Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Reviewing This Year's Varieties

So the season seems to have entered the final stretch ... this is right about the time I'm starting to think about lessons I've learned this season, start to plan for next season, and in general wonder where the growing season went. Don't get me wrong, I love summer (even our summers), but it's hard not to miss the growing season.

One thing I will say about this season: it wasn't great. It could have been worse, but I wasn't exactly breaking records, if you get my meaning. I had much worse disease problems than normal. In the end, I grew six varieties of tomatoes, including Brandywine, Cherokee purple, yellow pear, Big Boy, Early Wonder, and Victoria Supreme. The picture above shows a bit of everything except the Big Boys and Early Wonders. Here is my quick review of each:

  • Brandywine: Amazing taste, beautiful tomato, the rightful queen of TomatoLand. After fending off massive disease problems with an aggressive spraying program, I got a medium yield of medium to large fruit. Still, just on bragging rights alone, this is a winner, and my friends and family loved them. My advice: if you're going to grow these, plan on spraying from the beginning.
  • Cherokee purple. Beautifully colored, excellent fruit. I'll definitely grow these again—people regularly ask me if I have any more to give away. I also got a pretty heavy yield for an heirloom, although the fruit were generally a bit smaller than the Brandywines. It was somewhat more disease resistant than the Brandywine and ripened earlier, although they were also sprayed. The same advice applies here: if you're going to grow them, plan on spraying.
  • Yellow pear. Slow to start, but once it kicked in, I got loads and loads of fruit. Whole baskets full of these things. They are very sweet and delicious and I got in the habit of leaving them around in bowls as snack food. I lost two plants, though, to yellow frizzy top disease.
  • Victoria Supreme. Excellent disease resistance. Of all the tomatoes I grew this year, these were the only ones that didn't get sprayed at all. It's a great cooking tomato with very few seeds and quickly cooks down into a thick, rich sauce. I made up a sausage and pepper tomato sauce midway through the season, with fresh parmesan and a handful of basil, that was a big hit this winter. I'd grow these again as a standard paste tomato.
  • Big Boy. Well, they grew at least. I dunno. These are pretty dependable producers, aside from some splitting, and they have great disease resistance. They're quite lovely, too. But in a side-by-side taste test with Brandwines, they just ... squish a bit in comparison.
  • Early Wonders. I can see the appeal of a tomato that ripens in fifty days. It's really pretty amazing, especially considering that some of the others went WAY past their anticipated harvest dates before I started getting fruit. But these ... well, I don't want to speak ill of a tomato. Let's just say the flavor was insipid to middling and the skin was vaguely reptilian. I won't grow them again.
As far as growing methods are concerned, it was a pretty standard year, with the addition of a pretty aggressive spraying program. I'll cover this in another blog, since it's a big topic and deserves attention. I had to seriously rethink my devotion to organic gardening techniques this year.

Finally, I've gotten a few cool emails from people showing their own growing systems, so I'm going to post these in the near future, along with explanations of how they did it. If you have a particularly nifty method, or got outstanding results this year, feel free to shoot me an email.

Oh yeah ... I'll also try to get up some more harvest pictures, because everybody loves tomato smut.


  1. Hey Jon!
    Yeah, I had a lot of problems with early blight as well as bacterial spot this last year. It's good to hear though that you had more this year than others, as I just thought that this amount of fungi and bacteria must be typical to South Florida (just moved here in October-commented on your site months back). Hopefully, the next season will be better in terms of disease and such...
    Oh, and thanks for the info on varieties. I'm totally going to try the Cherokee purple and Brandywine varieties next season.
    Ooh, I've heard the Florida Everglades cherry tomato grows wonderfully here in South Florida, as it is indigenous?!
    The Witchy Kitchen

  2. I too am taking a bit different approach this year. I like the idea of these earth boxes. I'm planning raised beds but this has me questing boxes instead.