Most gardeners want flavor over big tomatoes
It's winter and time for contests and awards. Mailboxes are stuffed with seed catalogs and the ubiquitous contests. One of my favorite cartoons shows a hot dog opening his mail that reads, "You may already be a wiener."
Gardeners often compete for the largest, longest or tallest vegetables. Last year's largest pumpkin was a heart stopping 2,009-pound Atlantic Giant pumpkin grown by Ron Wallace of Green, R.I.)
But most gardeners want flavor over size. Since tomatoes, not pumpkins, are still by far the most popular vegetable grown in home gardens, which of the thousands of varieties of tomatoes are the award winners?
Some long time favorites such as the Brandywine tomato are still around.
Named after the Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania, this plant has potato leafed foliage and produces big, meaty, pink tomatoes that consistently win taste contests. Brandywine was reintroduced in 1982 by an elderly gardener named Ben Quisenberry. The seed came from Dorris Sudduth Hill who could trace Brandywine in her family over several generations.
While the original pink-fleshed Brandywine has been joined by Red Brandywine and even a Yellow Brandywine, it is generally considered that the so-called Sudduth’s strain is the best.
No winner goes unchallenged and Brandywine tomato was outdone by another pink tomato, not from Pennsylvania, but from southern Russia.
“Caspian Pink” is a huge pink red beefsteak tomato that can weigh up to two pounds. Because of its Russian roots, Caspian Pink seems to do well even in cooler summers. As a bonus, Caspian Pink is a heavy producer and will keep you in slicing tomatoes all season. The huge fruits can crack so pick them regularly. Seeds are available from Henry fields (www.henryfields.com) and Totally Tomatoes (www.totallytomato.com) as well as others.
Another taste test winner is the unusual Wapsipinicon Peach tomato. Yes, a tomato that is fuzzy like a peach. This round yellow-white tomato originated with Elbert S. Carman in 1890 under the name White Peach. The strain that Seed Savers Exchange offers (www. seedsavers.org) is named after the Wapsipinicon River in northeast Iowa. The very sweet, juicy flavor won the Seed Savers Exchange 2006 Heirloom Tomato Tasting. The peach like tomatoes are born on indeterminate plants, which means the tomato vines keep growing, and producing all season. And produce they will. Growers report huge yields. The vigorous plants begin producing just 80 days from transplant.
Seeds are available from many mail order catalogs including Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsavers.org) and High Mowing Seeds, 802-472-6174.
A final taste test winner is the Rose tomato. This is a Pennsylvania Amish heirloom tomato that is large, meaty and still crack resistant. The 10-ounce fruits are a dusty rose colored borne on vigorous plants. Seeds can be found at Totally Tomatoes (www.totallytomato.com).
So winter may not see you on the news holding a giant check, or clutching a trophy, but this year your tomato patch can be a winner. Get seeds for Brandywine, Caspian Pink and Rose tomatoes. Or grow your own Wapsipinicon Peach tomatoes, whose fuzzy skin may tickle your tongue and your taste buds.