Delete
  3. I am speechless with admiration, Marguerite. I have absolutely no luck with tomatoes -- haven't figured out what I do wrong -- and have decided not to grow any this year. Yours are magnificent! You make the most of them, too. P. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't that funny, tomatoes to me are one of the easiest plants to grow. But then I can't hardly grow an onion to save my life and other people find them dead easy. To each their own?

      Delete
  4. Too bad I don't have a neighbor like you that loves to grow so many different varities of tomatoes. I would love to try some of them. Your drying technique is great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa, it's a funny thing. Some people I've offered them to find them just too weird to try! I get a kick out of all the different colours and shapes.

      Delete
  5. I had no idea there are so many types of tomatoes! And sizes! And colours! Thank goodness you've tried out so many kinds - I wouldn't know where to start! I'll be revisiting this post for sure!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jane, it's astounding, there are literally hundreds of kinds of tomatoes. I'm only just discovering them all myself. When you're ready to give some a try let me know and I'll dig up some seed for you.

      Delete
  6. Great Post.
    It's a fun experiment to try different types of tomatoes to see which brand is really true to their description and of course taste.
    I did a similar experiment and have finally found my true favorites and yes the freezer is full waiting to be used in spaghetti sauces and stews. Love the idea you guys had for drying the tomatoes.
    Thanks for such great pictures and I'm hoping you don't have any blight issues this year.
    Which seed company did you purchase the Mexican Midget from? I may try it this year. I just love the size of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are still working on what the favourites are, I think I have a few more years of experimenting ahead of me before we figure out what tomatoes we can't live without. I actually received the Mexico Midget seed from Brenda at GardeningBren blog. I have some I can share with you if you'd like. Can't guarantee the germination of them though. Will check with Brenda to see where she got the seed from.

      Delete
    2. so it turns out Mexico Midget is a true passalong. Brenda received the seed through another gardener - no Seed Company! No idea where you can buy it. Send me an email at canoecorner AT hotmail and I'll snail mail you some of my seeds.

      Delete
  7. Happy New Year Marguerite! Your tomato review is always helpful. It is too bad about the blight. I love a smoky flavour and so the Black Plum sounds like a great option for me. The Rosella Purple also sounds and looks good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jennifer. These reviews help me remember year to year what we've grown and liked but I always hope they are helpful for other people too. I think the smokey flavour of the purple tomatoes is my absolute favourite taste.

      Delete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. You had a very successful year with tomatoes last year! Those tomatoes look gorgeous. Will have to try Mexican Midget next year. I love, love, love black tomatoes and finally had success with Black Trifele this past year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oooh, haven't heard of that tomato. May need to look for it, I have a soft spot for black/purple tomatoes. Mexico midget is fantastic for snacking, just be sure you have lots of space as it grows BIG.

      Delete
  10. I'm with you on the black plum, thanks for the seed. Sorry to hear many of your varieties only had 50% germination rate and that they were afflicted with blight. Starfire grew fine in a pot on my deck, producing right up until frost killed it. Have to a fabulous 2014, no tomato blight and better germination rates!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome Melanie! so glad you enjoyed the tomatoes and found some keepers.

      Delete
  11. I didn't realize you had grown so many tomatoes! I was underwhelmed by the Principe Borghese, too. I dried mine in a food dehydrator but so far they're only decorative. I haven't eaten them yet. I'm planning on growing Mortgage Lifter this summer so I'm glad to hear they are early fruiters. I ended up using an old metal trellis to help hold up my Yellow Brandywine's and it worked really well. I hope it holds up the Mortgage Lifters!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We haven't quite figured out what to do with our dried tomatoes either! We need to become better/more inventive cooks. I'm sure the trellis will be great for the mortgage lifters. I just had a support stake and things got out of control quite quickly. But then I'm lazy :)

      Delete
  12. Wow! What a fun assortment of tomatoes! Loved reading your reviews. I especially love the purple tomatoes, and the way they taste. I thought I'd try growing some yellow ones next year to see if I liked them. After reading your post, though, I'm very interested in Mortgage Lifter - what a huge tomato! Impressive!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Purple tomatoes are definitely my favourite. Such an amazing taste. I find yellow has a mild taste but apparently there are some super sweet yellow varieties too. I'll just have to keep testing!

      Delete
  13. Thanks for such a great review, Marguerite! I had to laugh at your having enough tomatoes to burn:) I vowed to cut back this year and only had 8 or 10 plants, but those provided more than enough fresh tomatoes and enough to freeze juice and sauce. Every year I vow I'm going to evaluate the varieties as you have, but usually by the time the plants produce, the stakes have gotten buried, and I don't know which is which. Mortgage Lifter sounds interesting, especially if it produces early.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm kinda shocked now, looking back, that I burnt an entire tray of tomatoes. What a waste! I have the same trouble with putting names on the varieties. Luckily most of my tomatoes are so different in size and colour I'm able to figure it out. It's the plain round red ones that I mess up.

      Delete
  14. I love tomatoes...but can't eat them due to allergies, sigh...why is it that the stuff we love the most?

    They grew some amazing heirloom tomatoes at my sisters farm last summer, and I dried them, they were so tasty.

    Jen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Allergic! now that's a tragedy. I use tomatoes in so many recipes, from soups, to stew, chilli, pasta, stir fry. Can't imagine never being allowed to eat them.

      Delete
  15. Wow, that is a whole barrow full of tomatoes you grew ! Loads of exciting varieties too ! Lots of inspiration for us all to follow. I am deadly dull and grow only those I know will be successful ... no spirit of adventure. I am trying a new Thompson & Morgan 'Sweet Aperitif' a new F1 for 2014 this year !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jane, if you know what you like and what works I see no reason to change. I'm pretty new to tomatoes so I'm still figuring out what I like.

      Delete
  16. Great review and interesting to see how many different types you grew. I have never grown tomatoes myself but I am thinking of trying a type of tumbling ones especially selected for container growing. I don’t have space for any tomatoes in the garden but since my trial of growing beetroot in a container last year didn’t go so well I am not repeating that this year and have one window basket free. That might be just the place for two tumbling tomato plants :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Helene, if there's one thing I've learned about tomatoes it's that there's a type for everyone in every place. I'm sure you'll be able to find a tumbling plant that will work perfectly.

      Delete
  17. You were really on a tomato roll this year, what selection! I like your display of tomatoes too in the photos, nice layout. Funny on having enough to burn. I almost felt sorry for those ripe, luscious, plump tomatoes becoming dried in the kiln. They looked 'defeated', but probably tasted great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Donna. Having fun playing with my food :) Between photos and the drying trials we had a good time messing around in the kitchen.

      Delete
  18. That is a spectacular harvest! Nice to see which ones were hits and misses for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Shernor, glad to hear it was helpful.

      Delete
  19. Very interesting review. I also tried several heirlooms this last year, including Principe Borghese which, like you, I found disappointing. In my case it produced very few fruits. Boxcar Willie and Chadwick were the ones I liked best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've heard of Boxcar Willie but not Chadwick. Thanks for the tip! I'll be looking for these in the future.

      Delete