Trying to Reason With Tomato Season

The last couple of weeks are kind of a blur. It seems I have been occupied quite a bit with all things tomato. I’ve made three batches of tomato sauce for the freezer, and I cooked down one batch of tomato puree. I make the puree by peeling and coring the tomatoes, then they get processed briefly in the blender. After that I cook them in a big kettle until they thicken and are reduced by about half. And I’ve frozen quite a few jars of whole tomatoes, which are cored and skinned.

tomatoes in the freezer (click on any image to enlarge)

We’ve also been dehydrating the tomatoes and slow roasting them. When finished we seal them up with our vacuum sealer in small portions and store them in the freezer. The dehydrated tomatoes don’t have to be frozen. but we found they retain their quality a lot longer that way.

dehydrated tomatoes in vacuum sealed bags

It’s far enough along in the season now that I can make a few observations on how the individual tomato varieties are performing for us. Now is the time for me to decide what works, what doesn’t, and what won’t get invited back for another year.

Sun Gold will definitely be back for another year. It and Supersweet 100 were planted side by side, and they have grown and intermingled so that it would seem we have gold and red cherry tomatoes coming from the same plant. Both are prolific and wonderful tasting, sweet and delicious. They are everything I could ask for in a cherry tomato.

Sun Gold and Supersweet 100 cherry tomatoes

Juliet is another perennial star performer for us. We don’t eat many of them as is, but they are great for drying and roasting. And it is a prolific, disease resistant variety. It can be used much like you would a Roma type, if you don’t mind the smaller size. It’s truly a multi-purpose tomato.

Juliet is plum type tomato that grows in clusters

Black Cherry is doing well for us again this year. When dead ripe, the tomatoes are almost as sweet as Sun Gold, with a complex and interesting flavor. Even when just merely ‘ripe’, they are sweet and tasty. When dried, the flavor and sweetness are concentrated. This one is fast becoming one of my favorites. It’s nice sized and pretty to look at as well.

Black Cherry tomatoes

Golden Rave is an interesting and useful tomato. I think of it as a yellow Roma. It can be dried, roasted, or made into sauce or puree. It can be used in any application where a Roma type works. I don’t think it has much flavor raw, but that’s just me. I’m thinking I need to plant more than one cage of these next year.

Golden Rave tomatoes in a quart container

This is the first year I’ve grown Golden Sweet, but it won’t be the last. Many of the grape tomatoes I’ve grown before have been lacking in taste, but not this one. It’s prolific, very sweet, and definitely a keeper.

Golden Sweet grape tomato

The pear tomatoes have disappointed me this year. The red and yellow have been prolific, but their taste leaves much to be desired. The Black Pear hasn’t done much of anything. I think I will skip all the pear types next year. There are just too many other varieties that we like better.

Beam’s Yellow Pear tomato

The slicers are having a great year. Old favorites like Better Boy and Celebrity are doing well, but Jetsetter is off the charts. I have one cage with two Jetsetter plants and it has produced a whopping 25 pounds of tomatoes so far. They are a great size for slicing, and good tasting too. It’s early too, rated at 64 days to maturity. It’s blown Champion II right out of the water.

Jetsetter tomatoes

Cherokee Purple is the surprise tomato of the year. After years of often dismal results trying to grow various Brandywines and other large heirloom types, I should have been growing Cherokee Purple instead. One of our local Master Gardeners (Ernie) has been recommending them to everyone for years, and now I will recommend them too! My wife and I have declared it our favorite for BLT’s. I will be planting more than one cage of these next time.

average sized Cherokee Purple tomato

I’ve also had good luck with the heirloom Eva Purple Ball. I got seed for it from another local MG (Debbie). I see a definite pattern here. I need to be comparing notes more often with my fellow MG’s who are  tomato-heads like me! Eva Purple Ball however is only fair tasting to me, but that’s ok because it has been useful for processing and pretty prolific. I’ll give it a shot next year and see how it does. I need to remember to save from seed from one of these.

Eva Purple Ball

Black Zebra has been so-so. We’ve gotten quite a few tomatoes from it, but they have been unremarkable in my books. And its cousin Green Zebra died for the third year in a row. I’m going to blame my seed source for that one. I have grown it successfully before but this last packet of seeds just didn’t work.

Black Zebra tomato

That’s all I can say about tomatoes for the moment. I’ll probably weigh in with more observations before that last tomato is harvested in 2011. Speaking of harvesting, we’ve gotten 171 pounds of tomatoes so far this year. No wonder I could use some rest!

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8 Responses to Trying to Reason With Tomato Season

  1. Robin says:

    The past couple of weeks have been a tomato blur for me too! I have had a lot of problems this year with my tomatoes splitting. One of the few that didn’t split and one of our favorites is Eva’s Purple Ball. It’s very prolific, dependable and seems to with stand anything Mother Nature hands out! I will be planting a lot of this variety next year.

    I’m happy that you finally tried the Cherokee Purples….they are just yummy! We are so loving those Black Cherry tomatoes too!

  2. Wowee! You have indeed been busy! That’s putting it mildly, from the looks of your freezer and pantry. It sure must be a lot of work, but must also be really gratifying to see the stores piling up.

    Thanks so much for posting your take on the tomatoes you’ve grown this year. It’s really helpful to hear about what you would continue growing and why, as well as why you might skip certain varieties next time around. I appreciate it!

    I think you’ve convinced me to try Cherokee purple for sure, and possibly Jetsetter as well.

    I love the Sun golds, and I may add Black cherry in there next year (I too will be keeping the Sun golds!)

    I agree with you regarding the small yellow pear / grape tomatoes. They’ve produced a lot for us, but I don’t think the flavor has been much to write home about. They’re fine for mixing in with other tomatoes in a salad, and the color is nice, but the flavor has been a little lackluster in my book.

    Our San Marzano plum tomatoes have been good and pretty tasty too, but good to know that Juliet is a strong performer as well.

    Happy canning!

  3. I love hearing about your tomato trials. I also like a few of those varieties, and next year I might try some you’ve mentioned that I’ve not yet grown. As I look back to not liking Juliet in 2009, mainly because of its size, I long for that volunteer Juliet from 2010 that gave me a huge supply of fruits that were small, but healthy and fine for saucing. Black Cherry was not grown this year, but will certainly make a comeback in 2012. I’m very tempted to return to growing Celebrity as my main tomato, as it was always a disease free producer for me in the past.

  4. Oh, you’re killin’ me! This is now the worst tomato season for us, ever. We need to reason with our weather. I couldn’t imagine a tomato season worse than last summer, but now I don’t have to. It’s just awful. So much so that for the first time we’ve been hit with fusarium wilt, hard! We’re actually considering grafting tomatoes next year because of that.

    Our black cherries are still green, as is our the Beams Yellow Pear (which is almost dead). That’s been one of our best in past seasons. I could almost cry. Cherokee Purple for us in the past has been either great, or terrible, but never reliable. I’m glad you’ve had a good season with it though, as it is a good tasting tomato. I agree, Brandywine? I’ve never figured out what the fuss was about. It’s never done well here, it just doesn’t seem happy.

    We’re all heirlooms here this year. The way things are going though I may have to bring back Sungold and Sweet 100 next year. We always used to grow them, and they seemed bomb proof. Right now I’d be happy with just a few of anything that managed to ripen. Next year…there’s always next year, right? 😉

  5. Sande says:

    What a nice tomato review, and with photos too. I love Cherokee Purple. It’s probably my favorite tomato. I think I need to try Jetsetter and Black Cherry though. They sound good too. You have an impressive variety. Have you ever tried wintersown.com for their ‘free’ tomato seeds? I did it one year and found a few new favorite heirlooms.

  6. I’m glad someone is getting a tomato harvest. And what a lovely one. I grew Cherokee Purple one year and it didn’t perform for me, but after reading your post I think I’ll give it another chance next year. I’ve had poor results with heirlooms this year, and not much better luck with the hybirds. I’m getting only a trickle of tomatoes.

  7. mandy says:

    I’m bookmarking this for next year! German Queen has been our favorite blt slicer this year, with cherokee purple running a close second.

  8. Nice tomato run down. You’ve grown some varieties I’ve never seen before so it’s good info! Glad you’ve got lots preserved this year to last till next year!

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