Friday, 20 September 2013

Heirloom Tomato Review 2013

Thoughts and musings about this years best heirloom tomatoes.

What an amazing year it was for growing great tomatoes!
I had little to no issues with Blossom End Rot (BER), very few bugs, and very little foliage issues - fungal or otherwise. Plants grew well and fruited well!

So, why was last year such a challenge and this year so amazing?
Well, the weather was certainly nicer this spring than it was last year, here on the PNW. So, perhaps it was simply a case of the right weather, at the right time of year, for the tomatoes to truly thrive?

This is how my tomatoes were grown this year...
They were mulched (in the raised beds) with landscape paper (like landscape fabric, except made for veggie beds, is brown paper, bio-degradable) to retain moisture and prevent weeds. Others were planted in 5 to 7 gallon black pots, as usual.
They were watered every 3 days or so in the beds, while the potted ones were watered daily.
Also, they did not get planted into the garden till pretty late in the season, towards the last week of  June.
This might actually be the one main reason that they thrived so well this year  ...  Instead of pushing the season as I usually do, this years plants went straight into warm soil, had warm air temps both night and day, and were mulched to keep in the warmth and moisture.... the perfect scenario for great tomatoes!

However, whether a combination of all these things or just simple luck, it truly has been a stunning tomato year.  

Tomatoes 2013 ... in no particular order!

Bison - A red slicer type tomato
This heirloom is early to produce, with the fruit ripening pretty much all at the same time. That makes it a great canning type.
It is a determinate (bush type) so grew nicely in it's cage. I supposed to be sturdy enough to be able to be grown on it's own with no cage or staking required, but I had a cage, so used it ... just in case ;)
The flavour was nice with a hint of sweetness, a great sandwich topper due to it's large size and good flavour.
The fruits were perfect, round, large, and blemish free. I had no issues at all with any cracking, cat-facing, Blossom End Rot (BER), or splitting.
I did, however, have to remove a fair amount of the bottom foliage due to yellowing and bug damage.


Plum Lemon - A yellow paste tomato
Sadly, my pic of the yellow fruit did not turn out (was so fuzzy that it hurt the eyes to look at it, lol) and we had already moved to the new urban farm before I noticed, so there was no going back for another round of pics.
However, I can vouch for the fact that it is an absolutely beautiful tomato to grow, with many of these huge clusters of pointy fruits hanging from the 6 foot vines. It was simply loaded with fruit.
I will absolutely do this one again next year!
Really want to make a yellow tomato sauce and pasta sauce!
Friends say that the flavour is fabulous, they would so grow it again and again. The fruit has a hint of sweetness, is super tasty, good and meaty. Perfect for a sauce or sandwich topper!

Creme Brulee - Mmmmm! A black slicer tomato
This is a very nice tomato! Pretty to look at, no cracking, no blemishes, no BER, no issues of any kind.
Tastes kind of bland on it's own, but add some salt and it totally brings out the great flavours.
Is reddish-black, so a red with a smokey tint. Use as a sandwich topper for a great BLT.
Is great in size, shape and productivity.


Black Plum - A black paste tomato. My 2nd favourite this year!
A keeper for sure! This one is pretty, productive and tastes amazing!
The tomatoes are not large in size, but there are a lot of them, many clusters over the whole vine.
Is super pretty to look at with the dark red/black colouring and green shoulders.
Taste is sweet and tomato-ey, with a deep smokiness, very yummy!
Early to ripen, as well, which makes it even better! Was one of my earliest tomatoes this year!

Principe Borghese  - large cherry or small Roma style tomato.
They are early to ripen but I found them a bit too tart for fresh eating.
They are best known as a terrific drying tomato because they tend to retain more flavour than other varieties.
Simply allow the fruit to ripen on vine, lift the entire vine and hang to dry! Does not get any easier than that!
They are also often used in sauces, as a sub for Roma style tomatoes. Can, of course, be used for fresh eating in salads and such, though I found them to be somewhat too zesty for my taste.
Very, very productive, loads of fruit on this determinate (bush type) tomato. I now know why this is such a popular tomato variety to grow!
Grappoli D'Iverno - Grape tomato. My #1 this year.
This one is now one of my all time favourites! So glad I tried it, as it is such a stunner.
Again, no issues with the fruits or the foliage, absolutely no BER at all, which is so great, as plum/paste types are known for BER issues.
Loaded with fruit, sweet and super duper tasty. This one was my favourite new (for me) tomato this year!
The flavour is nice and tomato-ey, but with a sweetness that makes it perfect for salads and fresh eating. Mine never ever made it into the house this year! :)
Known as the “Winter Grape” of old Italy. Farmers would hang the fruit-covered vines and the fruit would stay fresh well into the winter. They dry perfectly and resemble little “Roma” tomatoes. Dates back to the early 1900's. This tomato has a strong tomato flavour and lasts really well after picking.  
Black Sea Man - Black slicer tomato.
Not impressed with this one this year. Was a huge bust! So am not sure whether I will grow it again next year?
Got very few fruits on the vine!  They are tasty tomatoes but got so few of them and late to ripen, that am not sure that I want to grow it again next year.
Photo by Caroline Wilson of 'My Garden Of Eating' on Facebook
Siberian Red - A red slicer tomato.  
This is what Caroline says about this tomato ..
Favourite Tomato of the Year #2- Red Siberian
Determinate tomato. a small salad tomato that is sweet and very prolific but remains a small contained bush. Fairly early but not as early as advertised-Maybe it's just my yard. Grown from last years saved seeds and would grow again.
My comments
I grew this last year also and found it to be a good, hardy, reliable, stand by tomato that produces slicer tomatoes for salads and fresh eating. They are a nice tasting early tomato, a great stand by tomato to grow that will produce early tomatoes well and keep you in stock until your beefsteaks and other heirlooms kick into gear!
Photo from Caroline Wilson of the page 'My Garden of Eating' on Facebook.

Costoluto Genovese - A red beefsteak tomato.
Here are Caroline's comments about this fabulous tomato ...  
Favourite tomatoes of the year-#1 Costuluto Genovese- This was my last years favourite and is my favourite again. Very Heavy yields, early ripening, and delicious meaty tomatoes. It's hard to say enough good things about them. They were the first tomato to ripen, even earlier than the cherry tomatoes and Siberian short season varieties and all of my plants have somewhere between 40-60 tomatoes per plant...Wow!!

My comments..
Caroline grows this particular tomato better than anyone I know! Hers are simply amazing!
She has tons of fruit, vines are simply loaded with goodies, and she has little to no issues with cat-facing, BER, or other fruit or foliage issues. 
These beefy tomatoes are ribbed, pretty to look at, and super tasty. 
Caroline mulches her tomatoes with leaf mould and feeds with compost tea. 
These are my San Marzano's.
San Marzano Lungo 2 - A red paste tomato
The traditional Italian paste Roma style paste tomato.
This tomato fruited really well for me, clusters of these gorgeous, elongated, funky shaped paste tomatoes. Although paste tomatoes are known for BER, I did not have any issues with these tomatoes. Not one issue!  
They are meaty, almost grainy in texture, not the best for fresh eating taste wise, but super great for pastes and sauces. This is the ultimate, traditional paste tomato and I will grow it again and again.
This is NOT a hybrid!  Do not be thrown off by the number two at the end.
Is an heirloom tomato, but is a newer selection of the San Marzano tomato seeds. My seeds are from Baker's Creek.
Here is the info on San Marzano's for those who wonder why the difference in names...
Caroline's San Marzano tomatoes ripening on the vine
From my friend Caroline in Ladysmith, BC 

This photo from
Purple Calabash - A purple beefsteak tomato
This photo is not of mine but these look pretty near exactly like my Calabashes were looking the day we moved. They are not nearly as large as I expected for a beefsteak variety. 
I had no issues with foliage, all was healthy. However, there was not a lot of fruit on the vine and I did remove three tomatoes with fairly severe cat-facing.
Hoping to get feedback about this one from my peeps on FB, as not sure I will want to grow it again. I will usually grow my tomatoes two years in a row, just to see if it performs better in one of the years, to make sure it is not a fluke of bad luck. Maybe this one needs to be grown in the greenhouse or under better shelter? Or in a pot? If it does not do well for two years running, then it is a miss. Thinking I will try it one more time! Is certainly an interesting addition to the salad platter!
Other Tomato Varieties That I Grew This Year and A Few Words About Them ...
Wapsipinicon Peach - This small, yellow, cherry tomato is a great producer of cute little fuzzy tomatoes that taste terrific! Will be on my grow it list next year, for sure. The taste is sweet and fruity yet tomato-ey and so delish! LOVE this one.
Taxi - A lovely, tasty, early yellow slicer tomato. Did not produce loads of fruit but was very early and very tasty. Worth growing again. A determinate that behaved nicely in it's cage.
Green Doctors - A small, green, cherry tomato. Was just 'meh' in flavour, though it did produce really well. It would add a pretty contrast if one were making a salad of cherry tomatoes, but otherwise, I think it was a bit of a miss.
Aunt Ruby's German Green Tomato - This green heirloom beefsteak has a great following, but I thought it was a bit of a bust. The flavour was nothing spectacular and production was low plus slow. If you want a green tomato that produces really well and tastes spectacular, stick with Green Zebra!
For more heirloom tomato reviews, please see Tanja's Top Twelve Tomatoes 2012 as last years tomatoes continue to be on my 'all time favourites' grow list.  

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