This year will potentially mark a drastic shift in philosophy for our tomatoes that will reverberate for years to come. Whether the potential shift is permanent or not will depend upon how the tomatoes grow; and for that, we will have to wait, and wait, and wait. The shift in philosophy and the corresponding change in varieties being grown, is a shift from heirloom varieties to a greater mix of hybrid varieties. I feel like Luke Skywalker would have felt had he chosen to join his father on the darkside.
I have known about the claimed benefits of hybrid tomatoes for years. I just never found that the potential benefits outweighed the whole point of growing tomatoes in the first place: TASTE! I always associated hybrid tomatoes with the near tasteless varieties at the market. I believe the poor quality of tomatoes at the market to be a primary driver of the existence of small home gardens. If market tomatoes were any good, would many home gardens exist? I doubt it, aside from a few specialty items and maybe herbs. The allure and promise of taste beyond words is the point of growing tomatoes, a gateway garden vegetable that opens the door to endless possibility, not to mention near obsessive ponderings.
Anyway, I dipped my toe into the hybrid world last summer growing two hybrid varieties with great success. They grew in great quantities, there were no disease issues, they were meatier than even the heirloom paste tomato varieties I grew, had good taste, and, they were a better size fruit. While I love the look and taste of Striped German tomatoes, who really wants a 1.5 pound tomato, let alone whole vines of them?
This year’s trial hybrids promise to mimic heirlooms in look and taste, but be heavier producers of 1/2 pound tomatoes – a far better size. I am also trying a few new hybrid cherry varieties. I am also cutting back the number of vines I plant. One row I had last year was in the way of other plants, and a row in the main garden overly shaded the beets. I am blaming poor beet production the last couple of years on the addition of that row of tomatoes and a blackberry vine that grew out of control, combining their efforts to shade the beets.
The table below has the varieties I am growing this year.
|Cherokee Purple||A deep purple heirloom variety. Great flavor. We have had success growing this variety in the past.|
|Striped German||A red/yellow bicolor heirloom variety. Large meaty tomatoes that look and taste great. Grown in past.|
|BHN-871||One of the hybrid varieties tried last summer A high-yielding, slightly flattened orange tomato. Disease resistant hybrid.|
|Charger||The second hybrid we grew last summer with success. Also a hybrid, disease resistant, determinant variety. A high-yielding medium-sized slicing red tomato.|
|Sunrise Bumble Bee||A new cherry hybrid variety for us. Red and orange swirls inside and out.|
|Purple Bumble Bee||Another new hybrid cherry variety for us. Dark purple tomato with metallic green stripes.|
|Marnero||One of three new hybrid beefsteak tomatoes for us. This variety promises to look and taste like Cherokee Purple tomatoes, but have better yield, disease resistance, and produce fruit about 8 ounces.|
|Margold||Second of three new hybrid beefsteak tomatoes for us. This yellow-red bi-color variety promises to look and taste like Striped German tomatoes, but have better yield, disease resistance, and produce fruit about 8 ounces.|
|Marbonne||Third of three new hybrid beefsteak tomatoes for us. This red beefsteak variety promises to taste like a French heirloom, but have better yield, disease resistance, and produce fruit about 8 ounces. We will be comparing this variety’s taste and production to Charger, which we grew with success last summer.|