Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tomato Report Card

Still shopping for tomato plants? Late May-Early June is not too late to put them in the ground, especially with our unusually cool spring here in Northern California.

Here is our garden report card for tomatoes from last year, 2009. 

Remember, though, every year is different when growing tomatoes. And your results will vary, guaranteed. That Celebrity which seems to perform well each year? It could suddenly take a nosedive, for no apparent reason. And with the wacky weather we have had so far in 2010...all bets are off. But if you are undecided, consider the ones here that have passing grades. Or, flip a coin.

Note: the letters "V" (verticillium wilt), "F" (fusarium wilt), "N" (nematode), "T" (tobacco mosaic virus) and/or "A"(alternaria root rot) refer to the disease or pest resistance of some of these hybrid varieties.

Sweet Gold

FT Hybrid. Vigorous vines produce abundant clusters of 1/2 oz. bright yellow-gold cherry tomatoes with delicious sweet flavor. These tomatoes are naturally sweeter than red cherry varieties with a fruitier taste. Indeterminate. 60 days. Our favorite cherry tomato from 2007. Sept. 2008 report: Our favorite cherry tomato of 2008! Productive and tasty. Backyard visitors couldn't help but munch them straight from the vine. Can Sweet Gold Three-Peat in 2009?

Tastiest, sweetest of all the tomatoes. Excellent in salads. Very prolific all season. A+

Lemon Boy

 VFN Hybrid. The first lemon yellow, not golden, tomato variety. Extremely vigorous plants produce large harvests of attractive fruit that weighs 8 ozs. or more. Flavor is outstanding, mild and sweet yet tangy and definitely not bland.  Indeterminate. 72 days. Lemon Boy was very prolific, tasty and disease free in 2008 in our garden, so it gets planted again!

Very productive. Extremely flavorful. Great in salads. Started harvesting in late May! Some cracking, but tolerable. A


Dr. Wyche

  Heirloom tomato. Golden-yellow fruit is beautiful, unblemished and smooth, and varies from 10 ozs. to 1 lb. The shape is that of a typical beefsteak with very meaty interiors. Huge, vigorous plants produce well. Indeterminate. 80 days. New for us in 2009.

  SEPTEMBER 2009 REPORT CARD: Very prolific for a large yellow tomato! Big and juicy, with a great, sweet flavor. Some blossom end rot, but tolerable. A

Bloody Butcher

Determinate heirloom. 50-60 days to maturity Medium sized, deep-red skinned tomato. Fruits generally weigh 3-5 oz. An impulse seed rack buy at the supermarket. I couldn't resist the name. Sept. 2008 report: Bloody Butcher was quite productive throughout the season. Rather juicy, so not ideal for canning. But quite tasty in salads.

Begun harvest in May! Very prolific. Juicy, rich tomato flavor. A

Big Beef

Ready for harvest 80 to 85 days after sowing. Vigorous, indeterminate plants produce 4 to 6 inch tomatoes which are crack resistant. Sweet, slightly acidic flavor. An All-America Selections Award Winner. Resistant to V, F1, F2, N, TMV, and ASC (Alternaria Stem Canker). 

Sept. 2008 report: Probably the best overall tomato in our garden in 2008. Big Beef was excellent either sliced or for canning. Easy to peel for canning. Productive early and often!

: Produced all season. Not that "big",though. Medium sized. Cracking, some blossom end rot. B+


Kellogg's Breakfast

1 lb., deep orange beefsteak heirloom tomatoes that are thin-skinned, meaty, and have a fantastic sweet, tangy flavor. Juice and inside flesh have the same bright orange color as orange juice. Indeterminate. 80 Days.

Not as productive as another big yellow tomato, Dr. Wyche. But very tasty! B

Zapotec Pleated

A prolific and exotic heirloom Mexican Indian variety. Deeply pleated, almost triangular in shape, pink-red fruit with hollow interior. Indeterminate. 85 Days. Tends to take its time to ripen, and then overripens quickly. Very good when used at its peak of flavor.

  SEPTEMBER 2009 REPORT CARD: Lots of foliage, outgrew its cage three times. Didn't ripen until September, but a very good flavor! And, as before, tends to overripen quickly. Use it or lose it! B

Black Cherry

  A round heirloom cherry tomato, sweet yet rich and complex. Produced in abundance on vigorous, tall plants. Indeterminate. 65 days. New for us in 2009.

Nice looking and prolific. But for a cherry tomato, not sweet at all. More of an acid tomato flavor. Meaty. B-


Viva Italia

Vigorous plants yield an abundance of 3 oz. fruits. 80 days. A good paste tomato for soups and ketchup. Vigorous plants yield an abundance of 3 oz. fruits. Disease resistant. Determinate. Sept. 2008 report: Excellent for canning purposes. Harvested 30 pounds of this for August canning.

  SEPTEMBER 2009 REPORT CARD: Productive, easy to peel, but a bit smaller fruit that usual. C+

Costaluto Genovese

Old Italian heirloom variety that grows 6-8 ounce large, meaty, semi-pleated red fruits in abundance. While it is not the prettiest of the tomatoes, it can be tasty. Grew this in 2007, and it was tasty...when it was producing, which wasn't long. Susceptible to blossom end rot.

: Mediocre production, smaller fruit than in past years. Some sunscald. C-

First Prize

 A VFFNT Hybrid. Exclusive release of Tomato Growers Supply Company, chosen for its high yields, good disease resistance, mid-early maturity, and flavor.  Indeterminate. 75 days. Sept. 2008 report: Good looking, meaty. Good choice for main season tomato.

Smaller than previous years, not productive until late Aug. C-


A 1984 ALL-AMERICA SELECTIONS WINNER. A flavorful, firm 8 to 12 oz. hybrid fruit on strong vines with good cover and outstanding disease resistance (VFNTA). Large clusters of consistently large, beautiful tomatoes. Determinate. 70 days. We like it so much, we plant it every year. A Farmer Fred Favorite. Sept. 2008 report: mediocre to poor production. Hoping for a return to glory in 2009!

  SEPTEMBER 2009 REPORT CARD: WTF? This year's crop was late, erratic, with small fruit. Plant topped out at about three feet. Me thinks this was not a Celebrity! D

Super Italian Paste

Paste tomatoes shaped like banana peppers are about 6 inches long, deep orange-red and sweet with very little juice and few seeds. These tomatoes are all meat and supposedly make great paste and sauce. Heirloom variety. Indeterminate. 73 days. New for us in 2009.

Productive, but bland. Lots of blossom end rot. C-


Marianna's Peace

Marianna's Peace is a late season, indeterminate, heirloom potato-leaf variety (80-85 days) from Czechoslovakia that produces relatively lower yields of 1-2 lb., pink/red, beefsteak-styled fruit.

Sept. 2008 Report: Mediocre production, but the tastiest tomato in 2008, especially in salads. Worth another try in 2009.

  SEPTEMBER 2009 REPORT CARD: Produced only one or two tomatoes. Blossom end rot. Pulled the plant in August. F

Giant Belgium

Developed in Ohio, this heirloom variety is distinctive for its fruit that averages 2 lbs., but has been known to grow to an enormous 5 lbs. Tomatoes are dark pink and solid meat. Indeterminate. 90 days. New for us in 2009.  PULLED OUT 7/14/09. Diagnosis: late blight. Plant was never the picture of health.

SEPTEMBER 2009 REPORT CARD: Produced one tomato. Pulled in July, due to extensive late blight. F


Four of the so-so or underperforming tomatoes - Super Italian Paste, Viva Italia, Celebrity and First Prize - all were planted in the same bed. September pH test: 7.0, so, it's not that. No tomatoes for that bed this year!

And to help you remember what's what, be sure to include tomato labels on your plants in the garden; back that up by writing down the names and performances of the plants in a pre-formatted garden diary, or something as simple as a blank daily calendar book or spiral notebook. We have used the same daily calendar book for our garden notations since 1990, providing us an easy memory jog for plant names and how they performed.


  1. THIS is a tremendous resource. Thanks for posting the information. This season I'm growing nothing but heirlooms from seed. We'll see.

  2. Fred,

    The MP you gave me has two tomatoes on it already! I didn't think it possible -- but you appear to have handed me another MP WINNER. Like you -- I had my problems with production -- that is until last year. Probably harvested 50-70 gorgeous MP's last year. Like any heirloom -- it's hit or miss. Your new Italian varieties are also producing fruit. My plants are really beginning to take off now -- but I'll be lucky if I harvest anything from those by the end of July. Late year for me!


  3. Thanks for another great post! beautiful picture too. Never had any luck finding Kellogg's Breakfast plant this year (we love them)With this rain here - I worry about how well our tomatoes will do. Any thoughts on that? We are in Martinez -


  4. I would imagine that Rose would have the Kellogg's Breakfast tomato plant at her nursery in Vacaville, Morningsun Herb Farm. And look for her big tomato tasting event at the nursery in August!