Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Best Heirloom Tomatoes 2014-2015 part 2

I wrote part 1 of this post earlier, but it started to get too long so I have continued it here.

Like I said in my first post all seeds were sown the same day on 9 August 2014 without heat, all seedlings were transplanted into the vegetable garden about 7 weeks later when the majority were 15 to 20 cm tall (they were all planted out on the same day, some were larger than others).  I have included the date the first fruit ripened after the variety name.  They are listed in order that their first fruit ripened.

I had one bed of tomatoes that did not go too well, the drippers I put in got clogged a little and I did not notice for a while.  There are also a lot of tree roots in this bed which may have robbed the tomatoes of nutrients and water.  I lost a few plants in this bed and came close to losing all of the others.  All of the plants in this bed fruited later than the rest, I think it was the bed itself that caused this.

Purple Cherokee
Purple Cherokee (21/02/2015) large purple/pink/red tomatoes, some round, some a little odd shaped.  Fruit took a long time to ripen.  Very distinctive taste.  People often say this tomato has a smoky taste or taste of good red wine, I had never understood that until tasting them myself, wow.  A little salt adds more depth to their taste - Unbelievable!  This plant produces a medium to large yield of large fruit, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Not quite round tomatoes
Dwarf multiflora (21/02/2015) the plant flowered early but the fruit took a very long time to ripen considering their size.  Masses of flowers and fruit formed at each truss.  This is a great tomato for small spaces as it is small but still productive.  Dark yellow/light orange fruit that is not quite round often has a small amount of green stripes.  It had a nice strong tomato taste with a zing.  I have plants to cross this with a micro tomato and create something interesting.  This multiflora plant produces a large yield over a short season, it is dwarf, has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Black Cherry
Black Cherry (25/02/2015) for a cherry tomato this plant took a long time to ripen, all the tomatoes in that bed took a lot longer, I think it may have been the bed itself rather than the plants.  Black Cherry is said to be one of the best tasting tomatoes ever bred.  This was a great tasting cherry tomato, flesh was reasonably sweet while the seeds were reasonably sour.  I preferred Snow White over Black Cherry as did everyone who tried them both this year.  This plant produced a medium yield over the season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

This fruit is boxy but good
Red Paste Type (03/03/2015) red boxy tomatoes, very nice looking, kind of like delicious red Christmas ornaments.  High yield but slow to ripen, great tasting tomato.  Some fruit can be slightly hollow, others on the same plant were solid.  This plant produces a large yield late in the season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

I didn't take a picture of the JBT cross?
Japanese Black Trifelle cross (10/03/2015) Brown tomato, amazing taste, Japanese Black Trifelle crossed with a mystery tomato.  This fruit tasted great, almost as good as Malakhitovaya Shkatulka (which is possibly the best tasting tomato in the world).  This variety is still segregating, I plan to develop something decent from it in the future.  For some reason I did not take any pictures of the fruit but it doesn't matter too much as it may change as the variety becomes more stable.  This plant has regular leaf at the moment and is indeterminate.

Did not save seeds from this one
Grub's Mystery Green cross? (12/03/2015) green round fruit, possible cross as regular leaf (this variety is known to throw regular leaf occasionally so it may not be a cross), great tasting tomato almost as good as Malakhitovaya Shkatulka.  Fruit ripened green but were sometimes completely red even on the same plant or branch.  This plant has regular leaf and is indeterminate.  I wont grow this again as I did not save seed, I prefer potato leaf which is meant to be part of this variety.

OSU Blue starting to get colour

OSU Blue (12/03/2015) amazing deep colour like no other tomato before it.  Black/violet/blue on top of red.  The colours intensify when the temperatures are low but the UV light remains high.  Parts of the fruit that do not receive light stay red so words/logos etc can be on the fruit by placing a sticker of that shape on the unripe tomato and removing the sticker when the fruit is ripe.  You can even spell out your child's name using one letter per tomato.  In cooler temperatures even the leaves and stems take on a slight purple tinge.  This plant has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

White Wonder
White Wonder - the whitest tomato I have ever grown
White Wonder (13/03/2015) Inconsistent fruit size, some larger some smaller.  Most whites are pale yellow, this was very white, by far the whitest of the whites that I have grown.  Amazing looking round fruit with a mild taste, far nicer than store bought but the taste was nothing too amazing.  This plant has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Grub's Mystery Green
Grub's Mystery Green (03/04/2015) a delicious, nice sized round tomato that is green when ripe, less of a red blush than Malakhitovaya Shkatulka.  This is another great tasting tomato!  It produced a small yield late in the season, I assume this is due to the bed in which it was growing rather than the variety.  I prefer MS to this but they are both great tasting varieties.  This plant has potato leaf and is indeterminate.

A few others I have may never ripen, they were in the dodgy bed and loaded with fruit.  The ducks got in a few times and stole most of it but there was still enough left that I thought could ripen.  Last night something got in and ate all but one tomato, that tomato is in an exclusion bag.  The plants look almost dead, I think it may be time to call this year's tomatoes finished.  That one tomato may still ripen, and I do have some very late planted micro tomatoes which are in pots currently flowering that may fruit, but I think I can write other posts for them if need be.

Where to get heirloom tomato seeds
Some of these varieties are rather common, others are pretty rare.  There are a few good heirloom seed companies around as well as some dodgy ones.  Ironically one of the largest and well known heirloom seed companies is also probably the worst.  I may sell some of these seeds, if you are interested please look on my For Sale page.  I am working hard to develop a few new varieties that are not listed here, it will take me a few years to stabilise them properly.  If I ever develop anything great I will also try to list it on my for sale page or I may even start a proper website or get a store or something by then.

Best Heirloom Tomatoes 2014 - 2015 part 1

This year I grew a few different types of heirloom tomato, I figured I would write a comparison between how they went in my garden.  There are a few that are not listed here as I kind of want to keep them under my hat for now, or they are not yet stable so their details are not going to be relevant just yet.  Most varieties listed are regular leaf and indeterminate, if anything was potato leaf or determinate I have written it in italics.  If any variety is what I consider to be a dwarf variety I have also included that in italics.
Heirloom tomatoes
Many seed sellers tell you the days to maturity, unfortunately what they mean is days from when the seedling is 30cm tall and transplanted into the ground to maturity.  They never tell you how long from sowing the seed until the first fruit.  I know of one variety that is often stated as 55 days to maturity from transplant but 120 days from seed.  Obviously a host of variables can change the days to maturity, but I would find it more useful to tell me from seed to the first ripe fruit which is why I have used those dates here.

Quite often seed catalogues write glowing reviews even for substandard tomatoes with poor taste and low yields, I have tried not to do that and if I don't like it or found something that could be better I have said so.  Some I wont save seeds from or grow again, others have merit so will get another chance or be used as breeding material to develop something better.
Tomato flowers from a productive variety

All seeds were sown the same day on 9 August 2014 without heat, all seedlings were transplanted into the vegetable garden about 7 weeks later when the majority were 15 to 20 cm tall (they were all planted out on the same day, some were larger than others).  I have included the date the first fruit ripened after the variety name.  They are listed in order that their first fruit ripened, sometimes there was a large delay from first fruit to any subsequent fruit, this has been noted.


Reisetomate tomatoes
Reisetomate (25/12/2014) was overwintered and was the first tomato to ripen any fruit, this is not characteristic of the variety as the seed grown plant took about 2 months longer.  This was the only tomato I overwintered this year.  The deep red fruit are odd lobed shapes that can be pulled apart like the segments of an orange.  The taste is sour and intense and the tomatoes look interesting.  This plant produces a large yield, it has regular leaf and is semi determinate, it is my favourite red tomato.

Snow White tomatoes - usually more pale than the picture
Snow White (07/01/2015) was the first of the seedling plants to grow ripe fruit in my garden, it took about 5 months from sowing the seed to harvesting the first fruit.  Perhaps I will overwinter this and see how early I can get tomatoes next Summer.  The fruit is round and white if it does not get sun and slightly yellow if the sun hits the fruit.  The flesh tastes very sweet and fruity, the seeds/gel taste a little sour which compliments the sweet nicely, a real winner.  This is a great cherry tomato which was loved by everyone who tasted it.  This plant produces a very large yield over a long season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Juane Flamee, some small
Juane Flamee, some large
Juane Flamee (spelled various ways) (12/01/2015) was the second seed grown plant to produce ripe fruit.  It is said to be one of the best tasting tomatoes, I think it is certainly very good but not overly great, I think people love it because of the high yields it gives.  The fruit is round and orange, as can be seen by the pictures above the fruit size is rather inconsistent.  This plant produces a very large yield over a long season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Yellow pear, mostly brighter yellow than the picture
Yellow Pear (12/01/2015)  is a variety that I have been keeping for years, it grows nice looking yellow pear shaped tomatoes.  The plant grows huge and is a real survivor that has proven itself over many years of harsh conditions.  The sweet tomatoes are great for eating fresh or in salads and look beautiful.  This plant produces a massive yield (both in terms of number of tomatoes as well as overall weight of tomatoes) over a very long season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Black Russian, often cracks like this
Black Russian (29/01/2015) is one of the most over rated heirloom tomatoes ever grown, certainly not the best tasting black tomatoes I have ever eaten.  It still tastes much better than anything from a shop.  The fruit is prone to splitting and cracking but that does not matter much.  The plant produced a lot of flowers that simply aborted and produced no fruit even in good conditions with masses of pollinators.  It is said to be an early variety but took about 3 weeks longer than Snow White, Juane Flammee and Yellow Pear.  January 29 was the date of the first ripe tomato, it did not give a second tomato until 14 February which puts it behind Speckled Roman!  The colour of the fruit is amazing and they are a good size, unfortunately the taste, yield and time it takes to mature let it down.  This plant produced a small yield over a short and broken season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Tigrella, the colours are far more vivid than the picture
Tigrella (04/02/2015) is a great little tomato, it looked beautiful and tastes great.  The round stripey fruit had a dark seed cavity and were pretty consistent in size, most were a little larger than the picture.  The taste was a little stronger and more sour than Juane Flamee and it produced less tomatoes too.  The plant produced a reasonably large yield over a long season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Roprecco Paste, most were a bit larger than this
Roprecco Paste, a good tomato
Ropreco Paste (06/02/2015) is a good tomato, it looks much like a Roma tomato and tastes like a great Roma tomato.  The tomatoes are a good size and nice shape, most were slightly larger than pictured.  I liked to eat these fresh or in sandwiches, they can make a decent sauce, soup or paste due to their rich tomato taste.  This plant produced a reasonable yield over a short season, it has regular leaf and is determinate.

Malakhitovaya Shkatulka, delicious!
 Malakhitovaya Shkatulka (06/02/2015) is a great tomato which I can't believe is not grown more commonly in Australia.  The size and shape of the fruit lend it to slicing for sandwiches etc, the taste is absolutely amazing, probably the best tasting tomato ever grown.  Everyone who tasted this loved it.  It is difficult to tell when they are ripe from a distance, but simple enough when you are close enough to touch them.  I wish that it was higher yielding as they taste so great.  Birds leave the ripe fruit alone as it is green.  The name of this variety is kind of fun to say but difficult to spell.  This plant produced a medium to low yield over a long season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Julia Child, large pink soft fruit
Julia Child (08/02/2015) grows the softest tomatoes I have ever seen, the flesh is like soft butter.  It has very few seeds and a nice taste.  The pinky red round tomatoes are large and rather pretty.  They are perhaps too large as they hang on the plant for a long time ripening and may be attacked by insect pests etc during that time.  The plants itself looked lush and ornamental, it could grow by the front door and would not look out of place.  This plant produced a high yield over a long season, it has potato leaf and is indeterminate.

Unnamed red cherry
Unnamed cherry tomato (08/02/2015), these were given to me at a fete, I didn't want to grow an unknown variety but accepted them as I did not want to be rude.  I disliked them last year but figured I give them another go this year as a comparison.  The plant looks nice as do the trusses of 6 small perfect round red cherry tomatoes.  This plant is why I try to never grow unknown varieties of tomato unless they are someone's family heirloom or something that someone has assured me is worth growing.  They tasted terrible (comparatively) and are low yielding.  I will not save seed from this horrible plant and will not grow them again.

Hillbilly - very glossy
Hillbilly (12/02/2014) has firm flesh that is reasonably dry and smells great.  Tastes similar to a store bought tomato but much better, it smells fruity somehow.  The fruit is uniform in size and shape, good size for slicing onto a piece of bread.  The orange/yellow glossy fruit is interesting to look at but may cause people to turn up their nose as it is not red.  Probably not my favourite tomato this year but still pretty good, far better than most people have ever tasted.  This plant produced a medium yield over the season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Giant Siberian Pink
Giant Siberian Pink
Giant Siberian Pink (12/02/2014) these grew some large tomatoes!  Wow, look at those things.  They were pretty uniform in large size and most were very round.  I am not overly fond of large tomatoes as they hang on the plant so long to ripen and a lot can go wrong during that time.  They look suspiciously like Julia Child, I could not tell them apart by sight, but the texture could not be more different.  Firm flesh, it has a lot more seeds than Julia Child.  This plant produced a medium to large yield (medium number of fruit, super large size) over the season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Unnamed Red Stuffer
Unnamed Red Stuffer
Unnamed Red Stuffer (12/02/2014) red round medium sized fruit that is hollow.  The seeds stick together in a tight clump in the middle and are simple to remove making this a good stuffing tomato.  They tasted much like a store bought tomato before they were completely ripe, their taste intensified a lot after they ripened properly.  Even though this is a stuffing tomato it still went well on a sandwich.  I don't think this variety is stable yet.  This plant produced a medium yield over the season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Yellow (12/02/2014) beautiful medium to large yellow fruit sometimes with green shoulders.  The plant was one of the first to flower but the fruit took a long time to ripen which is a negative as the fruit hangs so long.  The flesh was soft and moist, they taste pretty amazing and are low acid.  This is one of the most useful and best tasting tomatoes that I grew this year.  I think this variety is stable now.  I really like this variety for a number of reasons.  The fruit splits a little but that doesn't seem to affect the storage time.  This plant produced a medium to large yield over the season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Speckled Roman, more beautiful in real life
Speckled Roman
Speckled Roman (13/02/2015) stunningly beautiful looking red roma style tomatoes with yellow/orange stripes.  Each tomato has unique swirls, stripes and patterns inside the fruit with very few seeds.  It has a deep rich tomato taste, it is meant to make a great paste or sauce and I love it on a sandwich, much like a great tasting roma tomato that looks amazing.  I prefer this to Roprecco Paste as it tastes better, looks better, has larger fruit, and is indeterminate.  Roprecco paste seems to have a higher yield than this one but this provides fruit over a longer season instead of all at once so ther is a trade off to be made.  This plant produced a decent yield over the season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Pineapple some had much more red
Pineapple tomato
Pineapple (17/02/2015) not quite round, yellow orange (to red) bicolour that looked nice.  Some fruit were as large as the Giant Siberian Pink, others much smaller.  The inside of the fruit was also pretty with swirls of colour through the yellow.  Some tomatoes had a thick core that had to be removed before eating, others from the same plant did not.  Flesh was very firm, dry and contained few seeds.  This plant produced a good yield over the season, it has regular leaf and is indeterminate.

Reisetomate - not quite ripe
Reisetomate fruit
Reisetomate, every fruit is unique and beautiful
Reisetomate (19/02/2015) first fruit from seed grown plants ripened about 2 months after the overwintered plant.  Fruit ranges in size/shape/number of lobes quite a bit.  I love this tomato, it tastes so intense, even a little on a sandwich with a more bland tomato livens things up a lot.  The deep red fruit has odd lobed shapes that can be pulled apart like the segments of an orange, the flowers and fruit look very unique and interesting.  This plant produces a large yield, it has regular leaf and is semi determinate.

This post is getting a bit long, I have been writing it since December though.  I will end here and continue this post in Best Heirloom Tomatoes 2014-2015 part 2

I may sell some of these seeds, if you are interested please look on my For Sale page.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Snow White heirloom tomatoes

This year I am growing a bunch of different varieties of mostly heirloom tomatoes, some are incredibly difficult to find while others are far more common.  I will try to write a post comparing them all later in the season once they have all ripened or decided not to ever ripen.  For now I want to tell you about one of the best tasting cherry tomatoes I am growing which is called Snow White.

Cherry tomatoes are good, but many lack any real taste, they are often good for kids who like sweet things.  White tomatoes are good, but many tend to be a little insipid, that being said there are some amazing white tomatoes around.

I had heard that Snow White was one of the best tasting tomatoes ever bred and one of the best cherry tomatoes around, this had me intrigued.  I have also heard from others that it is nothing special and I would be better off growing other varieties.  A very generous grower sent me some seeds last year, how could I resist growing this and seeing for myself.
Snow White cherry tomatoes

The plant grew well in my garden while a few other varieties did not even survive, it flowered early and was one of the first tomatoes to ripen in my garden.  It seems to have a lot of flowers and unripe fruit on the plants at all times, being an indeterminate variety it should continue to fruit right up until frosts. 

The plants themselves are nothing remarkable, they grow about 6 feet tall here like many other varieties but I assume that they could grow a lot larger.  They have regular leaf and everything looks normal enough.  It would be nice if they were a dwarf plant or if they had potato leaf or something, but in the end none of that really matters.  The plants grow well under adverse conditions, provide large yields, but it is the taste that truly matters.

The first tomatoes I picked may not have been properly ripe, the seeds in them were not properly formed so it may not have been pollinated properly, or perhaps they get better as the season progresses, all I know for sure is that the first few were not indicative of this variety.  When I tasted them they were ok, nothing special, it is probably fair to say that the taste was a bit confused.  Considering that they were bred by Joe Bratka who is an excellent tomato breeder that has been described by those who know him as 'confused' or 'eccentric' I was not overly surprised.  The flesh was sweet and tasted a bit fruity, almost like a bland peach.  The seed part tasted like a regular cherry tomato, good but not great.  Overall it was good but nothing special, if the rest of the tomatoes tasted like this I may not want to grow this variety again.  The tomatoes ripen to a very pale yellow if they are in the sun or white if they do not get any sun on the fruit. 
Snow White tomatoes - yellow in the sunlight
Visually they looked good enough, they produced a lot of tomatoes, but due to the fact that there are thousands of varieties of tomato available in Australia I do not want to waste time or space if the taste does not blow me away.  I would rather keep trying to find something amazing. 

Then there was a week with no new ripe tomatoes, I was ok with that as they were not that great and the weather was odd.

Then the plant started to ripen again so I ate another tomato.  WOW.  They really blew me away.

Perhaps the first fruit were not great but since then they have been fantastic.  The tomatoes look much the same as the first ones, perhaps slightly larger, but the taste is amazing.  The flesh part tasted like delicious fruit, perhaps a peach or sweet ground cherry or something similar to that.  If I was to remove the seeds and blind test people I doubt that they would even recognise this as a tomato.  The seed part tasted like a good cherry tomato, a little acid but not too much.  The two parts together compliment each other well.  I love this tomato, I want more of them, I walk past the plant a few times each day in the hope that another one has ripened. 
Snow White hidden in the back of this part of the garden
The kids love this tomato, in my mind this is one of the best sweet tomatoes that I have eaten.  They are low acid so good for people who normally can not eat tomato.  I probably wouldn't use it to make paste or sauce or for cooking (although many people claim they are great for this) but happily eat them fresh or in salads.  They are remarkable.

I would almost go as far as to say that they are unique, but they are not.  Apparently the man who bred these also bred a few others which were much the same or exactly the same or just renamed this variety.  It doesn't matter too much, what does matter is that these are amazing and I plan to grow them again and hopefully grow a few more plants so I get more of them. 

Why are these tomatoes rare?

I have often wondered why this kind of thing is not more common, if they are so great (and these tomatoes do taste great) why are they not available at the supermarkets.  People often talk about home tomatoes being better because they are picked perfectly ripe instead of mostly green, or that they are fresh, or that they are too soft to be transported, and a few other things like this.

I am sure this is part of the answer, but I think one of the biggest problems is marketing.  People think of tomatoes as red, they are wary of any other colour.  Bright yellow tomatoes have started to become better known and appreciated in salads for their attractive colour.  Some of the brown/black ones have started to come in, but they have backing from a multinational company who holds a lot of power.

These are 'white' tomatoes, they mostly ripen a pale yellow.  Many people think pale colour means tasteless or not fully ripe.  The difference between 'white' tomatoes and yellow tomatoes is that the white ones have translucent skin.

Some people have asked me if yellow tomatoes taste the same as 'normal' tomatoes.  I don't know how to answer them.  Where do I even begin?

Unfortunately this means that the average person will never try these amazing little tomatoes unless they grow them at home as they will not be seen in supermarkets anytime soon.  Some of the best tasting varieties of tomatoes ripen green, many people will not even try them, that is their loss.

Where to get Snow White tomatoes

Seeds of snow white tomatoes are reasonably simple to find in Australia.  Snow white tomato seed seems to be carried by a few different sellers as well as ebay.  I have saved seed from my plants and will most likely sell some on my for sale page with other heirloom vegetables and perennial vegetables.