Genuine Faux Farm
Storage: 45 to 60 degrees F for 4 - 7 days. Firmer fruits store longer as do fruits with no splits. Heirloom varieties are often more susceptible to splitting or bruising, so try not to stack these on top of each other. If you break the stems off of fruit, they will not puncture their neighbors and will allow you to stack them 2 deep (or more if smaller fruit) - but don't damage the fruit if the stem doesn't want to remove.
Blemishes: Tomatoes that have splits, light bruising or small brown spots are perfectly good for consumption. It is true that these may store for a shorter period of time than those with no blemishes whatsoever. Simply cut away any part of the tomato that looks unappetizing to you and use the rest as normal. The small, round brown spots usually do not even penetrate through the skin to the meat and can easily be sliced off if they bother you. If the flesh is browned or has white fungus, then that part of the tomato should be discarded. Also, if you have tomatoes that exhibit problems and they go bad, they may encourage surrounding tomatoes to begin having the same problems. Eat them early and get them away from those you want to last for a while.
All plants are started here at the farm. Seed is organically certified when we can get it, but we cannot guarantee that every variety we grow comes from organically certified seed. We start plants in trays and then transplant them into 3.5 inch pots. We expose plants to the elements (including wind) gradually - but we prefer our plants to have been exposed to full sun, rain and strong wind before we sell or transplant them. We prefer stocky, shorter plants that have roots just beginning to bend at the pot edge at time of transplant.
Heirloom varieties often have exceptional taste and interesting characteristics that can not be matched by common, commercial hybrid seeds. However, experience tells us that we cannot expect a bumper crop from each variety every year. In order to combat this, we try to grow a wide range of heirloom varieties so that, regardless of the year, we will have plenty of tomatoes.
Do what you can to maintain a consistent soil moisture for the highest production levels. Mulching is definitely a positive for tomatoes. It is also wise to keep the plants off of the ground. Fruit that touches the soil is much more likely to have problems. Also, soil splashing on the leaves spreads soil-born blight. We rotate our tomatoes to a new growing area each season. Tomatoes are related to peppers, eggplant and potatoes, so you want to keep them apart from each other in the rotation.
Encourage tomato plants to grow deep roots. Too much watering causes them to rely too much on regular watering and results in shallow root structures. You will also get better tasting tomatoes if you have drier weather as you approach harvest.
If you know a rain is coming during harvest season, go out and pick your ripe heirlooms prior to the rain. Otherwise, the intake of water just might result in more split tomatoes - especially if it has been dry up to that point, or the rains are heavy.
Tomatoes are, on the whole, very tough plants. You'll almost always get SOMETHING!
We strongly believe that basil and tomatoes improve the quality of each. We have also found that the presence of cilantro and other aromatics encourage the presence of predator insects that reduce pests that might reduce our crop productions. Other vegetables, such as lettuce and carrots do pretty well, but are harder for an operation such as ours to do. Zinnias are a fabulous flower companion. Plant them on the south side to provide some leaf cover for the late tomatoes on the plant that might get sunscald as the sun dips lower in the sky.
If you see NO tomatoes in a rating, then we were awfully disappointed. If you see more than five tomatoes, then we were astounded. See, we can't even abide by our own rating rules!
All cultivars are Open Pollinated.
German Pink has been a standard bearer for us since the 2005 season. Plants produce 1 to 2 pound slicing fruits that are pinkish red when fully ripe. Plants are very sturdy and the fruits are, in some cases, already quite large in early August. There may be a couple fruit that push 2.5 pounds in size. When sliced, they leave an incredibly low amount of juice on the cutting board. Nice, sweet flavor. Treat these gently as the outer skin can be made to split if handled roughly. This variety taught Rob to like tomatoes on sandwiches - now that IS a compliment! This is still the tomato he would choose if given several to select for a fresh slice, though Black Krim's success may put that in doubt. Please note that we have tried cattle panel trellising with this variety and don't feel that it does these plants a favor. Yes, it is easier to pick the tomatoes. But, it seemed to us that the plants were more susceptible to fruit rot problems. Also, German Pink does not tolerate grassy weeds at all. Keep them clean and encourage good healthy plants in cages for a nice radial cover of their tasty fruit. Fruit will typically hide nicely in the center of the plant. Leaves are of the 'potato-leaf' variety.
2012 Report - the plants this season were robust and beautiful. Of course, we were using drip irrigation on all of the tomatoes, which helped. Unlike many of the heirlooms, German Pink seemed to have less trouble dropping their flowers in the heat. As a result, German Pink tomatoes were ripening before other tomatoes that typically produce sooner. Radial cover in the cages helped protect ripening fruit during freezes and frosts.
2013 Report - this year confirms 2012's findings. The main difference was a crop that probably had, on average, tomatoes that were a quarter pound bigger than our normal average. If this variety ever disappeared, we're not sure if we could handle the disappointment.
These are yellow tomatoes with red streaks on the blossom end and they are, perhaps, the sweetest tomatoes we have EVER tasted. If you want a more acid tomato taste, you will decide this one isn't for you. They are also one of the largest we have grown. Our record for this cultivar is 3.5 pounds in 2006, with another being as big as a baby's head in 2011 (we didn't weigh that one). Early fruits tend to split, which attracts the insects - leading to fairly high fruit loss early in the production period. They have less trouble as the weather cools. It is often better to pick these a little early and let them ripen on the counter - unless you are willing to accept losses exceeding half of the crop. Keep the moisture even (mulch and irrigate) for best results. You might notice a bit of 'zippering' on the blossom end, but that doesn't impact the quality of the fruit. They are too fun to grow to give up, though we only grow four plants for farm production. If you want to grow a "State Fair Ribbon Winning" tomato - try this one. Not many of these tomotoes make it to the CSA because they are "claimed" before they go into the crates! Number of tomatoes average only 8 per plant in a decent year. But, if you go by volume you get 12 pounds of tomato with that average. A typical heirloom slicer may average 40 tomatoes for a total of 20 pounds.
2012 Report - Our big tomatoes started on time, or a bit earlier than usual this season. But, there were still many on the vine when the weather got too cold. There was much less cracking and loss during this dry, hot year. In fact, our records indicate that we didn't cull any of the Gold Medal fruit this year. This tells us that a better drained soil will favor this tomato (or a dry season in our heavier soils). The picture above is from 2012. As you can see, fruit were clean and without cracking. You'll have to trust us that the top side of the big one was clean too. The taste of Gold Medal was exceptional this year.
2013 Report - Despite the longer season, we still managed to get some very nice Gold Medal tomatoes this season despite transplanting them in mid/late June.
Definitely a sweeter tomato taste and very meaty. As with other yellow tomatoes, these have less acid and are easier on the digestion for people with limited diets. The fruits are often lobed and can be slightly irregular in shape. It doesn't matter - those who tried this tomato raved about the flavor. They showed us better qualities in 2008 with more uniform fruit with less lobing and even better color. On the other hand, they struggled in 2009 and 2010. So, their reliability took a big hit and we ran them up against Kellogg's Breakfast for a couple of years. While Kellogg's was fine, Dr Wyche held onto its spot. You must keep these plants picked as they are susceptible to fruit blights. Get infected fruit off immediately upon discovery. Watch out, these plants can get VERY large..but are worth the effort to stake. In fact, we had them lift their cages up the stakes one season. Keep them up off the ground and you'll be well rewarded.
2012 and 2013 Report: One of the difficulties we often have on our farm is keeping up with every section of the tomato field and giving every variety the same 'love.' Dr Wyche is a tomato we like, but it doesn't always get the same attention some of the others get. So, for example, they often end up on the "wet end" of the tomato plot because it doesn't get the same priority as German Pink, Italian Heirloom, Black Krim, Nebraska Wedding and Moonglow. Too wet is bad. Too wet with grassy weeds is worse. That said, production was reasonable each of the past two years. We saw glimmers once again of the 25+ marketable fruit per plant we saw in 2008. Unfortunately, 2012 was short on the Fall end and 2013 was short on the Spring end. We lost a lot of fruit to the freezes in mid-September in 2012. In 2013, a late June planting still gave us about 9 excellent fruit per plant. We'll take it.
Large, heart shaped fruits are very meaty with excellent taste. The first such tomato to ripen weighed in at 2 lbs on August 19 in 2006. It turns out that this date was not typical - as most of the production comes at the end of the season. Earlier ripening fruits tend to have problems with splitting and rotting. As the weather cools, the fruits tend to stay whole and firmer. We did not weigh it in, but one tomato in 2007 gave us the impression that it may have beat our 3+ lb Gold Medal from 2006. They ripen on the pinker side of red, not unlike German Pink. We include these in the rotation to have some pinks at the very end of the season - often after German Pink has slowed dramatically.
Like Gold Medal, we only grow four to five plants of this variety. They are fun to grow, they have a great taste and they get attention at the market table. Like German Pink, they are very meaty and have a sensitive skin that will tear if you catch it on something. These make a great sauce and it takes fewer tomatoes to fill the pot. If you want to make a sauce and don't mind trimming off bad spots, this one could work for you.
Easy to peel, slice and can with little waste. This variety tends to start production earlier in the season than any other large tomato. These do not leave juice all over the board when you slice or dice them, very meaty and great for BLT sandwiches! The fruits are usually round with a slight elongation towards the bottom and tend toward an orangish-red when ripe. In other words, they don't quite go to the 'fire engine' red that some people think is a typical tomato color. This is probably our favorite tomato to recommend to restaurants or persons who need a high volume for an event. As a grower, you won't find a better all around large tomato. The reliability rating took a hit in 2008 with a very weak year. However, plants we sold to persons in the area did extremely well. We have traced the problem to a soil drainage issue in the area these were planted. It's a tribute to the plants that they did anything. Plants can sometimes be a little 'weepy' looking until they bush out since they are related to roma varieties. It is important that you put transplants in deeply to avoid stem breakage in the wind.
2013 Report: We were grateful that Italian Heirloom matures quickly with our late planting in 2013. Crops were sufficient to make us wonder if we would get close to a record production year from these plants and we would have if we had not failed to stake a dozen of the plants we put in. Contact with the ground results in fruit rot, even if there is mulch. Plants are smaller than many, so we go with the smaller, square cages from Nolt's and find that they are perfect size for these plants. A daycare asked for about 100 pounds of larger tomatoes to process for Winter. One hundred and five tomatoes later, I had the order filled and had more than enough to give our CSA members a couple each that same week. These are well worth figuring out how to grow.
This variety is new to us in 2014. These are supposed to provide larger yellow/orange fruit. We're are motivated to try this in part because we are related to some Valencias! We'll let you know what we learn this year.
MEDIUM SIZED TOMATOES
We have found the mid-size, "black" tomato that likes our farm. As with all "black/purple" tomatoes, they are often a little soft when very ripe and will be more prone to cracking or splitting unless you can maintain very consistent watering. A good straw mulch goes a long ways for these plants. You can work to avoid splitting by picking fruit a earlier and keeping any split fruit off the plant to avoid fruit rot/blight spread. They do best in a hot, dry year with a consistent watering program. Wet weather patterns are rougher on nearly all 'black' tomatoes. Plants tend to be slightly smaller in size and they love to hide the fruit deep in the center, providing protection from sunscald. Taste tests at the farmers' market and by CSA members resulted in every fruit - even if a bit blemished - disappearing from our sales crates in a hurry. We are hard pressed to pick another tomato over this one for taste.
Black Krim is a good heirloom candidate for our high tunnel. We did not execute a pruning program with these plants and were happy with the results. These have a wonderful, full taste. Unlike the pictures in catalogues, we have noticed a tendency to slightly oblong fruit on some plants, whereas others stick with rounder fruits. We personally prefer Black Krim to Cherokee Purple after running a multiple year side-by-side trial.
Growing Hints - once you get used to this plant, it will produce well for you. Expect the first year to be a little disappointing, but use it to learn how it works. Pick fruit a bit early to avoid cracks. Don't try to push this one too early when the soil is still a little chilly. These do not take well to stake and weave trellis, bu they do like a smaller cage to keep them off the ground. Mulch is a must.
NOT AVAILABLE in 2014.
Firm, beautiful, round, yellow to orange fruit look fantastic on the market table. These are uniform in size and shape and are lower acid content tomatoes. Taste is slightly milder without forsaking the real taste of a tomato, their skin is a bit tougher than many of our tomatoes. We have customers who think these are the best tasting tomatoes in the world while others like Nebraska Wedding or Moonglow better. We think they're all great choices, so we grow all three (but not in 2014, see below). You can wait until they get an orange-yellow coloration if you wish, but they are fine once they are full yellow. We find that these can handle wetter years better than many tomatoes, but they were not as fond of extremely warm weather. From a grower's perspective, we like it because each plant produced well and the fruit were easy to pick, pack and display. Unlike many heirlooms, these are a bit firmer and handle travel to market better than most. While we are not all about that - it just so happens that taste is not forsaken for these other qualities. Sold! A GFF preferred variety.
2012 Report - As with all of our later season tomatoes, we didn't get the production we've come to expect because cold weather hit us early. The dry season resulted in a bit less leaf cover on Golden Sunray, so they didn't protect the fruit as well as they often do. The thicker skin helps them survive frosts, but it couldn't prevent losses with two freezes in a row in mid-September. Drought resulted in more variability in size. But, conversely, the taste was better than usual!
2013 Report - BAD SEED. Sadly, Seed Savers dropped this variety and we were forced to pick them up from another source. These seed were not pure and we ended up with a batch of soft-skinned, quarter pound fruit that didn't taste like much. Clearly, those who maintain the variety had a contamination issue. We're hopeful to locate a strain that we might be able to maintain ourselves. Or, failing that, we are trying Emmy and Valencia as possible substitutes. Moonglow and Nebraska Wedding will be asked to carry the load for the yellows this year.
This is another yellow/orange variety with mid-sized fruit. Most of our yellows did better than other varieties in our wet 2007 August. This, of course, makes us wonder if we need to search for a dry-weather yellow (if it exists). Descriptions indicate to us that this might be it. Well, 2008 was not the year to find out -exactly. But, Moonglow did perform exceptionally well with an astounding 43.6 tomato per plant rating. This, with three plants underproducing because they were not caged! If we have a complaint, it would be that first fruits are markedly larger than seconds and thirds - but all taste and look pretty good. Production levels can be much higher in terms of number of fruit, but total pounds will be the same as Golden Sunray. Some say Moonglow tastes a tad bit sweeter.
If there is any knock on this plant, it is the variability in fruit size. We also noticed that, in 2013, fruit tended to have single, deep cracks that ran about a half inch near the stem of most fruit. We've seen this before and find it to be a symptom of stress. Since 2013 resulted in very late planting in still water-logged soil, we can't really fault the plants. The good news is that these cracks are 'dry' so the fruit can be picked and used without the fruit quickly turning to much. They occur earlier in fruit development and 'heal over' a bit. We have not experienced this problem consistently - and when we do, it is with the 'scouts.' Scouts are first fruits that come before the main flush. With a short season in 2013, it is possible most of the fruit thought they were scouts.
At the request of one of our CSA members, we added Rutgers to our growing list in 2006. These are a standard, round, red tomato with the 'old-time' tomato taste. Plants are unremarkable in terms of disease resistance, durability, etc. In other words, they neither stand out, nor do they ask us to remove them from our grow list. The simple fact that they have produced for us every season at reasonably good levels, despite plants having difficulty getting started in 2008, is enough to keep them on the list. They were one of the few tomatoes that gave us a good crop of earlier tomatoes in 2008 - while most sent out scouts and then retreated until peaking in September and October.
Since that time, we have learned there are multiple strains of Rutgers and we've come to like the strain maintained by High Mowing Seeds. This strain gets higher ratings for disease resistance and shows reduced cracking issues. Plants are a bit bigger than those we've seen in the past and there is alot of leaf cover for the fruits. We suspect they have been selected with people who prune their tomatoes more often in mind. Nonetheless, we love the cover to keep fruit from sunscald, even if it makes picking a little more difficult. We suspect these will take to stake and weave trellising better than the previous strain.
These tend towards a brownish, yellow/green when ripe and maintain a green gel in the interior with white/green flesh. The taste is quite good, giving a refreshing zing to a summer sandwich, especially if you like mayonaise. The taste helps one to think cool thoughts on a hot day. On the down side, they tended to have deeper cracks on the shoulders that led to rot problems at ripening. Fruit size is highly variable and the shape is rarely perfectly round. The taste treat is enough to grow a few of these on the farm. We find that picking them before they get too ripe gives us a better shot at harvest. Unfortunately, they do not ship well and are difficult to deliver.
The picture above is from the very dry 2012 season. Like many tomatoes, they liked this weather better than some of the wetter, cooler ones we have experienced on the farm. We are getting better at growing these, but we are still not convinced that we should grow much more than five or six plants. They are still finicky and we get discouraged by the number of fruit that start to show rot spots up by the stems in some of the creases. We get the feeling that they like being picked in warmer weather, so we're wondering if an earlier start might actually result in more marketable fruit. As it is, these are enough of a taste treat that we'll offer fruit that have some blemishes just so people can have the option of taking them home and enjoying them. Results with Tasty Evergreen are far better than those we get from Aunt Ruby's German Green, but that's our farm. We encourage you to try both head to head to choose. Taste for this tomato is, in our opinion, tangier and much more interesting.
This has become one of our work horse, mid-size tomatoes. Fruit tend to be 6 - 8 ounces and are slightly flattened globes. Production per plant is good and these tend to be a bit firmer than Wisconsin 55. They make a great companion for the 55's because they tend to produce a bit later and will be going once the 55's are past their peak. Taste is good for a round, red tomato. But, we have noticed that they tend to vary in taste depending on how much they like the year. In fact, we wonder if taste of this tomato is more soil dependent than many. We have no proof of this, only anecdotal evidence. In many ways, round reds like Trophy are unfairly compared to tomatoes like Black Krim, German Pink, Gold Medal and Tasty Evergreen. Instead, one should compare them to tomatoes in its class, like the hybrids Early Girl or Better Boy. In that case, we feel Trophy exceeds them in taste. Trophy tends to have a bit more cracking in the shoulders than Wisconsin 55's, but they hold the fruit on the plant better. The stems also break off for shipping far better than the 55's. The absolute largest Trophy fruit I've seen was about 3/4 pound.
We are beginning to like Druzba a bit more for taste and its early production slot and Rutgers has better taste. But, the tenuous availability of Druzba seed makes us wonder whether we dare put it into the main workhorse slot or not. Trophy continues to do well for us nearly every season. In fact, it often overwhelms us to the point where we can't get them off the plant fast enough.
Wisconsin 55 has been shown to work well in this region and soil type. Typically, they will produce half pound fruits and are a good all purpose tomato and are recommended for canning. Plants are vigorous early on and typcially begin to ripen in mid-August. Plants tend to drop fruit from the vine before we can get to them and are often impacted by wilt earlier than other varieties. But, this does not matter much since peak production is usually completed just prior to this point. Combining with Trophy in our area seems to work very well for overall production of medium sized red tomatoes. Market growers tend to twist or break off stems to avoid puncturing fruit. The problem is that Wisconsin 55 stems don't want to easily twist off and often do more damage to the fruit when taken off. On the other hand - they rarely crack on the shoulders. Keep on top of picking them - pulling them from the plant on the early side of full ripeness - and you'll have a magnificent crop!
2012-2013 Updates - In 2012, the Wisconsin 55's were in a section of the field that didn't get attention when it should. Then, last season, their section didn't dry out until late June. As a result, we didn't get much of these over the past couple of years. We don't like them any less. But, with difficult seasons and less ability to go to farmers' markets, we have less need of the average sized red slicers. When people come to us, they want tomatoes with other characteristics. We won't give up on Wisconsin 55's, but they (and perhaps Trophy) will have a reduced role.
This variety is new to us in 2014. We were dismayed by the seed issues that we observed in Golden Sunray and have found that it must be widespread. As a result, we are looking for a Golden Sunray replacement. This is a relatively new offering by Seed Savers, so we'll give it a try for a medium sized yellow tomato. It has some big roots to fill.
Druzba is a red tomato that has some excellent taste. Plants are on the small side and they behave a bit more like a determinant than an indeterminant in our experience. Production levels shown per plant are low since the plant numbers that were used to create the average were inflated. Easy to harvest, the only issue is the potential for sunscald with tomatoes getting pushed out from under leaf cover.
Our biggest worry about Druzba is going to be the reliability of the seed source for the strain that gives us consistent sized plants and fruit. We've found inconsistency with the seed in that past when the source has been someone other than Seed Savers. Unfortunately, Seed Savers seems to be giving indications that this will not be available.
Nebraska Wedding has been a favorite intermediate yellow tomato for us for a long time. These can be picked from yellow to orange yellow. They do not tend to split and have an excellent taste. Plants tend to be stocky and very strong. Keep them up off the ground to prevent problems with the fruit and you will be well rewarded. We have found that this plant can be grown with some success in a large pot since it is technically a determinant tomato. But, the length of days to maturity tends to render that point moot.
The biggest issue with this tomato has been germination rates that were low in the past. It seems that these problems have been alleviated in recent years.
We've been hunting around for a pink tomato that isn't as large as German Pink for some time. The appearance of Redfield Beauty on our radar was welcomed. The size of fruit is very consistent, cracking is rare, and the taste is good. These are a slightly flattened tomato with a thinner skin. As a result, other fruit problems can occur. Plants can tend to hide the fruit deep in the center, making it a small adventure to claim the prize. However, when the plant has more leaf cover, the quality of the fruit is typically much better. These tomatoes do not like exposure to the sun. We suspect putting some zinnias nearby might be a nice addition for these.
We had high hopes for this tomato after 2012 and increased the production numbers. Of course, they let us know that they did not care for the super wet start and short season we gave them in 2013. So, we're backing off on them a little bit for this season.
Here is a great companion 'black tomato' for Black Krim. Robeson tends towards a red/black, whereas Black Krim is a rose/black tomato. We find the taste to be excellent, with a little bit of a smoky? taste. We're not entirely sure how to describe it at this time. Not dissimilar to Black Krim, but not exactly the same either. Plants are bigger than Black Krim and will provide a bit more leaf cover typically. Our hope is that Krim can give us the early side of production and Robeson will fill in the late side.
We introduced this tomato to the farm in 2013 and were pleased with the results. We are looking to try it in the high tunnel with Black Krim this season.
This variety is new to us in 2014. This is supposed to be a great tasting intermediate sized red tomato. We'll give it a go and see how it does. .
Japanese Black Trifele
It would be best if we had a good picture of these. But, we don't. So, we'll work on it. These are a pear-shaped tomato that is a dark rose with greenish-black shoulders. These seemed to like high tunnel production, but do not like sun exposure on the fruit. They look like they could be very productive, but we have to admit that we have done a poor job with this variety in the past few years. For some reason, they just don't get the attention they need in order to show us what they can do. We'll give them another go in 2014 and we promise to try to be more observant of their needs - if only to determine what we'll do in subsequent seasons with them.
SNACK SIZED TOMATOES
We gave Green Zebra a full trial in 2008 and it immediately established a fan base. We grow all heirloom tomatoes for our CSA, but it still took us a while to take the plunge with a green tomato. People who love a tangy, smaller tomato will enjoy this one. Many have indicated that this tomato should receive top flavor marks. The only reason it does not get a "5 tomato" rating is that there are also numerous people who do NOT like the taste of a Green Zebra. Very few seem to have a neutral opinion! It does take some getting used to figuring out when to pick them (wait until yellow is more prevalent than green on the shoulders). If you wait too long to pick, they tend to fall off the plant. Taste test winner at Roots in 2008. You can easily harvest 50 salad-sized tomatoes per plant. Easy to pick, not prone to cracking. A trial in the high tunnel indicates that it could be a good choice for that application. Again, we do not execute a pruning plan (other than early pruning) in the high tunnel, so we cannot vouch for their production if one is used.
2012 Report - Our attempt at stake and weave trellis failed the Green Zebra's this season. We know many people do a fine job with this trellising technique, but we never find the time to maintain this trellis method. We know part of the issue is that we typically only get one pruning in before we let the plants go. If we pruned once or twice more, they may take to it. Nonetheless, Green Zebra gave us some wonderful fruit. But, any plants that made soil contact tended to have blight or fruit rot issues.
2013 Report - Late planting gave us some odd results this year. But, the Green Zebras in the high tunnel finally had a chance to show us what they could do. We were astounded by the numbers. We've known a perfect year for these plants in field could rate 75 marketable tomatoes per plant. So, we were not completely taken off-guard by these numbers. The issue has always been keeping fruit off of wet ground. This makes the high tunnel a good place for them.
Peach Blow Sutton
We added this variety in 2013 because it gave every indication that it would be very different than much of what we grow. It also got a shot because, as a smaller tomato, we can put it with our other snack tomatoes that people find appealing at our CSA distributions. The plants did not seem to want to get very large and were a bit sparse with leaf cover. However, the fruit didn't seem to have problems with sun scald. Fruits varied from snakc sized to medium with weights ranging from .25 to .4 pounds.
Probably the hardest thing to describe is the fruit itself. They are slightly fuzzy, like Wapsipinicon Peach and have deep rose peach color when ripe. We saw little evidence of cracking. Fruit taste much better when they are softer and they can be very juicy. We suggest that those who grow these pick the fruit and set them on the counter for a few days. Or, conversely, you could try to leave them on the plant longer. For the time being, we'll keep trying this one and see what else we can learn from it.
The Wapsi Peach is a yellow tomato variety that is grown for the lower acid content. For persons who can not eat the more acidic red tomato, they can still enjoy fresh tomatoes. Our farm is less than a mile from the Wapsipinicon River, so it seems appropriate that we should grow them as well. Fruits are 2 inches and peach-shaped, with a little bit of a fuzzy feel! We have found that our pint baskets of these sell out at market when we encourage taste testing! Juicy and delicious. Keep these plants off the ground as the fruit are impossible to clean if they get dirty! We've found that they take to trellising better than caging. A Tammy recommended snack tomato - but you need to be prepared, they are very juicy and will try to decorate your shirt in the process!
These plants have never quite given us consistent production from plant to plant in the field. One plant might give us fifty to seventy and the next will give us very few. They are finicky about how you treat them, but if you hit what they want, they will reward you richly. Keep them off the ground. Keep bad fruit off of the plants. Pick the fruit when they are still a bit firm and let them sit on the counter for a day to soften.
These plants finally showed what they are capable of in the high tunnel in 2012 and 2013. While we were forced to throw all of the fruit in 2012, they were doing well. In 2013, these plants were absolutely incredible, hitting over 150 fruit per plant. We see no reason why they couldn't do this again and could see them approaching 200 in a longer season.
Yellow to orange fruit are excellent for snacking and perhaps even better for roasting and freezing for later use. Plants can be very productive in the right conditions. However, we have found that they can be finicky and produce poorly if they do not like the conditions you give them. They appear to be more sensitive to the plants around them than other varieties, so you will do best if you mulch them well and keep grasses and weeds from them. They also really did not like the chard plant that volunteered and we let grow - so don't do that.
High tunnel production in 2012 gave us a look at what they could do there. We would not be surprised to be pulling over one hundred fruit per plant from the high tunnel in 2014.
We started with Green Zebra and the response was a positive one. People really like how easy it is to just snack on a tomato with great taste - so the size is one of the attractions here. But, some folks don't like the tangy taste of the Green Zebra and appreciate the sweeter Red Zebra. Or, if you can't get past a tomato being green, tis will work just fine. Plants grow similarly to Green Zebra, but peak production tends to be a little bit earlier. These are easy to pick and will work just fine in a steak and weave system. Many of our heirlooms do not like that style of trellising, but these seem to be fine with it. We suspect that 50 fruit per plant in the field is a reasonable average - assuming we don't keep getting exceptional weather every year on the farm.
Overall, this is an easy plant to grow with pretty consistent results. On top of all of that, a nice container of Green Zebras, Red Zebras, Jaune Flammes and Wapsi Peaches is hard to beat.
This is the cherry tomato of choice at GFF. Our criteria are fairly simple. First, they have to be relatively easy to pick. Since these grow in clusters and are larger fruit than many cherry tomatoes, it can't get much better for ease of picking. Obviously, they have to taste good. We like planting one of these near the house for home use. We figure if we like it, then that's a good sign. Fruit should not crack easily when they are picked. Some (as you might see in the removed varieties list below) tend to split as you pick them. Since we are transporting these, we don't want the stem to stay on the fruit. Happily, they come off easily without breaking the skin. And, of course, they need to be reasonably productive. Typically, we do not spend time counting every single cherry tomato, so we don't have an average. On the other hand, we used a sample plant and easily crossed the 100 mark fairly quickly. We have to admit that there will be fewer fruit per plant than many cherry tomatoes that have smaller fruit, but we suspect the weight will be similar in the end.
Hartmann's Yellow Gooseberry
Similar characteristics to Tommy Toe. The biggest difference is that these are yellow. Taste is a bit sweeter. We have a neutral taste rating here because we are guilty of never really focusing on taste testing this one. I think we'll need to fix it this year.
For all practical purposes, this variety is new to us in 2014. The trial in 2013 was terminated due to a shortened season and we needed the dry field space for other plants. We shall see what it does this season.
Very meaty and great for sauces and fresh eating. This variety was one of our first forays into heirloom tomatoes, and their success was the beginning of our interest in going all open-pollinated. These plants tend to hold off blight longer than other heirlooms and produce roma style fruit. Plants need to be trellised off the ground. Like most roma type tomatoes, plants are a bit 'weepy' looking. Fruit can be variable in size, as can the fruit shape. We notice more off-types in the Amish Paste seed than we do any other heirloom variety, but this is not enough to cause us great concern. We hope to encourage more of our members to use these to make their own tomato sauces, freezing them for winter use. Even with our rough fall weather in 2007, these plants still pumped out over 20 fruit per plant. Highly reliable. A GFF preferred variety.
2012 Report - Plants were generally healthy, though some had difficulty when the trellis dropped them and they made soil contact. Production was going to be at the average until we had back to back freezes in mid-September. Net result was yields at half the average, with at least as many fruit still on the vine damaged by the freeze.
We like to make our own tomato sauce and these tomatoes produce meaty, paste fruits that are great for sauces. Ripe fruits have red and yellowish striping and are elongated like most paste tomatoes. These tend to be a little lower in acid content and have fewer seeds than many tomatoes (including Amish Paste). While we use these for sauces, they are very good for fresh eating and add a little eye appeal in a salad.
In the past, we noticed that these fruits are susceptible to getting small brown spots on the skin. This is not necessarily going to be the case for all persons who grow this variety - even using our plants. We believe it is a combination of factors, including insect pests and soil born issues. But, we also wonder if it indicates some other environmental issue. We have not seen the problem the past four years. These spots do not affect the quality of the product and can be easily removed if they bother you. After all, most sauce applications encourage skin removal from the tomato anyway.
We like to say that these plants are the drama queens of the garden. They will look weepy and make you wonder if they are too hot, or too dry or too.. well.. whatever. It's just the nature of the plant. Come September, they'll be loaded with fruit, and that's all we really wanted anyway.
Opalka is a decent sized paste tomato that has hollow chambers. This reduces the amount of liquid in the sauce as you cook it down. It also provides you with the opportunity to pick tomatoes in the Fall and get them to keep longer in a cool dry place. We've had good success pulling these off green before a freeze and letting them ripen inside. Plants are typical paste tomatoes, with thinner leaves and a habit that looks a bit 'weepy.' Picking fruit is easy. Deep cracks can form on the shoulders, which may allow pathogens to enter. This has not been a consistent problem for us and seems to occur in years where there is significant water stress (usually too much).
Opalka won the five year battle between it and Federle. Ever since Polish Linguisa became unavailable to us, we've been trying to determine which of these would be best for carrying the standard. It looks like Opalka wins.
Powers Heirloom is another of those tomatoes where we feel a bit guilty that we haven't given it enough attention to show us what it can do. It stays on the roster in part because we want to have a yellow paste tomato. It also stays on the roster because we have seen glimpses of what it could do. For example, plants were loaded with quality fruit that were just starting to blush in 2012. However, consecutive freezes in early-mid September terminated that crop before we could realize the full potential. The next season wasn't very good for the opposite reason, we just couldn't get things in early enough, so harvest was limited.
In short, we have a good feeling about this variety. However, we're not sure where we'll be able to source seed in the future. So, even if the year is successful, we may be searching for a replacement.
Sale Only Plants
We often start these plants for others to grow. Or, we might grow one plant for ourselves. Otherwise, we don't intend them for production on that farm.
Silvery Fir Tree - Silvery Fir Tree is an heirloom variety that we started growing when someone gave us a seed packet as a gift. The plants are attractive and compact, making excellent container plants. They are also an early, determinant variety, which means they produce a crop all at once, after which the plant dies. Fruits are 3 to 3.5 inches and are a good for most uses, though it is more difficult to make sauces out of these. Many are large enough for slicing. These begin producing tomatoes starting in late July. With some season extension techniques, we may be able to inch production up to an earlier point of the year. We suspect these will do far better in raised beds and know they do best with very heavy grass mulch in the garden. They ride low to the ground, so the mulch helps prevent problems with the ripening fruits. Be prepared to pick them clean when they ripen as fruit will tend to contract diseases that spread to other fruit.
We grow these specifically for those of you who need a patio tomato. They do very well and have made a number of people very happy by producing for a longer period than we often suggest they will. This will occur if you keep the plants picked. Put a little fertilizer in the pot every 3 weeks and you'll have some fabulous tomatoes on a plant that is small enough for you to move around and deal with. We grow about 4 dozen for sale every Spring. Buy them up, we don't need to grow plants in pots when we have 600 or so plants in the ground!
Federle - Federle and Opalka are both paste varieties that tend towards open cavity types. Thus, they are meatier and can provide you with a thicker sauce with less cooking time. Federle tends towards slightly larger fruit and slightly fewer per plant. In the end, Opalka edged Federle out for our farm production. We will have some of these for sale in 2014.
Kellogg's Breakfast - Slightly bigger and smoother than Dr Wyche's Yellow, we ran a couple year trial of these two on our farm and Dr Wyche defended its spot at Genuine Faux Farm. Kellogg's have slightly smaller plants than Dr Wyche (typically very large plants), but have less lobing. In wet seasons, lobes are good places for rot problems to start, which is why we trialed these in the first place. Kellogg's is a fine tomato, with good taste. It just didn't quite crack the lineup.
Aunt Ruby's German Green - You could say that these are the green companion tomato to German Pink. They reach a similar size and have a similar shape. They even set a similar number of tomatoes. But, setting and getting to ripeness before fruit problems are a different matter. In the end, we liked Tasty Evergreen or taste and the slightly smaller size. If either/both were more reliable in their production, we'd have no trouble including both in our production lists. Since they aren't...
Ponderosa Red - This variety reminded us of the typical, nice 'beefsteak' type of tomato. Each fruit has lobes and a fire engine red color when ripe. Taste was certainly appropriate for a beefsteak and production levels were between 10 and 15 per plant. We had issues with plants not wanting to give up their fruit during picking. As a result, if you pick with just hands, you'll end up tearing up some of the fruit in the effort. You really do need to cut them free. Fruit also liked to get embedded in the stems, making it even harder to pick. Seed Savers took the choice away when they stopped offering the seed. So, in a sense, we were saved from having to fight the plants for their fruit again. If they reappeared, we might still be tempted to give them another go.
Stupice - These are a nice, red snack-sized tomato that is probably the earliest yielding tomato we have ever grown. However, their earliness is not as reliable as you might like them to be. They are great in the years they take off and produce early because they will taste fabulous when you get them out of the field in July. But, once other tomatoes come in, they lose alot of their luster. The are an indeterminant, so will produce until frost, but get more issues with cracking the longer the plant goes. This is, in part, because we don't always keep them picked. However, if you want an early snack sized tomato, this is a good choice. We did grow it for 8 years, so it isn't all bad. We've just found that our farm is better off concentrating efforts to getting earlier Italian Heirlooms or earlier snack tomatoes in the high tunnel.
Topaz - We decided to trial Topaz and Violet Jasper as additional snack tomatoes in 2011. These were our first foray into trying a couple of varieties from Baker Creek and were attracted by the similarities to Red Zebra and Green Zebra, along with the suggestion that they were 'highly productive.' Yes, there were many tomatoes on these plants. But, the taste did not rival the snack tomatoes we already had. And, it seemed like the plants were less happy with our environs than maybe they are in gardens south of zone 4B.
Violet Jasper - As with Topaz. Another note about both of these. There appeared to be some seed issues. Some plants here produced the snack size (about .2 lbs) we wanted. Most, produced thin skinned cherry sized tomatoes. We've seen this before with open pollinated varieties and it just means the seed producers need to go back to some older seed and do some work on selection.
Beam's Yellow Pear - Tammy loved snacking on these, hence they stayed in the garden despite difficulties keeping them picked. Fruits are pear shaped and roughly the size of a cherry tomato. Wash them, put them on the counter and let the family eat them as is. Or, you can put them in salads or similar dishes. Insects tend to sample fruits leaving a single blemish or hole, They are also prone to having a single vertical crack on a number of fruits when watering is inconsistent. The first few fruits ripen in early August, producing until frost. These plants do volunteer freely unless you clean up every fallen tomato!
Why'd we drop it? - Chalk it up to our tendency to drop tomatoes that make picking difficult. The biggest knock on these is the tendency to have splits. Sorting through them as you pick is both irritating and time consuming. They still taste great. The plants still grow like a weed. If we were gardening for ourselves you can bet we'd grow one so Tammy could have her bowl of snacks. But, we're quite happy now with Tommy Toe and Hartmann's as our cherry tomato picks. We sometimes still succomb to planting one by the house for snacking.
Roman Candle - A yellow roma type tomato with lower acid content. The taste is not outstanding, but they mix well with other tomatoes in sauces, adding color and a different layer of taste. Production levels were ridiculous in our trial year (2008) with over 90 fruits per plant coming in. Plants do tend to drop fruit, but the fruit are sturdy enough to easily handle this mistreatment. They hold well after ripening, making it easier to let them sit for a while until you have time to work with them. This is an oddity - we actually dropped this cultivar and then reintroduced it in 2012. We intend on giving it another year. The main reason for the change was the opportunity to try another strain of this variety. We admit it was on a short leash and it was not given the best attention. If it were supplied by one of our main seed suppliers, we might bring it back just because it is so fun having a plant be this productive.
Cherokee Purple - This larger, 'black' or 'purple' tomato comes highly recommended by the other farm participants in our 2008 heirloom tomato trials. They claimed that the flavor is excellent and their CSA members grab these before most other varieties. We planted 60 plants in 2008 for research purposes. They were right, the taste was excellent. On the other hand, the plants succombed to blight early and there was a great deal of fruit loss in both 2007 and 2008. The taste is good enough that we kept fighting to find ways to make these plants happy enough to yield sufficiently to keep all of its fans healthy. We find the taste is similar to the Black Krims and feel that all black tomatoes will like dryer years.
Why'd we drop it? - We ran Cherokee Purple head to head with Black Krim from 2007 to 2010. They were in all kinds of weather and we treated them every bit as well as Black Krim. Simply put, Black Krim won. We found no other reason to maintain Cherokee Purple in our grow list. The only difference we found was that Cherokee Purple, on average, is slightly bigger. Otherwise, they favor the same conditions and Black Krim has outperformed Cherokee Purple on our farm each and every year. If Cherokee Purple works for you, that is wonderful, but it won't continue on our farm.
Siberian - Determinate variety. This is supposed to be one of the best early tomato varieties available. Taste is reported to be closer to mid-season form than many earlies. Northern gardeners have reported extremely good success with Siberian. Fruits are firm and are a uniform salad size tomato. It is a bit unfair to talk about taste with this tomato. It is an early variety - so it can't be compared with some of the wonderful later cultivars like Black Krim and German Pink - but we do that anyway with our rating system. But, if you compare it with other tomatoes you might find during the point these are ripening, they are quite good!
Why'd we drop it? - It seems clear to us that this variety is best used further North. And, head to head, we preferred Stupice, which is an indeterminate. These smaller plants might go well in your garden, but they don't provide the leaf cover we want to prevent scalding of the fruit. While it may seem like we don't like them at all, we did grow them for four years. The coolest of these years saw excellent production levels. 2012 was quite warm and Siberian suffered.
Christmas Grapes - Chistmas Grapes are a little smaller than the standard cherry tomato and grow in clusters on the plant (like a grape). We'd been hearing raves about this type of snack tomato and thought we'd give an heirloom variety of this sort a try. These should be good on salads or simply place them in a bowl on the table and watch them disappear.
Why'd we drop it? - Don't take our dropping this variety as an indicator that it isn't a good one. It did, in fact, produce well and the fruit was, indeed, tasty enough. However, we find ourselves moving away from smaller cherry tomatoes since we just cannot keep up with them. Christmas Grapes had a tendency to drop their fruit when ripe - which can be annoying if you are picking rapidly and bump a branch. Suddenly, there are a bunch of fruit on the ground. The home gardener may very well appreciate this one and will never have an empty bowl once it starts producing. Some tendency to blight.
Brandywine - An extremely well-known, and therefore, popular heirloom variety. Typically produces pink/red fruits on the order of 1lb in size.
Why'd we drop it? - No offense to Brandywine lovers, but we can do better than this on our farm. In head to head trials, German Pink plants resisted blight better, produced more fruit and were more resilient than Brandywine. In our opinion, the taste of German Pink and quality of the fruit is an improvement over Brandywine. So, we will grow German Pink for our large pink tomato - it appears to like us (and our farm) better than Brandywine. We cannot speak for people with different locations/soils - perhaps you will find Brandywine beats German Pink in your own head to head trial?
Soldacki - We tried Soldacki in an effort to find a slightly smaller pink variety. We love our German Pinks, but many people have asked if we could find a variety that isn't quite so large.
Why'd we drop it? - Once again, we liked German Pink better. And, Soldacki were the same size range (just a tad smaller) with a little more tendency to crack at the top. We did notice that the fruit of Soldacki are not as smoothly round as German Pink tends to be. We did not particularly feel the taste was as good as German Pink, but that is only our opinion. These ARE meaty and the internal consistency is very much like German Pink and Hungarian Heart. We wonder if this variety might do better in a sandier soil.
Long Tom - We grew this one at the request of K&K Gardens in Hawkeye. It had been on our radar as a possible roma type, but we've been so happy with Amish Paste, our motivation hasn't been there. So, in 2008, we had a small trial of these to compare head to head with Amish Paste, Federle and Opalka. In the end, it was Amish Paste and Opalka that win and stay with us.
Why'd we drop it? - At a 28.1 fruit per plant rate as compared to rates in the 30's by it's competitors (except Federle), we felt this variety had to show some other quality to stay. But, it didn't show us anything in terms of plant strength, timing for ripening, taste or fruit quality. In short, it's a fine variety that was outstripped by others this year. We still like Amish Paste and Speckled Roman best for paste tomatoes. Keith at K&K was happy with the Long Tom plants, so they do well enough. It may be a city garden vs country garden issue!
Polish Linguisa - These are long, red, hollow fruit that are excellent for processing and stuffing. We found that the fruit hold well on the counter, possibly in part because of the hollow cavities combined with firm flesh. These are later season harvest fruit and the last pick prior to frost turns well on the counter.
Why'd we drop it? - It is NOT for lack of consistency. Fruit production rates of 24, 29.9, 26.8 over three years with high variation in weather characteristics tells me this is a very good plant to have in production. Our main issue is that we are required to place an order in a catalogue from which we order little, if anything, else. With shipping, we end up paying a good deal more for the seed. Our trials of Opalka and Federle found us two varieties that have similar characteristics. Clearly, if they have proven unreliable, we would have come back to Polish Linguisa. Opalka IS a Polish heirloom and may, in fact, be closely related.
Purple Russian - After a trial plant found a home in our garden in 2006 (they were on a 'free' table -we had to put them in the ground), we had to try them the next year. The trial plant was put in late and did not have a chance to ripen most of its fruit. But, the sheer volume of fruit on that lone plant encouraged a full blown trial in 2007. As luck would have it, most purples had trouble with the August rains. These plants were a complete failure. We have to give them a real shot at success, so they were given one more try in 2008.
Why'd we drop it? - We suspect you have to baby these plants with irrigation, heavy mulch and perfect weather - perhaps planting them a tad later so they don't ripen in warmer weather. We mulch, but only irrigate in extreme circumstances. Perfect weather? Hah! Fruits have a terrible tendency to split at the point of beginning to ripen. They're too soft to pick and move to market. What's worse, they don't have an outstanding flavor. Yes, they are ok. But, that certainly isn't sufficient to make up for the terrible shortcomings. In our area, at least, we recommend you stay away from this one unless you REALLY want to prove us wrong.
Isis Candy - this variety tastes just fine. It produces well enough. However, it was the first to succomb to late blight and it has a terrible tendency to split when picked. Neither of these endear them to us as we need plants to produce high volumes of fruit that transport well enough to make our CSA members happy. You may like to try this in your garden. In fact, home gardeners who bought these plants from us were pleased with them, but also noted the cracking issue. This is, however, NOT an issue if you intend to just eat the tomatoes right off the plant!
Lemon Drop - We have had requests to grow a yellow cherry variety that happens to be a hybrid. Since we are committed to growing open-pollinated tomatoes, we are attempting to fill that request by finding a variety that has some relation to the requested hybrid. Well, here it is! This snack tomato tends to disappear fairly quickly when it makes appearances in the CSA snack tomato option. Leave the stem on when picking these and be very gentle as they tend to split easily. Pulling the stem usually results in a split as well. Of course, take the stem off when you eat them!
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tomato photos are GFF photos