Choosing Tomato Varieties
hi this is stephen and jen with iowa backyard farmer and today we're going to talk about picking the
tomatoes you want to plant in your garden how do you decide what to grow and what's going to do what you want it to do in your garden there's so many choices of seeds out there how do you decide yeah so that's a very common question though they'll look through the catalogs and say there's so much it's kind of confusing how do i know which ones to choose so we'll talk through some of the principles today on how to choose the right
tomatofor you first thing you're going to want to decide is what is your end use are you using it for canning do you want it to go on hamburgers do you want little cherry
tomatoes to dry figure that out and we've sort of got them classified in our on our plant sale list as you know you can buy little ones or slightly bigger ones or paste
tomatoes so let's start with the paste
tomatoes today that's a an area everybody's like i want to make salsa or i want a can paste
tomatoes is where it's at but even in paste
tomatoes there's a lot of variety so how do i know which one's right yeah so as you determine which ones you want to consider we of course sell about 10 different paste
tomatoes there are hundreds available we've gone through and tried to select those that are best for our area uh but one of the first things you want to consider is the plant growth habit and so what does that...
mean what does that mean there's there's really two or i'll say kind of two and a half types uh there's indeterminate and determinant and then a semi-determinant which is kind of halfway in between that's very nice fancy vocabulary i don't understand that's so a an indeterminate would be a plant growth that the plant gets really big it requires staking or some kind of support and it will fruit uh you'll give you
tomatoes clear until the plant dies usually at frost time it basically it keeps growing until the frost kills it and it will get taller if you were going to grow them in a greenhouse and do a a greenhouse hot house
tomatoyou could grow those vines for a couple of years they will just keep growing they'll grow 30 feet long until the frost gets them in our garden they won't go quite that long in your garden yeah so in our garden they'll typically grow six or seven sometimes eight or nine feet a determinant is a plant that has a determined number of what would you call it um it's it's a determined growth habit and so it's going to get to a certain size it's going to start setting fruit it's going to set a whole bunch of fruit and it's going to be done after after that point it's not going to put on new branches it's not going to keep putting out new fruit it has a it has kind of an arc it's going to go up and do a whole bunch and then it's and then it's done and you'll probably...
be done before frost yeah typically you'll get a decent harvest for around three weeks and then after that it's time to pull it up and plant something else in there if you want a whole bunch of something all at once uh determinants are the way to go because if nothing is more irritating than i picked a
tomatotoday and potato tomorrow and i'm trying to make salsa and i don't have enough
tomatoes all at once determinants can really help you with that yeah so so number one if you're going to can you want a whole bunch in a short time period pick a determinant if you want a bunch over a long period of time or not not quite as many but a much longer harvest then you'd go with an indeterminate type of plant uh the next thing semi-determinate you didn't explain semi-determinant they're wild crazy things so the standard aroma so everybody comes and they're like i need a roma
tomatogive me aroma the original roma
tomatois a semi-determinant it's only a couple ounces it's a it's kind of a small
tomatobut it it is a very vigorous plant and it grows it has it grows bigger than a determinant but it does not want to go straight up like an indeterminate so i have trouble with it on my trellises because it goes black yeah so in terms of height the determinate you're around three feet is what to expect for those a well an indeterminate can go on for you know six eight ten feet or even longer whatever it feels like the semi the semi...
determinant will go about five or six feet so it certainly gets bigger than the determinant it produces a pretty big wave at the beginning and then just kind of trails off but it will keep producing although not near as much i clear until frost time so and a regular aroma is a good example of that we'll probably put up on the screen here our chart but um the it's the aroma is just a little one among many it's actually a category so people say i want aroma and i'm going to say what kind which is our next question right because roma is not just it's sort of like kleenexes to tissue right everybody's like i want a kleenex well i you just need something to blow your nose in right so aroma
tomatocan be that original aroma bf but it's the smaller one or it could be any of these newer
varietieslet's talk about some of those like early resilience gladiator plum regal paisano san marzano it's not actually aroma but it's kind of it's in that case it's another category they're all plum shaped
tomatoes they're really meaty they don't have a lot of seeds they have a small core they're good for processing yep and these come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes ranging from that roma vf that jennifer mentioned at about two ounces all the way up to we have some like super sauce that are much bigger pushing close to a pound the determinants which produce a during that fairly short time period those are all about the same...
size you can pick and choose any of the different
varietiesthey're all about the same size they're bred for different purposes and have different strengths so well that makes a good point because some people are always like i'd like a
tomatobut i need an heirloom
tomatowhy do people feel like they need an heirloom
tomatoall the time a lot of people have the perception that heirloom
tomatoes are always going to taste better and while that's there is some truth to that uh the there there is a long period of breeding where the focus was on products that could store better they could be shipped better and there wasn't near the focus on flavor more recently that focus is switched back where there is a focus on keeping the heirloom flavor while still giving the the performance the yield yields and the disease resistance of the newer hybrid
varietiesso so it's sort of like if i was to if i only wanted to wear clothes from the 1920s would they look okay yes are they fabulous yes am i grateful for polyester and some cotton poly blends you bet i am so you know there are some good things that happen in genetics that are current um more recent developments and i would encourage you to not be scared off by those just because they're not some heirloom thing if the caveat to heirloom that a lot of times goes together is that a if you want to save seeds if you want to save seeds you're going to need an open pollinated variety i've been gardening for...
my whole entire life and i only very recently started saving seeds so don't feel pressured you can you can hybrids are fine there are some really good hybrids if you are worried about um genetics and
tomatoes and things like that it is a small worry it is a small worry and there are some great new things out there and
tomatobreeders doing some really awesome things yeah okay so that i think that covers the uh the roma or the paste type of
tomatoes oh what's your favorite this one oh it's my favorite he works on our list it has all their mistakes who say it's hard to choose that's why we've got so many but really we look for a good portfolio of
tomatoes i would not want to plant 20 of just one kind unless i was a professional farmer and doing all the stuff a professional farmer does i would encourage you if you are going to plant 5 or 10 or 20
tomatoes to choose from four or five different types what is the criteria when you're looking at a seed catalog and you're looking to buy um a
tomatowhat what are the what are the phrases that you're looking for that say this
tomatowill probably do well um well i like to have the full collection so we do have some heirlooms for those people who want the airlines because some of them are irreplaceable and no there's not enough people working on this to keep all the great stuff in there so some if there's something really great we keep it around yeah another thing i look for is the days to...
maturity a lot of the heirlooms have a longer days to maturity than some of the newer hybrids that means there's a delay between when i plant it and when i get to eat it yeah so if you see a product that a variety that has 70 days to maturity and you look at one right next to it that's 85 days to maturity there's gonna be about a two week difference between when you get the first red
tomatooff of one plant versus the first red
tomatooff the other and this this this is a big deal this is a big deal because i i mean
tomatoes are our big celery if people are planting a garden and they're like what are you growing everybody's growing a
tomatoeverybody can't wait for that first juicy ripe
tomatoguess when we get them yeah we can get them a lot we can get them a lot sooner if you plan right so um my goal to get a nice a fresh
tomatois the fourth of july which is a which is a challenge here in central iowa but we have done it consistently over the years and having a maturity date that is not 100 days really helps it really helps to shorten that up yeah and and we get busy in the fall we really try to do the bulk of our guardian in the summer before school gets going again because once school gets going it's a lot harder for us to get out in the garden and so that two week you know earlier period to get a first harvest can make the difference between getting a good harvest versus something either this last year getting blown down by the direct show or...
disease coming in and taking something out or if we go on vacation and something happens to our watering that that extra week to two weeks makes a big difference for us and it does for a lot of people all right so we're gonna look for days to harvest that's a good one if you want an earlier
tomatopick a shorter time you're looking for hybrid versus heirloom and don't be scared pick something that works i would also add that we would look for some disease resistance here in central iowa we get some plant diseases we get some early blight we get some late light we get some other stuff what are the what are the um what are they looking for like it says roma vf what are we finding when they say roma vf yeah so there's there are a lot of different
tomatodiseases and a lot of the the the plants are are resistant to certain types but not to everything one of the more common diseases that we find here in central iowa is septoria which is a fungal disease that there there is no
tomatowith resistance to that but if you have early blight issues or late blight issues you're going to be more susceptible to septoria you're gonna there are there are a number of
varietiesthat are resistant to those so we can look through and if you know what your problems are pretty easily narrow down to the the
varietiesthat'll work best for you and there are some
tomatoes out there with really great things you'll see it has a v and an f and an f and a b and this...
whole alphabet behind it says somebody has tested this thing and it's going to resist good diseases and if you've had trouble in the past that's a good thing to look for okay let's try another kind of
tomatowhat do you want to talk about so let's look at our really big
tomatoes it's pretty common we'll have somebody that'll stop by and say i just want a big red
tomatoand yeah they're delicious and they're delicious and ask ask some of the same types of questions but one of the things that i'll note that is different is if you want a really big red
tomatoand a determinate type of plant they don't exist we don't have any there's not any good ones on the market there you can take some shortcuts if you've got a smaller garden or you're growing in pots with some of our smaller
tomatoes and and make it work but you cannot really make a humongous
tomatowork unless you are growing in like a half of a barrel yeah like a barrel like a big pot a big pot um they're gonna take a lot of sun and they're gonna take a longer season yeah so all the same thing applies all the same all the same principles apply um in terms of open pollinated or hybrid there are a lot of really good
varietiesa lot of the classics that people talk about ask and ask for by name and this would be a good example so i'm going to come to you and i say i want a brandywine what are you gonna tell me so there there's a brandywine variety...
there's also the brandywine class and we can talk about each of those we do carry the the brandywine variety it's an older one and they're different there are different strains of this so we picked the best strain that we could of this brandywine variety yeah so the one that we we have dates back to 1885. it's called the keysenberry strain and it's noted to be one of the best and in brandywine is certainly has a following super super delicious flavor but it takes a long time it's it's about our latest maturing
tomatothat uh yeah it's over 80 days i think yeah but it's a really good parent parent plant so if you're looking at plant genetics and you're looking at all this whole list how many of these on here actually have a parent that's in the brandywine that's a brandywine so like mountain rouge i think is a new one we started and you might not be familiar with that name but guess what it's related to brandywine yep so that that is a there have been several several
varietiesthat have been created and marketed that are descendants of brandywine uh mountain rouge is one of the most recent ones it it its focus was really on having a product that was earlier so they they shaved about a week off of that days to harvest and they got a smaller core much smaller core which is nice so you can have you have a lot more
tomatothat you can eat without having to cut out a great big chunk of it right out of the center but...
they've also brought quite a bit more disease resistance as well kept the flavor but but improved it in a lot of the other other ways and and with those big
tomatoes nothing is as heartbreaking as having this perfect huge
tomatogrowing on your vine and having it split or fall apart is tragic it's tragic so i'm like let's let's figure out some of these things if it says resist cracking that's a good thing in my book yeah so a lot of the same things still apply here look for the size that you want look for i'll just point out one difference that maybe a lot of people don't recognize is that some of these big what we call big red
tomatoes some are pink some are red most of the heirloom ones are technically classified as a pink
tomatothey're fabulous flavors and they're not be scared really really really good um the pink
tomatoes in general have a sweeter flavor than the darker red
tomatoes do they do they do i really like them okay let's talk about the not red
tomatoes because we have some of those too yeah so when we first started we had only planted red
tomatoes and thought that's all there really was to know and then uh somewhere along the line we we tried an orange
tomatoand thought oh my goodness these are so good they're missing out so um don't tell anyone orange
tomatoes are actually my very favorite and we grow a lot of them and i was really sad that we lost them all last year we had we had a problem last year um...
but we've got a lot of orange
tomatoes because they're so good and they arrange the same thing there's some hybrid there's some open pollinated
varietiesone of my favorites was an amana orange and we're not carrying that one this year even though it was one of my very favorites how come yeah so amanda orange super delicious but i remember that we could only eat those after the kids had gone back to school because it took so long for it to mature and then a breeder focused on improving that one and and brought a new variety called chef's choice orange that is is i'd say at least a week and a half earlier than the old amanda orange was kept the same flavor brought some additional disease resistance brings all the stuff that we wanted and uh is it an abs winner i think that one's an eight yeah so that's a 20 2014 aas winner and so again some really some really good stuff tell me about like orange wellington or dr weichi so so dr wycheese i'll cover a couple here dr wychee and and kellogg's breakfast are some heirlooms that have been around for a lot of years have some wonderful stories to them super delicious super sweet flavor um they're really really good they're more of the beef steak type where you've got the big crumpled shoulders on them um kind of a little bit bigger core than maybe some of the other ones but super ridiculous i just i just eat it just like just eat it right there it's fantastic yeah and while we...
don't sell as many orange
tomatoes as as we do red
tomatoes people come back again for them every year everybody seems to everybody that has tried one seems to want to come back and say i need at least one or two orange
tomatoes every year they have they fill a very specific purpose they're really delicious a little brighter kind of nice to add those into your salsa it does add some you put some red some yellow some green in there it's very colorful all right let's talk about let's round it back out and talk about our little ones there's some the little cherry
tomatoes and the small ones what's the difference between a grape
tomatoall these little then we've got little bullet shaped ones we got little round ones we got little oval ones tell me about this yeah really it comes down to size and shape and somewhat the flavor as well so cherry
tomatoes are going to be the smallest that we carry you can also get current
tomatoes which even smaller uh we've we've grown last year they were super cute they're not practical they're not yeah they're they're cute they're kind of fun to snack on but not super practical and um so we've really focused on the cherry
tomatoas our smallest ones and we have several but two two big red ones that are big name that people come back for year after year chadwick cherry is a great heirloom super sweet 100 is another fantastic really sweet really...
delicious really high in vitamin c variety now from there though we've got some others that are maybe a little more fun type with and i you know i have a thing for stripes and and for colors and it's it's just fun so sunrise bumblebee is one of my favorites it's a yellow with pink stripes it goes all the way through i just slice them and eat them in a bowl and um those hardly ever make it into the house to be honest with those out in the garden before before i even come in and they're they're really good sugar too and we call those garden candy sun sugars an orange one and it is so sweet and it's almost the first one to get ripe every year we grow 50 plus
tomatoes all these different things sun sugar is always first out of the gate it's ready to go and it goes for a long time who was the winner last year so this last year i was surprised throughout the season i loved sun sugar he loved sunrise bumblebee but we got to the end of the year and i thought everything was done i hadn't pulled everything up but uh we'd left left uh all of the cherries out and didn't water it for about two weeks and went out one day thinking it's time to pull these up get the plants out of the garden get the garden cleaned up and here in the middle of october having not been watered uh for quite some time was the sparky xsl and that's a new variety that we had basically just wanted to trial in our garden and sold a few other plants to others as well...
it's one of those what are they is it one of the artists in class where they're they're keeping all the fabulous flavor and all that stuff but it's with the new genetics and it really paid off because you went out there and it was the last one standing it was the only one that made it through everything that the whole year through edit last year and so it it's really sweet it is a good flavor but it didn't really stand out to me as being something super fantastic until we got to the end of the year and they were still pumping out really big really delicious really just fabulous cherry
tomatoes so that made it on our list again this year and super excited to let others to try that one as well so what's the difference between cherry and grape
tomatoes um grape
tomatoes are a little bit just a little bit bigger and a little bit longer kind of grape shaped is how i like to look at them our bullet shaped in the case so some on blush and prairie fire they're both little torpedoes they're they're kind of they're kind of fun so some that are just a little bit longer we've just have a variety of different grape
tomatoes we have a couple of red ones a smaller one that's a napa grape one that's a little bit longer of a red one that's juliet juliet is also an aas winner i've been around for about 20 years is a really good standard grape
tomatothat a lot of people really like do you know what i really liked last year i liked...
apricot zebra which is a new one it's again in that artisan class it's got stripes it has a really good
tomatoey flavor and i didn't think that was going to stand out again but it makes the most fabulous thunderhead
tomatoes we dried i don't even know how many of them it was very productive yeah so that's another one it's a brand new one but really delicious and for us we really really like that when dried and brad's atomic grape is just you can't beat that for the kaleidoscope of colors that's in that that's kind of fun that's a relatively new one but it recently won a national heirloom expo award so to get an heirloom award for a a fairly new variety is pretty unique it's pretty cool and um blush i really like too that's like sunrise bumblebee only bullet shaped it's kind of fun to eat so what about if i want we talked about yellow
tomatoes we talked about red
tomatoes we talked about all these things but we didn't talk about my green and black and blue
tomatoes let's talk about those green and black and blue so this last year we tried a a green
tomatoand i had thought this is going to be really strange um i'm used to waiting until
tomatoes are all ripe and and we tried this green
tomatoand i'm trying to find my list here evergreen emerald evergreen is the name of that one emerald evergreen and it i'm not gonna find it looks like so emerald evergreen um it ended up being about the sweetest
i think i had ever tasted you have to watch it to make sure that you harvest it when it's ripe because because it doesn't turn a different color other than a little bit more of a yellowish it gets softer but it gets a little bit softer so you have to determine when to harvest it through touch and that was delicious i highly recommend if you've only tasted a red