Hi Friends! What types of summer veggies are you eating from your garden this year? Like most gardeners in the U.S., I’m sure your garden is filled with things like eggplants, onions, herbs, peppers, melons, corn and at least one tomato plant this summer. Am I right?
As the diehard gardeners that you are, I’m sure most, if not all of you, have done your share of research on the sun kissed rosy red beauties we fondly refer to as the tomato. I know I have and wow, I’m just blown away by the amount of choices we have as gardeners ~ proof that this fruit is one of the most beloved of summer’s bounty.
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of different varieties to choose from! It’s puzzling as to why anyone would settle for the same ole “go-to-tomato” year after year when there are so many others to choose from and try out in your garden. Just a simple search on the internet will reveal the vast world of tomatoes with very little effort.
Okay, with that said, in my hearts of hearts I love to go outside of my box and try different and unique varieties of veggies, but this year I am sort of one of those “safe” people. At least when it comes to the tomatoes I chose to plant this year. Pretty boring really. In a previous post I mentioned that I had several old tomato seed packets that are at least 6-7 years old and that I purchased locally here in town. Rather than toss them out, I decided to see if they would germinate. They did, so into the garden they went. That simple. That boring.
One interesting point about these tomatoes, besides the fact that a lot of people here in town grow them, is that they helped open my eyes to the possibilities of gardening here. That and finding my first local gardening resource here in town.
As I began to write this post and started to jot down some thoughts about these tomatoes, I realized that when I bought them so many years ago, I was literally at the tail end of my gardening in the desert “doubting phase”. A phase I think most folks who move here go through because the desert can feel so foreign, especially to those coming from an area with lots of trees and greenery. Sadly for some, this phase can last a lifetime. For others, especially those who refuse to accept defeat, move through their doubts slowly and with a focused purpose.
Throughout this doubting phase, I was unwilling to let my gardening dream die. I was uncertain as to what that dream really looked like here, but I was determined all the same. I wanted a garden to grow my own food… period. With an unwavering resolve, I began to wade through my doubts and misinformation and decided to step out of the “naysayer circle”. When I did this, I actually happened upon my first local resource here in town. Even today, I’m uncertain as to why this first local resource was so difficult to find, especially for someone who’s fairly skilled at researching. Perhaps it was the nagging doubt clouding my mind or the shock of how dry and lifeless it seemed here. Or, maybe my eyes were only half-open at the time and I was unwilling to see the possibilities. Who knows, really. Once this door of information was open, the flood gates burst open. Well actually, it was more like a slow domino effect at first. One connection led to another, then another. The information came my way in nibble sized bits. As my understanding and knowledge grew, then the flood gates opened with no end in sight 😀
Okay, now that I’m back from memory lane, I thought I’d share some of the details on how these “ole reliables” are performing in my garden. I only refer to them as “ole reliables” because these are the tomatoes promoted by some of the local gardening resources here in town and not directly from my experience with them.
Here’s the performance rundown so far:
Hawaiian Tropic (hybrid) ~ Right off the bat, for me this tomato has one big strike against it. The reason? It’s a hybrid variety. I like to save seeds and because its a hybrid variety, any seeds I save and try to grow will not grow true to the parent plant. Other than that, this variety has produced loads of fruit so far and is growing well with the trellised single stem method I’m using. The plant has had new growth recently and is continuing to climb up the trellis and produce more flowers and fruit. So far nothing has slowed down it’s growth, not even in our heat.
One thing I did notice is when our temps hit 105ºF, this tomato’s leaves exhibited a small amount of leaf browning and curling. This curling has been more pronounced since we received rain over the past few days. The humidity in the air is quite noticeable. I’ve also had a few fruit split on me recently, too. So frustrating when you’ve been anticipating the ripening of a beautiful perfect tomato only to find it split as it ripens.
Sorry folks, but I have to say that I’m not really impressed with the taste of this one. I’ve heard so much hoopla about this tomato that I was expecting some heaven transcending experience when I ate it, but… I’ve had better. I took a brix reading ~ a disappointing at 5.5 brix (= between poor and average). I’m sure if the brix was higher it would have a better taste. What is a brix reading? See a brix chart.
Hubby and I are working hard to improve our garden soil by adding minerals/rock dusts and other nutrition building amendments that will help to increase the brix (nutrition) levels of our fruits and veggies.
Heartland VFN (hybrid) ~ Like Hawaiian Tropic, this is a hybrid variety. So far, this plant has stayed quite compact, but has produced just about as much fruit as the Hawaiian Tropic. During a recent fruit count I did, both varieties had about 42 fruit in various stages of growth. Thing is… Heartland is literally about half the size. Quite impressive.
This variety has experienced similar ailments as the Hawaiian Tropic, but has had a few more fruit split issues recently. And, the taste is average.
Another disappointing brix reading… 5.0 brix (= between poor and average).
Green Grape (heirloom) ~ This variety of tomato is an heirloom variety. It has performed well in my garden, though trying to tell when it was ripe the first time out was a short trial and error period. Basically, when the green fruit turns a nice deep shade of yellow-green, it’s ready for harvest. This plant also has some recent leaf curling and browning, but continues to be a good producer so far And the flavor is quite nice, far better than the first two. Yup, and as expected, the brix reading on this tomato was much better that the last two also. This came in at 8.0 brix (=Good).
Sweetie Cherry (open-pollinated) ~ This little guy is an open-pollinated variety and is so prolific both in growth and in fruit quantity. This tomato plants has just about reached the top of my trellis which stands about 8′ high. One thing to mention about this little cherry tomato (at least in my garden) is the continual number of browning and browning/die back. I’m constantly trimming off dead sections of this plant but they are quickly replaced by a healthy green sucker, which I let grow to take its place. This browning and die-back characteristic doesn’t phase its performance in the least. The fruit is super sweet, too with a brix reading of 9.0 brix (= between good and excellent).Stupice (Stu-peech-ka) (heirloom) ~ Here’s another heirloom and it’s a potato leaf tomato variety. I actually started this plant from seed directly in the garden. All the other tomato plants I started from seed indoors. In the garden, it germinated very quickly and has grown like a weed. I started this plant about a month later than all the rest and have yet to taste the fruit or test the brix on it. I’m anticipating fruit soon since it currently has several flowers on it and a few small fruit 🙂
Roma (heirloom) ~ An heirloom variety. I’m still on the fence with this one. The fruit is much smaller than I expected and is supposed to be a determinate variety, but it sure is not acting like one. Also, rather than trellising or caging this plant, I let it sprawl and as a result it has taken over a large section of my raised bed.
I do love the taste of these little tomatoes, but this plant seems to be more temperamental than the rest and has had quite a bit of die back in the center of the plant. Inspite the dieback, the recent new growth on it is beautiful and green. I’ve also been finding blossom end rot on some of the tomatoes. I’m currently working toward resolving this issue.
The brix reading was far from impressive at 5.0 brix. I’m certain if the brix were higher the tomato taste would be phenomenal.
Next Summer Season
For next year’s summer tomato parade in my garden I will definitely be trying out some new varieties. Now friends, if you’re a crazed gardener like I am (yeah, you know you are) summer’s only just begun and you already have a summer seed wish list created for next year (shock!).
Well, here’s the short list version of my long list (all are supposed to do well in the heat)…
- Punta Banda ~ heirloom
- Nichols Pink cherry ~ heirloom
- Violet Jasper ~ heirloom
- Marianna’s Peace ~ heirloom
What about the ole reliables, the “tried and trues”? They have served their purpose and will be retired at the end of this summer season, at least in my garden. Thank you ole reliables… until we meet again.
What Tomatoes Varieties Are You Growing This Summer?
I’d love to hear from you about the varieties of tomatoes you’re growing this year and how they’re doing for you ~ just leave a comment below 🙂
Happy tomato eating!