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Tomatoes: Best tasting Zone 8-9 tomatoes

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margaran
(Maggie) Jacksonvill, FL
(Zone 9a)

January 11, 2009
12:44 PM

Post #5991860

Hi,

I'm quite new to growing tomatoes and never before in the heat of Florida. The only tomatoes I've grown previously are Better Boy and Big Boy- nice tomatoes, not as rich in flavor as I'd like. Most important is full rich balanced flavor, not overly sweet; meaty, firm. Yield is not a big deal if the flavor is wonderful. I would like some slicing tomatoes, some paste tomatoes, and some grape tomatoes- our Publix carries Santa Sweets and these taste/smell most like a real tomato to me but they're tough to slice on a sandwich!. I've been looking @ tomatoes in the Territorial Seed Company catalog http://www.territorialseed.com/prod_detail_list/s because they have other products I want.
I've been looking @:
Super Marzano http://www.territorialseed.com/product/1187/s
Purple Calabash http://www.territorialseed.com/product/1206/s
Old German http://www.territorialseed.com/product/7286/s
Cabernet http://www.territorialseed.com/product/1186/s
Sweethearts http://www.territorialseed.com/product/7283/s

I'm also interested in flavorful, crisp cucumbers. I've eaten pickling cucumbers fresh and they were quite good. Are there bigger (faster to peel in quantity) cucumbers that fit the bill? I was looking @:
Fountain http://www.territorialseed.com/product/633/s
Alibi http://www.territorialseed.com/product/633/s

Thanks for looking and any advice you can give. If there are tomatoes from another company that better fit the bill, I'd appreciate your recommendations.

Maggie
twiggybuds
Moss Point, MS
(Zone 8b)

January 11, 2009
3:38 PM

Post #5992258

Maggie whatever you grow, start your seeds real soon. Timing is very important to beat the heat. You want some good fruit set before it really gets hot and start some new plants in early July for your fall crop.

I'm in the same position as you in that I'm searching for my ideals. All I can tell you is if it sounds good, try it. Taste is such a personal thing and everyone has to deal with different soil, weather, insects, etc. You can learn a lot of problem solving and get ideas for an endless wish list right here.
texasrockgarden
Canyon Lake, TX
(Zone 8b)

January 11, 2009
3:48 PM

Post #5992293

Isn't best taste sort of like what is your favorite color?

Just kidding.

Happy Gardening.
margaran
(Maggie) Jacksonvill, FL
(Zone 9a)

January 11, 2009
7:30 PM

Post #5993141

TX- You're right of course. I was hoping to at least weed out tomatoes that clearly weren't going to meet the criteria. As in... a local person told me to get Celebrity- that's what she grows. I've tasted her tomatoes- too bland and that fell in line with what others on DG said. So, unless I hear to the contrary, I'll get the above.

Maggie
feldon30
Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

January 12, 2009
4:03 AM

Post #5994906

Can't say I've ever heard anyone have great success with Old German.
Suze_

(Zone 7b)

January 12, 2009
8:41 AM

Post #5995332

When I think of tomato seed vendors, Territorial doesn't tend to come to mind for me as one of the first choices - because their selection seems to be targeted towards cool zone growing. They also seem to carry a lot of "resistant" and mkt/greenhouse vars, which aren't always at the top of my list in terms of great flavor. But, they are a very good company to do business with if they happen to have what you are looking for.

I'll make some suggestions/comments, based on what they carry for choices.

2/5 of your possibles are grapes. I would suggest taking that down to one, to either make room for another slicer, or at least pick another cherry type instead for a little more variety. Sungold F1 might be a good choice.

Old German - usually not that productive (especially in warmer climes), plus I think there are better tasting bicolors. Kellogg's Breakfast (orange) might be a better choice, at least in terms of taste. Or maybe Pineapple, if you feel strongly about having one bicolor. Note: bicolors can be finicky/inconsistent in general, both in terms of production and taste. There are few I like, but then I am not too crazy about sweet/mild tomatoes.

Purple Calabash - mostly what I consider to be a novelty, especially for someone who is just growing a few vars. Fruits are not that large, and because the tomatoes are so highly ruffled and flat, there is little usable flesh. You may or may not like the flavor, I think it is okay to even very good - but many don't care for it. I'd suggest Cherokee Purple instead if you are looking for a dark.

Super Marzano - I'm not crazy about most roma types because I don't care for the flavor much for fresh eating, and that is important to me for *any* var I grow. But, if you want a productive paste type, this should meet your needs. The Heinz var they carry might also be something you'd want to consider, as the Heinz vars are usually good main cropper types, and will tend to have tomatoey/"old-fashioned" flavor.

Momotaro F1 - strongly recommended, give it a go. This is a popular var for several Floridians, and I've found I like it very much too.

Brandywine or Big Beef F1 might be other good slicer choices, depending on what you're looking for. BW will have better flavor, but Big Beef will be more productive and is also a good tomato.

Hope this gives you some ideas.
texasrockgarden
Canyon Lake, TX
(Zone 8b)

January 12, 2009
1:40 PM

Post #5995611

As Spring approaches you may want to start paying visits to the local mom and pop nurseries and feed stores, especially if they lean toward organics. Lots of times they will offer plants that do pretty well in your area. Try several varieties to determine the ones you like best. Also, if they are OP varieties, try saving seed for next year. There are several post on Dave's Garden about how to properly process tomato seed for saving and storing.

I like to make the little local home grown produce stands out in the country communities and just visit with some of the local farmers. Like the rest of us they enjoy talking about what and how they grow their veggies. More likely than not they will know some of the better tasting varieties that do well in your area. Beware though some of the road side stand produce is purchased wholesale rather than locally grown. One of my pet peeves about farmer's markets in good size cities is all the non-farm types that set up and sell produce they have purchased wholesale which often times is shipped in from Mexico or who known where. At any case its the same produce you can buy at your local grocery store.

With a little experience you can easily tell the local gardener types from the guys who are just trying to make a quick buck. The good fresh home-grown garden veggies will be pick over and sold out within the first 30 minutes to 2 hours after they set up.

Have fun..
margaran
(Maggie) Jacksonvill, FL
(Zone 9a)

January 14, 2009
11:52 AM

Post #6003805

Suze,

Thank you for the helpful critique. Since I know nothing about tomato growing, I could only go by the descriptions and what are they going to say..."Bland and lifeless but stores well"? I just happened to get that catalog. Do you have others you recommend. What tomatoes would you recommend for big, fat rich flavor? I'm not married to "dark" tomatoes or "bicolor" tomatoes, I just want flavor. I want a slicer and a grape. I chose a roma for my Gazpacho. Perhaps you have a suggestion- I use Romas because I make a chopped rather than purreed Gazpacho so I need flavor, meatiness, hold togetherness, not mostly water. Based on your reasons for not liking particular tomatoes, I'd appreciate your suggestions for what you do like. It sounds like a good palce to start as far as I'm concerned. Thanks.

Texasrockgarden,

I agree about many of the farmer's markets/ produce stands. Some don't even hide the boxes and some travelers on 301 don't know the difference. They just know it's not in the grocery store so it must be good. They're still the same production tomatoes. My ability to get to the Farmer's Market I like is limited- a 90" drive, but I know what you mean about selling out quick. Wish I'd thought to ask about growing issues back then.

Thanks very much for your input. I know once I have some experience, I'll be able to make choices based on experience but for right now, I just need to fill my data banks.

Maggie
Carolyn
Salem, NY
(Zone 4b)

January 14, 2009
1:40 PM

Post #6004000

If there are tomatoes from another company that better fit the bill, I'd appreciate your recommendations.

*****

Maggie, other companies I'd suggest for a beginner would include:

tomatogrowers.com which is in Ft Myers, FL and is a great company

sandhillpreservation.com in IA with lots of varieties at a great price, no pictures, but you can look at sites with pictures and then order anywhere you want to

victoryseeds.com in OR, also a good site

I could name many more but just those above you'll have a couple of thousand choices.

I'm not too thrilled with the varieties you mentioned from Territorial, so I'll list some you might consider:

Slicers

Chapman
Omar's Lebanese
Tidwell German
Neves Azorean Red
Large Pink Bulgarian
Aunt Gertie's Gold
OTV Brandywine
Cherokee Green
Cherokee Purple
Box Car Willie
Bulgarian #7
Red Penna

...and I'll stop here

Paste Varieties

Heidi
Mama Leone
Opalka
Martino's Roma

Cherries

Sungold F1
Black Cherry
Green Doctors ( a green when ripe much better than Green Grape)
Chadwick's Cherry, aka Camp Joy
Gardener's Delight
Isis Candy
Dr. Carolyn

...and many more

Most folks I know don't use paste tomatoes for sauce b'c in general they don't have the best of tastes and are also highly susceptible to Early Blight ( A. solani), but the ones I listed above do have good taste and can also be eaten fresh. Most folks will use any good meaty great tasting variety and then just cook down the sauce a bit more to the desired consistency.

Hope the above helps.

Carolyn, and by all means look at some of the threads here from Florida Growers such as the long one on this first page that has part II in the title and about 144 posts.
texasrockgarden
Canyon Lake, TX
(Zone 8b)

January 14, 2009
2:51 PM

Post #6004237

Quoting:Carolyn,Most folks will use any good meaty great tasting variety and then just cook down the sauce a bit more to the desired consistency.


Thanks for this tip/memory jogger. Having had a garden for the better part of my life (65) I gave it a rest about ten years ago and had completely forgotten about cooking down tomatoes for spaghetti sauce. When in supply fresh garden tomatoes of just about any variety with the skins slipped off make the best ever spaghetti sauce.

Carolyn, Because of your vast knowledge about tomatoes, your post are always a good read. BTW, what is OTV in Brandywine? I know it has been discussed some place here on DG, I am just lazy this morning. Thanks

Jerry
1lisac
Liberty Hill, TX
(Zone 8a)

January 14, 2009
3:07 PM

Post #6004286

Carolyn-Are those recommendations geared toward FL. I'm in Cental TX and getting ready to sow the seeds I have and looking to order a couple more (this is the cheapest addicton I could find). I'm in zone 8b but we get much colder then alot of other areas in that zone. For this reason I don't even put my plants in the ground until April because we ALWAYS have a late season freeze even if the temps have been in the 90s. The weather here has hampered my ability to tell if a certain tomato doesn't do welll here. The summer before last it rained so much that I should have grown rice there was so much standing water, this last summer we had record heat and NO rain. So here are my seeds I'm going to start:
SNOW WHITE
EGG YOLK *
TIGERELLA*
AUNT RUBY'S GERMAN CHERRY*
BRANDYWINE
GOLDEN SUNRAY
PINK ACCORDIAN
CHEROKEE PURPLE
JAPANESE BLACK TRIFELE
LUMPY RED
BIG RAINBOW
WHITE CURRENT
DAD'S SUNSET
WHITE WONDER
ARKANSAS TRAVELER
STOKES GREEN
I'm thinking of ordering:
PAUL ROBESON
PRUDEN'S PURPLE
* These have done well for me in pots and in the ground

I would love yours and anybody elses input.
Thanks,
Lisa

dreaves

dreaves
Hutto, TX
(Zone 8b)

January 14, 2009
4:15 PM

Post #6004596

Lisa,

I'm not too far away from you, on the other side of Williamson County. Of course, our soil types are probably completely different. My garden is in an area that was once cotton fields.

I had pretty good luck with German Red Strawberry and Kelloggs Breakfast for production and flavor even in the dry last year. Arkansas Traveler also produced well, but it's flavor wasn't as good as the others. I had poor luck with Brandywine. Three Brandywind plants produced 4 or 5 tomatoes in total. Black Cherry was okay, but the Sungold F1 was my best cherry. I used soaker hoses to keep watered--at least an inch a week.

I planted Stupice and Jaunne Flamme for early production. Both did okay and had good flavor, but I like larger tomatoes. Neither are all that good for slicing, but do well chopped in salad (or tacos).
Carolyn
Salem, NY
(Zone 4b)

January 14, 2009
4:16 PM

Post #6004599

Jerry, the OTV in OTV Brandywine stand for Off The Vine, a newsletter devoted to heirloom varieties that Craig LeHoullier and I published until the mid-90's. Craig had sent out some Yellow Brandywine seeds to someone and they returned some seeds to him that gave wonderful large red beefsteaks and the plant was PL. I had much more room to grow than Craig so I dehybridized it to the OP state and it's a good one. Moreover , from feedback it seems to set fruits much better in the south than Brandywine .

Lisa, I'm of the opinion that almost everyone, wherever they live and garden can grow any variety they want to, based on feedback since about 1990 when I first started reading/posting online.

The important thing to remember is that those who live in the south, mostly the 8 b's, 9's and 10's, need to grow two crops a year in order to avoid the blistering heat and in most places high humidity of the summer.

The Spring crop should be the long and mid season ones and the Fall crop should be the short and mid season ones.

And doing it that way you don't have to sit back and look at the pathetic tomatoes trying to make it throught the summer. Sure, with lots of water some of them will, and in the Fall some of them will put out new blossoms and set fruit.

But do consider growing two crops a year as many who post here already do.

As for the varieties you're growing, well, most of them wouldn't be ones that I'd grow but that means nothing b'c they are what YOU want to grow. (smile)

Carolyn
Suze_

(Zone 7b)

January 15, 2009
2:48 AM

Post #6007008

Maggie, you might need to start seeds ASAP (I think). Fl 9a may not be quite the same as a Tx 9a, but most Texas growers in zones 8 and above have either already started their seeds for spring crop, or will be doing so in the next couple of days. Maybe someone from a Fl zone 9 can weigh in, as it may be entirely different there.

Tomato Growers Supply and Victory Seed are two companies I would suggest. Victory usually gets seeds out quickly, but I see it says on the site that they currently have a 5-8 (working) day backlog. TGS *might* be quicker at this time, I guess you could call and ask.

I also like Sandhill - but they only take orders via snail mail. Can't speak to their current turnaround time once they receive your order. Mariseeds is another one I like. She takes online orders (via PayPal). No idea what her current turnaround time is. In the past, when I've ordered seeds, I usually get them in a week or less. Seed Savers Exchange is another good company that takes online orders.


Cherry types - if I were only growing one cherry type, it would be either Black Cherry or Sungold F1. Those two always make my garden list every single crop, both fall and spring - others come and go.

Paste/meaty - Opalka and Sarnowski Polish Plum are two productive pastes that I like the taste of for fresh eating. Kosovo, Wes, and Kalman's Hungarian Pink also come to mind for your intended use, as they are meaty with great flavor.

Slicers - Indian Stripe, CP, JD's Special C-Tex, Aker's West Virginia, Neves Azorean Red, Brandywine (or Brandy Boy F1, can sometimes be more productive for some than BW), Earl's Faux, Stump of the World, Cherokee Green, Green Giant (usually more productive for me than ChG). I love the flavor of Chapman and Red Penna, but they aren't always that productive for me, especially Red Penna.

Other/med - Break O'Day (nice productive red), Black and Brown Boar, Momotaro F1. Jaune Flammee is one I always grow, but it is more of a saladette size.

How many plants do you have room for?

This message was edited Jan 14, 2009 8:51 PM
LouisianaMark
Baton Rouge, LA

January 16, 2009
4:03 AM

Post #6011008

Maggie,

Best cucumber I've grown is Diva--they are just the right size for a salad, and the taste is superb. I'm growing another burpless this year (can't remember which one), but for the last 2 years Diva is the only cucumber I've grown (only had 1 EB for cucumbers, now expanding that to 2).

As for the tomatoes, here's what I would I do. Go to all the websites, check them out. Get all the catalogs--go through those. Keep a list of what you're interested in. Narrow that down to 10 to 15, maybe 20 varieties tops. Get all those seeds, grow them out, and keep taste-testing notes. Repeat the same thing next year, but with different varieties. In a few years you'll be just like everybody else on this forum!!! Just give in to the addiction!!!

Mark
tarheel2az
Tonto Basin, AZ

January 16, 2009
12:06 PM

Post #6011489

WARNING!!!!

Trying different varieties is habit forming.

Frank
margaran
(Maggie) Jacksonvill, FL
(Zone 9a)

January 19, 2009
1:48 AM

Post #6021943

Thank you all so much for the input. i'm going to try the Brandywine OTV and a few others from Tomatogrowers.com. Can anyone give me an idea of the general differences in taste/texture/whatever between reds, purples, blacks? Since I grew up on red tomatoes, that's what I know so the comment that some people don't care for black tomatoes intrigued me.
Suze- I have my back yard which is ~1/4 acre. There are only 2 of us to eat these tomatoes. And unfortunately, i don't have time to spend raising multiple extra flavors each summer. Wish I did.

Thanks,

Maggie
Carolyn
Salem, NY
(Zone 4b)

January 19, 2009
2:05 AM

Post #6022027

Can anyone give me an idea of the general differences in taste/texture/whatever between reds, purples, blacks?

*****

I don't think that's even possible to generalize.

There's a huige range even between reds in terms of textures and tastes and the same occurs with the pinks, the oranges, the green when ripes and the blacks, etc.

I won't say the purples b'c almost all varieties with purple as part of the name are pink b'c the word purple was used years ago to describe a pink tomato.

The only two varieties that I know that do have a tint of purple are Purple Calabash and Noire des Cosebeauf, and I can't stand the taste of either one, LOL although I know that some folks like one or the other or both.

Carolyn
1lisac
Liberty Hill, TX
(Zone 8a)

January 20, 2009
1:35 AM

Post #6026373

dreaves- Thank you for your suggestions. I have relatives in Taylor, you have much better soil then we do but because my garden has been in the same location for 10+ yrs the soil is descent. Also, we get a lot colder here and the date of our last frost is later. I also use soaker hoses on timers. Do you plant a spring and fall garden? I have never felt I needed to. I just can't pull out plants that are perfectly healthy I have always been told that had more to do with the rain then the heat. I don't know what to think any more one minute somebody tells me that a certain tomato does better in the heat and then I'm told that any type should do well here (that has not been my personal experience). Its funny because I lived in a higher zone in CA but gardening is more challenging here.

dreaves

dreaves
Hutto, TX
(Zone 8b)

January 20, 2009
2:17 AM

Post #6026506

Lisa(?),

My limited experience in Hutto has been that the plants stop setting tomatoes once it gets hot and stays hot at night. I kept watering some plants all summer, and they started setting again in the fall. I didn't have time to replant in the fall to have a second crop with new plants. This year I'm going to plant my normal stuff, then I'm going to plant a small section under a shaded hoop made from cattle panel. Supposedly, shade cloth can decrease the temperature 10 degrees. If it really does, then I will possible get tomatoes all summer. The other way to deal with the heat is to plant some plants early, when they are at risk from frost. If you don't lose them, then you'll have early tomatoes.

David
1lisac
Liberty Hill, TX
(Zone 8a)

January 20, 2009
3:16 AM

Post #6026726

Well we always get a late frost and if it lasts too long it can really slow down the plant's growth. If it kills the plants I have to re plant all over again which is a waste of my money and my time. I also don't have the time to plant in the heat of the TX summer for a fall crop. The seedlings require extra care and time but if I just keep the soaker hoses going at the same pace as they always do my garden picks right up again when it cools down. I'm just glad to hear from somebody else who doesn't plant twice and thinks certain types of tomatoes do better here then others. I'm going to try BW one more time and see how it goes.
Thanks,
Lisa
margaran
(Maggie) Jacksonvill, FL
(Zone 9a)

January 20, 2009
2:19 PM

Post #6027867

Well, here's what I got. I took to heart your comment about not using paste tomatoes that aren't god eating out of hand since what I'll be using them for is Gazpacho and salsa. I also got some Alibi pickles from Territorial since I wanted some bean inoculant from them and by now am familiar w/ their catalog. I could have found what I wanted some place closer and will next year but for now, I just needed these things fast. Using the advice you gave me, I was able to decipher some of the verbiage of the seed catalogs to figure out which ones actually tasted good. I also bought Grape Tomatoes since I've never met a cherry tomato that impressed me. Hopefully they will be as tasty as the Santa Sweets I can get in the grocery store. The tomato seeds I got were: Martino's Roma, Opalka, Tidwell German, Chapman, Brandywine OTV, Neves Azorean Red, Omar's Lebanese. We'll see how it goes.

Maggie
feldon30
Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

January 20, 2009
3:35 PM

Post #6028126

For some reason, before true purple/black tomatoes came around, tomato aficionados referred to pink tomatoes as "purple". I'm not quite sure how one could look at the bright pink skin on an Aunt Ginny's Purple or Eva Purple Ball and say "yep, that's purple!".

Then the true purple/black tomatoes like Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, etc. burst onto the scene and folks begrudgingly started referring to pink tomatoes as PINK! :)

I agree that generalizations cannot truly be made about the texture of red, pink, or purple tomatoes. I've seen dry, smooth, wet, seedy, mealy, and any number of other combinations in all 3 groups.

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