Hot Tomato Picks 2021
Our Tenth Annual Great Tomato Plant Sale opens for online orders on April 7th, 2021! We are now potting up over 20,000 seedling plants, and propagating a total of 76 tomato varieties, including unusual heirlooms as well as a wide selection of very special hybrids with the disease-resistance some gardeners value, but also that great, old-fashioned taste we all treasure in the heirloom tomatoes. These aren’t your store-bought, red rubber balls which are tomatoes in name only! As with our heirlooms, many of these hybrid tomatoes are difficult to buy locally. We are also offering many varieties of eggplants, peppers, squash, cucumbers and herbs.
This year, we’ve asked once again some of the best tomato growers among our UC Master Gardeners a challenging question: "Tell us what your favorite tomato is." Since some of these UC Master Gardener volunteers grow 15, 20 or even 30 different tomato varieties in their gardens, you can imagine how this question bedeviled them. We’re calling the tomato varieties they’ve selected, “Hot Tomato Picks.” You may want to add a few of these vetted tomato varieties to your shopping list.
Italian Roma III (Determinate—76 days) Paste. Growers say that this hybrid is the best paste tomato on the market. Heavy yields of flavor-packed, 5 to 6 ounce plum tomatoes on healthy, disease-resistant vines. If you love pasta, grow this tomato! UC Master Gardener volunteer Janet Miller, a great tomato lover and responsible for all CoCoMG propagation, has selected this outstanding paste tomato. Here’s her review: “One of the most compelling reasons to grow this particular paste tomato is its disease resistance to blossom end-rot, an affliction that seems to affect almost all paste tomatoes. I grew six of these last year and was able to can dozens of quarts of sauce from those small plants.” *Photo courtesy of Sustainable Seed Company
Big Beef - hybrid (Indeterminate—73 days, VFTASt) Beefsteak. An unbeatable combination—big, tasty and early! This highly disease-resistant beefsteak hybrid also retains a rich tomato-y flavor and produces colossal (10-16 oz.), bright red fruits throughout the entire season. It is adaptable to a wide variety of growing conditions, even to cool, foggy West County. Now, that’s truly remarkable! UCMaster Gardener Helen Erikson, a wonderful propagator and responsible for the lovely orchard at Our Garden, has chosen the hybrid, Big Beef. Here’s Helen’s review: “This tomato had so much fruit, more than I’ve seen on other varieties. I grew it for the first time at home several years ago and last year we also grew it at Our Garden where it got so many comments, as to how full it was with fruit. I could always count on Big Beef for a yummy tomato—practically a meal in itself. I will now grow this variety every year!” *Photo courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds
Black Sea Man (Determinate—75 days) Slicer. This hardy Russian heirloom produces dark fruits in 75 days and does well in containers. It does well in both West County and Walnut Creek. One of our UC Master Gardeners wrote: “The mahogany brown medium sized fruit has a delicious sweet-tart, complex tomato flavor. Its combination of red, pink, green, and mahogany flesh makes this a most unusual & beautiful tomato when sliced. It’s a smallish plant, but a very good producer.” *Photo courtesy of Seed Savers Exchange
Phoenix - hybrid (Determinate—72 days) With a name like Phoenix, naturally it’s heat resistant. A determinant tomato, it does well in containers. It’s a proven performer in the South, so you may want this patio tomato if you live in the warmer areas of the county. We loved it at Our Garden. Its vines produce lots of 8-12 ounce bright red fruits all summer long. Phoenix will be exclusively offered at Our Garden’s Sale. A UC Master Gardener wrote: “An amazing tomato that will grow in a large patio pot, but produce beautiful, good-sized tomatoes. Phoenix is a great slicer with very good flavor.”
Chef’s Choice-Pink (Indeterminate—75 days) Slicer. A hybrid that is easier to grow than some heirlooms, but just as flavorful. Disease-resistant, rugose-leaved hybrid produces beautiful deep pink, meaty, 12 to 14-ounce fruits with a great old-fashioned tomato taste and early to boot!
Master Gardener Sara Hoyer, a true tomato lover, wrote: "I grew Chef’s Choice Pink for the first time last year. No wonder chefs choose it. It was fabulous! Wonderful flavor and super productive!" *Photo courtesy of Totally Tomatoes
Persimmon (Indeterminate—79 days) Beefsteak. Vigorous and prolific heirloom produces 12-ounce to 2-pound persimmon-colored beefsteak tomatoes which are also right at home in the shorter-season gardens of West County. Very meaty with few seeds, this is a low acid tomato.
A Master Gardener wrote: “Beautiful, large slicer with rose/orange skin and flesh that makes it real eye candy in a tomato salad. Sweet, rich tomato taste—another taste test winner. Persimmon is an heirloom that is said to have been grown in Thomas Jefferson's garden.” *Photo courtesy of Territorial Seed Company
Sun Sugar (Indeterminate—62 days) Cherry. This very sweet, fruity-tasting orange cherry grows in long clusters on vigorous plants and is very crack resistant. It may be the sweetest, nicest cherry out there. Its taste is so delightful; they may not make it into your kitchen from your garden! What is lovelier than a sun-warmed tomato popped directly in your mouth? One of UC Master Gardeners wrote: “Produced the most heavenly sweet, orange, little tomatoes I've ever tasted.” *Photo courtesy of Totally Tomatoes
Rapunzel (Indeterminate, 70 days) Cherry. This tomato produces 40 (!) small, bright red cherry tomatoes on long, cascading trusses. So sweet they won’t make it to your salad bowl without some self-discipline. One Master Gardener wrote: “Even in my West County garden, Rapunzel let down her beautiful tresses of bright red cherries all summer long.” *Photo courtesy of Totally Tomatoes
Cherry Bomb - hybrid (Indeterminate—70 days). Cherry. How can you resist a tomato with a name like this? We couldn’t! Add to that, it’s recommended for your Bloody Mary and its strong meaty walls are perfect for filling with cream cheese. Yum! But, equally important, it’s blight resistant too. Vigorous plants produce lots of uniform cherries. It has a sweet cherry tomato flavor. If you plant Cherry Bomb by the end of April, you can serve at your 4th of July party. One UC Master Gardener wrote: “This was such a reliable cherry in my garden. I would miss it, if I didn’t grow it again this year.” *Photo courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds
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