the tomato report

I thought it might be interesting to do a end-of-year wrap up on some of the varieties I grew this year.  I always try a few new tomatoes out each season, but I can tell my preferences are getting more solidified with time.

The little guys:

Starting small, these are the two bunching varieties I grow:  Sungold, and Black Plum.  Both of these add color to salads and salsas, are perfect for snacking, and are also awesome dried.  Both are extremely prolific--really one plant is all you need, though I grew two of the BPs this year.  Sungolds are an F1 hybrid, and their flavor and overall cuteness is hard to beat.  These Black Plum are from Seed Savers, and are an heirloom variety.   Really they are all purpose, as they add lovely color to sauces, peel easily for canning, and roast up wonderfully as well. I mostly grow these for fresh eating and drying, but they are nice to fill out a quantity for salsa or tomato sauce if I need them.  Also, despite vines that were hit hard by fungal issues, they were champs in sticking out the season.  Both of these do split with a lot of rain, and I had some blossom rot with the BPs this year, but only on a few of the fruit.

San Marzanos, after roasting

The pastes:  Amish Paste, Romas, San Marzano:

I've grown Amish paste tomatoes for years, and I think they formed my expectations of a sauce tomato.  They are soft and fleshy, when you cut them open they are practically solid when you cut them in half.  They are not particularly uniform in size, I've had ginormous fruit some years, and more average sizes in others, or later in the season.  I know this makes them less popular for canners who like more predictable fruit, but as I generally sauce and crush mine for canning, I like them just fine.

So with this bias, I've had trouble adapting when I try out new varieties.  Last year I grew Italian Romas for the first time, and was underwhelmed by the harvest.  But they were overwhelmed by larger plants, and my neighbor was pleased with the plant I gave her, so I tried them out this year in a better location.  I was much happier this year, they are small but prolific, and were good for most purposes (drying, sauces, canning).  I think they're a good addition to the mix.

This year's puzzle are the San Marzanos.  They have been prolific, and this time of year are one of the only plants charging through the end of season dying vines.  They are just so....HARD.  And hollow.  Maybe this is how paste tomatoes are supposed to be?  I just feel like they are tomatoes destined for trucking to grocery stores or factories, and somehow their popularity with longterm storage transferred to home growers.  I do admit they cook up well, and maybe that's the point.  But I'm suspicious of their plastic texture.  The jury is out for next year, maybe one plant as a filler for canning, and to see if this season's odd weather was a factor.  Maybe, like the Romas, I'll change my mind.

The biggies: in front, Italians in the back

Brandywine:  I love these.  Despite their reputation as somewhat diva-ish, these always perform well for me.  Often they are the first ripe full-size tomato, and now are the last that are hanging in there on diseased plants.  I've had several nice fruit over a pound this week, and my first harvest was back in July (same plant!).

They are the chosen ones for BLTs, and I also throw them into sauces. Meaty, juicy, pink.  I love them.  They are definitely a fruit that lives up to its reputation.

Also, another large fruit for eating we grow is Italian Heirloom.   They didn't do great this year, but have been big producers in the past.  They have replaced other ubiquitous slicers I grew in the past (big boys, etc).

Misc. pretties (which, despite the title, I have no good photos of...for some reason):

Speckled Roman were a new variety for me this year, and the jury is still out.  They are a nice size, and quite attractive, though they seemed to go to under ripe to way overripe very quickly.  I'm thinking they are a nice accent fruit, if you have the space.  But if pressed for room, they don't seem to be the champions of multi-purpose and flavor that I'd like.  As I have tons of seeds left, I'll probably try them at least another year.

I usually grow a darker fruit as well.  They add contrast to salads, and give color to sauce.  For years I grew Black Krims, but we weren't that fond of their flavor.  They were prolific.  This year I chose Cherokee purple, as they were a lot of people's favorite.  Alas, they didn't have a good year at all here.  I wasn't super excited about the fruit I did get (can't even find a picture, what does that tell you?).  But I'll try again next year.  Otherwise, maybe the Black Plums are all I need.

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  1. I will answer a question for you Ms S: San Marzanos are supposed to be hollow, all the better to cut open and scoop the seeds out of. To me, they're the superlative paste tomato. I cut them up, put them in a roasting pan and roast them in the masonry oven, then put the leavings through a food mill the next morning. HEAVENLY sauce, not at all loose and/or watery. It's a great base for all other paste-y things, like ketchup, etc.

    I reach for them too if I am simply making a pasta sauce for the evening. Cooked, covered, in a saucepan and run through the foodmill again, that's the least-watery sauce I can make.

    But I agree about the plastic-y look. I also grow striped romas, Amish pastes, Black Krims (black plums) and Brandywines; good choices!

  2. Good to know that they are supposed to be this way. They sure do roast up nice, now that the weather has turned I'm doing that a LOT. I guess starting with the Amish paste (which I know isn't really a true paste tomato) did influence my tastes.

    I really like to grow a bunch of varieties, I could never be the gardener that grows one type of tomato every year!


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