Home Grown Tomato Research

Howdy, fellow gardeners! The time is ripe for harvesting tomatoes, and I am pleased to share with you results of a tomato demonstration project committed and tended by yours truly and Brazoria County Master Gardeners. Before I get into the meat of this article, I encourage readers to improve personal eating habits by consuming tomatoes. Referencing Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Path to Plate initiative, tomatoes are fat-free, low in sodium, are a good source of vitamins A and C, and can provide 15% value of daily recommended vitamin C.

Aggie Horticulture offers practical information for home and commercial vegetable production, and my goal is to research vegetable and fruit varieties that have a proven track record and expanding the list of varieties appropriate for growing in our region of Texas. The research is a comparative model, using different tomato varieties that we would grow from seed to fruit throughout the season. Our team included key Brazoria County Master Gardeners to develop the research model and support as a project with Texas Master Gardener Interns in training. We committed the inaugural research project March 2019, used eight different tomato varieties in comparison for varietal growth habit, vigor and ending in a taste testing. Varieties used were beefsteak Striped German and Cherokee Purple, cherry form Sun Gold and Indigo Cherry Drops, paste form Paisano and Tiren, and average-sized forms Delicious and Black Prince.

Indigo Cherry Drops

We summarized data from varieties that were successfully grown and retired a few from the current trials. We retired cherry form Sun Gold as it was an outstanding producer, highly recommended for its vigor, indeterminate growth well into summer and outstanding sweet and non-acidic taste. Paste form Tiren was not a good producer for us, and we will bring this variety back in future trials for comparison. We retired Cherokee Purple because we did not have much success growing this variety to fruiting. You may have success with this variety and I do highly recommend this one for its outstanding flavor, mauve to deep purple-colored skin and great slicing texture. Delicious and Black Prince were both excellent tomatoes with uniform fruit size, color and meaty texture. I especially appreciated the uniform black colored shroud Black Prince wore over stately shoulders.

From left to right: Striped German, Galahad, BHN-1021

Six varieties in the 2020 trials are beefsteak Striped German (repeat) and German Johnson, average form BHN-1021 and Galahad, paste form Paisano and cherry form Indigo Cherry Drops (both repeat). Striped German offers a unique orange and red variegation throughout the fruit, and provides a hint of citrus in flavor. While the fruit color and soft-ball size are impressive, we did not have much success growing a large volume of this indeterminate variety. German Johnson proved to sustain size, pinkish skin color, great texture for slicing and a non-acidic taste one would expect for ripe tomatoes. Both BHN-1021 and pear-shaped Galahad were tops, maintaining form and qualities one would expect from an average-sized variety. Paisano is a determinate variety, seeming to offer a profusion of fruit maturing about the same time and hosting outstanding flavor and firm texture for sauce or canning. We decided to trial cherry form Indigo Cherry Drops again for this season, and found similar results. This variety is delicious at a very ripe state; it retains a bitter quality unless you allow the fruit to fully ripen. And I am always smitten by unique coloration on any variety, Indigo Cherry Drops fulfilling my romance with dark purple to black streaks throughout the fruit. We will continue to trail tomatoes each year, and update our recommended vegetables for our county to provide you with sound choices to meet your gardening interest.

I invite you to share your ideas and garden successes by browsing online to my Facebook webpage: www.facebook.com/stephenbhorticulturist. Thank you for your continued support and I’ll see you in the garden.

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