It’s so easy to run out of room to plant tomatoes, and to plant (and produce) more than you can actually, really use! Especially in December and January when you’re drooling over the seed catalogs and yearning for really good tomatoes. There are some that I just have to plant every year. The list gradually gets modified as I read about and try new varieties, though I often plant heirlooms, even though they may not be the most productive.
Given limited space, I don’t usually plant “paste” or “plum” tomatoes–I’ll settle for buying good quality canned tomatoes for sauce and winter use. I usually only plant indeterminate tomatoes, and those that are good for eating–cherries and medium-sized fruits. The first requirement is that they must taste really good–I like some acid tang in my tomatoes, but I like complex flavor too–so here are some of the ones that I plant at home.
I don’t want absolutely huge tomatoes either–I use a lot of “cherry” or “grape” tomatoes since they do well in salads, and as snacks. I really want a tomato that is the right size for me to eat at one time since refrigerating a cut tomato changes the flavor and texture in a way that really makes it inedible as an uncooked tomato!
Topping the “must-have” list are Sungold cherry tomatoes–it’s summer candy and snack food! These are a deep tangerine orange, small, cherry tomato–about the size of a dime–that grows in clusters. You won’t find them in the grocery store–they are fragile–a bit of rain and they split very easily. If you want them, you’ll need to visit your local farmers’ market or plant your own. They’re very productive, early indeterminate tomato–meaning that the do get tall and gangling as they continue to put out new growth. The good thing about this is that they will keep on producing tomatoes until frost–in the mild NC climate, I’ve sometimes picked them in December. If you’re growing them, you’ll soon learn that if you hear a rumble of thunder you should run right out and pick the ripe ones so that they don’s split in the rain.
Even though they don’t produce a lot of fruit, I almost always plant Black Krim tomatoes. (Since I don’t have pictures of my own, I’ve gotten some from various catalogs/websites from which I usually buy seeds.) I always wish that they were more productive, but I like them so well that I’m very grateful for the few that I do get from each plant. These are a slicing tomato that is usually about 8 to 16 ounces in size. The flavor is very complex–often characterized as “smoky”. These are in the “beefsteak” category–meaty, with few seeds. These are not going to be the most regular, round tomatoes that you’ll get from the garden, but they are luscious. They do need to be harvested while the shoulders are still green–while they may seem slightly under-ripe. I think that they get “over-ripe” easily and then they will not have good texture–they’ll just kind of disintegrate.
Another “must-have” for me is the Japanese Black Trifele tomato. Again, no photograph of my own so I’ve used the one from Johnny’s Select seeds. (Yes, I am very partial to the “black” tomatoes–there’s something about the flavors of them that has me hooked!) These are a smaller tomato–about 4 to 6 ounces–that are great in insalata caprese, or any other way that you care to serve them up. These are also indeterminate plants that will continue to produce over a long season. Like the Black Krim, they should be harvested while the shoulders are still green. These are a “potato leafed” tomato–if you’re used to the usual tomato leaf shape, these can look distinctly un-tomato like.
A new addition for me this year is the Indigo Rose tomato–I’ve not seen it before this year, nor have I tasted it, but from the catalog descriptions it was just not possible to pass it up! Since it’s new, the photograph comes from Johnny’s Select Seeds. I can’t wait to see how these look and taste from my garden. I should share what I was looking at in December so here’s the description from Johnny’s Select Seeds: “Anthocyanins are powerful anti-oxidants. In the early stages of fruit development, Indigo Rose develops a dark purple pigment in its skin where exposed to direct sunlight. Green when unripe, purple-red when ripe, the 1-2 oz., cocktail-sized tomatoes have good flavor with ‘plummy’ overtones. Developed by Jim Myers at Oregon State University using traditional plant breeding techniques. Compact indeterminate. Days to Maturity or Bloom: 75.
Another (if my plants succeed) that I hope to have is the Black Cherry tomato. Again, a cherry tomato that’s about an ounce or just a bit under, with maroon exterior and a wine red meat. I first planted these two years ago. They’re an indeterminate tomato as well–they were very productive for a long season. (The deer ate the plants last year.) I’ll hope that I’m lucky enough to have my own pictures of the ones in my garden this year–but until then, these are courtesy of Johnny’s Select Seeds catalog.
That’s the selection so far…under consideration for the very few remaining spaces–maybe even only one–on the tomato trellis is a basic red slicing tomato…nothing huge, just something tasty! Time to prowl the farmers’ market, though I might end up with another “specialty” tomato since the plants that we put in the field to harvest for the farmers’ market provide me with a good supply of more basic red slicing tomatoes–like Brandy Boy, John Baer, Valley Girl, Champion, and others. That means that I can get really esoteric with my choices for the home garden and still have the basics in good supply!