Seed catalogs have been arriving in my mailbox for two months now, and in another two months tomato seedlings will be coming up in the greenhouse. For all of us northerners who start our summer vegetables from seed, it’s time to consider which varieties to order, or re-order, or beg from friends in the next few weeks. For my record and, I hope, a little help with your own choices, here is the fourth installment of my annual Tomato Report. For reports from prior years, click here.
Although we had another cool summer in 2012, unusually dry, warm weather in September and October made for an abundant and disease-free tomato harvest. All the varieties that produced well in 2011 did so again in 2012. This year’s report focuses on two varieties that were new to my garden as well as the year’s standouts.
Indigo Rose, a new selection from Jim Myers of Oregon State University, is a large cherry tomato that’s purple—eggplant purple, not muddy purple like a “black” tomato—with a green patch on the bottom side. When the tomato ripens, the green patch turns orange-red. My single plant set fruit early, but the fruits hung hard on the vine all summer before finally ripening in early October. Harvest was a bit of trouble, since I had to either lie on the ground looking up to see the red patches or else palpate each tomato. Although the fruits looked pretty in mixed-tomato salads, their flavor was uninteresting. If I grow Indigo Rose again, I’ll try it in a green-tomato pickle.
Developed by Jim Baggett at Oregon State University, Siletz produces medium-size red tomatoes, supposedly very reliably in our region. My friend Sally started my single Siletz plant. Although it was bigger and sturdier and quicker to set fruit than all the seedlings I started myself, the fruits were few and slow to ripen. I may try this cultivar again another year.
Jersey Devil ripened well this year, unlike in 2011. This horn-shaped tomato, about 5 inches long, has deep red, very meaty flesh that’s surprisingly sweet and tart.
Anna Russian was once again my biggest producer of large tomatoes. (See a description of this oxheart tomato in my 2011 report. My friend Sally, who grew Anna Russian for the first time this year, had great success with it as well.
Again I grew loads of Jaune Flamme, the French heirloom with the creamy orange-yellow flesh. For some reason many of the fruits were quite small, not much larger than an inch in diameter. Could Jaune Flamme have crossed with a yellow cherry? I don’t see how.
My other big producer, as usual, was little Juliet, a hybrid (see my 2009 report).
Varieties I may try for the first time in 2013 include two I tasted at the home of my friend Lisa: Sungold, a yellow cherry tomato with a tropical tang, and Purple Cherokee, a delicious black tomato similar to Carbon. I may also try a tomato recommended by Martin Smith: Ramapo, an old hybrid from Rutgers University. And I must get some more seeds of Black Prince (see my 2011 report), which I missed last year.
15 thoughts on “The Tomato Report 2012”
We are also going through the catalogs and choosing our seeds. I can tomatoes and love the San Marzano. The plum tomatoes were really big and easy to peel and seed. Last year I also planted Bolsano, which is a round cooking/eating tomato. It reminded me of the Rutgers. We only put in a few of the fresh eating tomatoes. We do 1 grape, 1 beefsteak and one medium size such as celebrity. We had excellent luck with all the tomatoes last year after we installed a drip irrigation system.
I wasn’t thrilled with Indigo Rose, either. Ours were hard and the flavor wasn’t great, and I do value earlier ripening with a season as short as ours is. We love sungolds– ours always do well.
Thanks to Linda and the commentators for their reports. I had a terrible tomato year last year; I suspect that I was the problem. That said, I tried Siletz for the 1st time last year and was very disappointed. In 2011, I had fantastic luck with Amish Paste, so I’ll probably try that again this year. I didn’t grow enough to make tomato paste, but it was a decent slicer and I dried so much that I’m still using those up.
I’m impressed with your report. I always mean to do one, but don’t usually follow through. I had the same experience with Indigo Rose and won’t be planting it again. We always plant a sun gold without fail (it is the tomato that got me hooked on tomatoes). And I must put in a plug for San Marzano Gigtante 3 if you like to dry tomatoes. It has outstanding flavor dried (http://grovegarden.blogspot.com/2010/12/tomato-success.html).
Thanks for that recommendation, Colette. Everyone, San Marzano Gigante 3 is available from Territorial Seed Company, here in Oregon.
The Cherokee Purple is probably my favorite tomato… we have mixed luck growing it ourselves, but we have mixed luck with tomatoes, period, in our space (not enough sun), and we have farmer friends here in NC who do pretty well with it every year. I’d be curious to know how it grows in Oregon.
Cherokee Purple has grown well for friends of mine in Oregon. A year from now I’ll probably report how well it’s done for me.
I gave up trying to grow tomatoes for preserving, the climate here in Seattle so unreliable, and instead purchase cases of mixed heirlooms directly from the farmers. But the hybrid sungold cherry tomato is a variety I grow every year. Reliable and delicious!
Thanks for sharing! I’ve just started canning this year and only have a small garden. Picking tomatoes to grow is so hard for me. Do you recommend any particular seed catalogs you reccommend?
My old favorites among seed catalogs are Nichols, here in Linn County, Oregon, and Pine Tree, in Maine. If you’re primarily looking for tomato seeds, you might try Totally Tomatoes or Tomato Growers Supply Company. A regional seed company may have seeds particularly well suited to your climate.
Without a doubt, ‘Sungold’ is the uncontested favorite in my house! It ripens early, bears abundantly and long, and is fabulous just off the vine, roasted or sauteed. Sandwiches, salads, pizza, pasta–we put them in everything!
What are your favorite seed catalogs?
Among my old favorites are Nichols, Pinetree, Johnny’s, and Evergreen (the last sells only Asian varieties). But there are many, many good seed companies in the United States. If you’re looking for any particular seed varieties, you can find them by searching the Internet. Then choose a company that has several items you want. I try to buy as many of my seeds as possible from a local company, as much to support local business as to help ensure that the seeds will be suitable for my climate.
Sorry to say something negative about a tomato – I mean, I don’t actually *blame* the tomato itself – but I had the same experience with Indigo Rose.
More recent introductions in the Indigo series are much better than Indigo Rose. Here are four in the Territorial catalog.