Tanja's Top Twelve Tomatoes of 2019
What an odd summer we had, all in all. High humidity, dry soil, not much real summertime weather till August, which very quickly turned to fall. Very strange year, indeed.
I worried about blight off and on for most of the summer with all that humidity but it turned out well. Some tomatoes thrived in the dry soil and high humidity, while a couple varieties completely languished.
I have chosen my favourites and best producers from each of the different groups this year, a few pastes, slicers, beefsteaks, and cherry types, as well as picking both an heirloom and some new open-pollinated tomatoes.
I grew 92 tomato plants this year, half of which were pastes for our canning purposes, the rest a mix of the others. It proved to be quite difficult to pare it down this year from all those choices, so I have gone from my Top 10 to Top 12 this year, plus a few bonuses, too … It seems that the more you grow, the more you love : )
Paste & Plum Tomatoes (often referred to as Roma style) I grew 8 different pastes this year…
Six of them determinates… Martino’s Roma, Roma, Chico III, Humbert Roi, Speckled Roman and Dwarf Saucy Mary, plus two indeterminates… Sherkhan and Black Plum.
All of the determinates did really well, any one of them could have made it on to this list. They were terrific. Honestly, pick any one of them and you will be happy.
The Sherkhan was a total bust this year, the only tomato I had that ended up with BER (Blossom End Rot). The Black Plum is always good, is a small, purple plum tomato, great tasting but did not produce quite as well as usual this year.
1. Martino’s Roma gets my pick again this year for the very best heirloom paste tomato. It produced loads and loads of really great sized tomatoes. They are lovely to look at as they are curvy, oh so pretty, plus had no Blossom End Rot at all, produced lots of really lovely, tasty tomatoes. They are meaty, not pulpy, perfect for canning, saucing or making ketchup.
2. Dwarf Saucy Mary was my favourite new open-pollinated paste tomato. It is all green! Kind of an acid green, or apple green might be a nicer way to describe the hue. So yummy! Juicier than the Martino but still very meaty with very little seeds or pulp. It is very prolific, loads of large tomatoes, similar to the Speckled Roman in size.
Beefsteaks…. Those of you who have followed me for a while, know that beefsteaks and pastes are the tomatoes of my choice. I feel like they both work for everything. The go into salads, on sandwiches, fresh eating with cheeses, as well as for sauces, canning, and roasting.
So, here are my two favourite heirloom beefs for this year…
3. Paul Robeson. I know that this heirloom indeterminate has hit the list before, it is not a new one, but I gotta say.. it really rocked it this year despite the crazy summer we had. Lots of large, dark beefs, a bit juicy, and super yummy. They ripened in good time, was not one of the beefs that took forever to ripen. The flavour of this one is so good. My favourite sandwich topper tomato.
4. Dr. Wyche’s Yellow. Heirloom indeterminate. Again, those who know me are saying what the what? I hardly ever choose yellows, they really have to shine to make the list, as they are usually not tomato-ey tasting to me, tend to be too mild and mellow. However, the Doctor hit the spot. It is a bit of a sweeter tomato, is lovely in salads and on sandwiches with salt to really help bring out the flavour. It makes a fantastic fresh salsa, and is so great with fish dishes. The tomatoes were big, not huge, but a really good sized beefsteak, and again, they all ripened during the summer, in plenty of time to eat and enjoy.
5. Tasmanian Chocolate. For my open pollinated choice this year. It produces lots of beautiful, brick coloured tomatoes. They are not super huge, I would say that they are like a large slicer type of tomato. Grows on a sturdy stalk, stays compact at only about 2 to 3 feet tall, yet produces so well, gets heavy with fruit! Tasty tomatoes that are juicy and rich, very similar to the Paul Robeson’s.
Cherry & Grape Tomatoes … I am least inclined, generally, to grow cherries and grapes, as we do not do much with them except to oven roasting. We rarely eat them off the vine, like others say they do… like really, how weird are we, eh?
I grow them mostly to see how they grow, how they produce, how they taste, so that I can recommend them to you with confidence. I cannot sell something that I know nothing about, so I grow tons of cherry tomatoes… most all of them are roasted at the end of the summer ; )
6. Green Grape. Heirloom determinate. Round cherry tomatoes that are can be a bit oblong in shape but really not much grape shaped ; ) Super tasty, one that even I will eat fresh and I love to throw it in pasta with a bit of onions and bocconcini. Best of all? This cherry did not crack in the rains! Truly, out of all the cherry types that I grew, this one was the best producing and best tasting tomato of them all. Sweet but not sugary, retains that tomato flavour. Must say, all green tomatoes seem to have the very best flavour! You know that it is ready when it is gets a bit of a yellow glow and is soft when you give it a squeeze.
7. Chocolate Pear. Indeterminate heirloom. This one was a new one for me this year and, oh boy, what a good looking tomato. When hubby comes home from his away-work, he loves to poke through the garden… the first thing he said w hen he saw this tomato was ‘That is such a pretty tomato’. I swear, we are the such weirdos, the crazy tomato couple! Anyway, this tomato grows on crazy, wild, giant vines and produces tons of tomatoes! An orangey red pear shaped tomato that tastes so super good.
8. Pink Tiger. Love, love, love the look of this new, open-pollinated, indeterminate, oblong shaped tomato. They call it a mini-roma tomato, and it really does look like a mini version of the real thing. Both the Lucky and the Pink Tiger were completely amazing tomatoes, producing more than any of the other cherries this year. They were meaty, yet still juicy, and look phenomenal! I liked the flavour of Pink just a bit more than the Lucky, but both were fun and tasty. The only draw back with them is that they both split like crazy in the slightest of rainfalls. However, I still really loved growing this tomato… oh did I say that already ;)
9. The Sunrise Bumblebee. So, yet another one of the new open-pollinated tomatoes made the list. This one is a large vining plant and a crazy good producer. I generally like the black and purples best but I found this golden one was superior in flavour to the Purple Bumblebee. Was sweet, yummy, very crack resistant, a great producer, and so juicy. Dare I say that this one may some day be nearly as popular as the Sungold, the famous hybrid? If you like that one, you should definitely try this one.
Slicers… the mid sized tomatoes that we all think of when we think tomatoes…
10. Russian Saskatchewan. This one wins as the best slicer by just the most narrow of margins. Dwarf, determinate, heirloom. It is an early producer of small tomatoes, golf ball sized, generally referred to as saladettes. They are very meaty, easy to cut up for salads and such without the tomato falling apart, very few seeds. Is sweet but has a bit of tang, adding just a bit of Himalayan Sea Salt really helps to bring out the flavour. A very compact determinate plant that started producing early in the season, perfect for container growing.
11. Kalinka. A mid-sized, red, round, pretty determinate, heirloom tomato. Very early, has a short growing season, is another great one for containers and for those looking for a reliable, good tasting tomato that has you eating tomatoes in early summer while you wait for the other varieties. Grows in clusters of 3 to 9 mid sized round, red tomatoes.
12. Dwarf Hannah’s Pride - This is my choice for the open-pollinated slicers. Hannah produced big tomatoes throughout the season on stocky, dwarf vines. As you can see from the picture, it grows in clusters and the tomatoes are big and beautiful! Great for fresh eating, is one of those tomatoes that just makes a great tomato sandwich as you just need one nice, thick slice! I would absolutely grow this one again.
Bonus tomatoes…. Saladettes (small slicers) - It seems that all the saladettes did really well this year. I had not realized until I began making up this list. So, for an early, yummy, great tomato, try any of these next year and you will be thrilled with the results.
My pick for an heirloom saladette is Latah, a very early, red, determinate, heirloom tomato. see the picture below. Very similar to the Stupice except grows in a bush instead of on a vine.
For saladettes in the dwarf, tree type, open-pollinated tomatoes, I choose Iditarod Red and Sarandipity, the first is red and the other, mahogany.
When making your wish list for next year, don’t forget to add one or two early varieties to your list. Something that sets fruit early and has you eating tomatoes 50 to 60 days from transplanting. This will generally be a determinate tomato, a busy type, as they set fruit earlier, even in colder weather.. These guys will have you eating tomatoes in late June or early Jul, while you wait for the others to come along later. There is nothing worse than having to wait till August for your first taste of fresh ‘maters!
Take notes, make a list of your favourites, add some new ones that you want to try next year.