“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” -Lewis Grizzard
Although our recent cold snap didn’t kill our tomatoes, the season is definitely wrapping up. Our daytime temperatures remain warm and pleasant, but overnight lows stay steady in the low 50s, and tomatoes do not thrive in this weather; as one would expect, they start to taste refrigerated. To mark the natural conclusion of the warm-weather crops, we offer you a review of this season’s tomatoes.
Peacevine Cherry was a new tomato for us this season and one of our top two of the varieties we grew. This tiny heirloom cherry tomato is a prolific indeterminate producer on small, compact plants, which would make it ideal for container tomatoes. The tomato was dehybridized from the F1 Sweet 100 by Dr. Alan Kapuler; it’s called Peacevine because it contains exceptionally high amounts of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a naturally-occurring amino acid that acts as a sort of gentle tranquilizer. It’s also one of the tomato varieties highest in vitamin C. We loved its punchy sweet-tart flavor and diminutive size and will definitely plant it again.
Red Pear is a classic heirloom. The flavor isn’t spectacular, but its productivity somewhat makes up for what it lacks in palate fireworks. It’s a perfect snacking tomato and ideal in salads; I also like to roast trays of these tomatoes in a moderate oven with lots of olive oil and basil and garlic, then keep them in the fridge for adding to pastas and layering on toasted sourdough. Red Pear isn’t showy or flashy, but rather loyal and consistent, and the tomato garden needs some stalwart supporting players in addition to its stars.
This tomato is named for Alan Chadwick, a brilliant English horticulturalist and a leading innovator of many modern organic farming techniques. Chadwick Cherry was our first producer this year, and offered lots of flavorful fruits that were a bit smaller than a golf ball. The plants themselves were massive and sprawling, and will need better staking and support in future seasons. The Chadwick Cherry tomatoes we grew weren’t absolute knockouts in terms of flavor, but their early ripening and high productivity means we’ll likely grow these again.
Possibly Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye?
These tomatoes were a bit of a surprise; about seventy percent of the plants I had marked as Green Zebra actually turned out red and striped. This could be an odd cross-pollination, which is uncommon in tomatoes but not impossible, or it could simply mean that seeds were mixed up. (Remember to separate and label your seeds carefully!) No matter how they appeared in the garden, the tomatoes were delicious; I plan to save seeds from these to see if they breed true next season.
These Jaune Flamme tomatoes, which translates from French as “yellow flame,” are making a repeat appearance. I love their bright apricot-orange color and their sweet-tart flavor. Our plants weren’t as productive this year as last, but that may be due to the odd weather we had. These tomatoes hold their color when simmered or roasted, and I made a gorgeous sauce from them last fall. I likely won’t have enough of these to repeat that this season, but we’ll certainly grow Jaune Flamme again.
Like its sister Red Pear, Yellow Pear tomatoes can be counted on to produce massive quantities of small, bright yellow fruit. Unfortunately, we found these to be rather mealy this year, and a friend who also grew these a mile up the road had the same experience. I think our elevation and cool overnight temperatures aren’t kind to this tomato; these do grow really well on the Front Range. This season’s lackluster results mean we likely won’t devote space to Yellow Pear again, despite their productivity.
Though most of our Green Zebra plants turned out to be something else entirely, a few are clearly true Green Zebras. This is a stunning tomato, honestly. It can be difficult to tell when it ripens, but the bright green and yellow striping is spectacular in the garden and on the plate. We focus on smaller tomatoes because of our short and erratic growing season; this is the largest tomato we grow and its lovely coloration and tart flavor means we’ll probably keep this on as a standard.
And finally, far and away this season’s top pick: Lucky Tiger, developed by a legendary tomato breeder named Fred Hempel. The tomato itself is an oval shape, like a Roma or San Marzano, and its coloration is a striated red and green with hints of gold. As with Green Zebra it’s challenging to tell when this tomato is fully ripe; you have to go more by the feel of the flesh rather than its color. When ready, though, the flavor is incomparable. It is a perfect blend of tart and sweet, with jolts of acidity, and it’s a tomato that demands to be appreciated on its own or with just olive oil and salt. This is a stunner of a tomato, both visually and on the palate, and will be a staple at Quiet Farm in future growing seasons.
And thus concludes our 2020 tomato season. We’d love to know what you grew this year! Was there a particular tomato you loved? Something you had high hopes for but that ultimately didn’t impress? Are you saving tomato seeds? Please share in the comments below!