It so happens that every tomato variety of the seven I’m growing this summer has done well and tastes good enough to justify planting again next year. They’re all a little different, and I’d be selfish not to tell you about them.
In our family, the tomato lover is my three-year old son, and a couple weeks ago he made a lunch request: “Can you pick some of my favorite tomatoes? You know, the ones that are like (stretches his hands apart), and are pointy.”
I hadn’t known Blush had become his favorite, but I understood why. They look beautiful with their red streaks, and the taste is fruity but not overly sweet — it still tastes like a tomato, but a wonderfully tropical tomato.
The Blush plant is medium, not as large and rambling as Sungold.
It turns out that my three-year old is not a big fan of Sungold, which he finds too sweet. I’ve never tasted a sweeter tomato than Sungold — although I must note that Sungolds grown close to the beach never taste quite as sweet as in my current, inland garden. (That can be a good or bad thing, depending on your taste preference.)
Sungold tomatoes are cherry size, and the plant produces oodles of fruit. It is one of a few varieties that we grow almost every summer.
Sungolds are best eaten right there beside the plant in the garden. If you try to harvest some to give to a friend tomorrow, they will often split unless you harvest them slightly immature and keep the stem attached.
Blue Cream Berries
Blue Cream Berries are a very different cherry tomato compared to Sungold in that they are less sweet and rarely split, even when left on the vine past maturity.
The vine is vigorous like Sungold and extremely fruitful, and the coloring is attractive as it turns from black to indigo and yellow, to mostly yellow when fully mature.
You expect this dazzling color knowing that Blue Cream Berries is a variety developed by Brad Gates or Wild Boar Farms in Northern California. Every tomato variety of Gates that I’ve grown has had impressive skin colors and patterns, if not always equally impressive production or taste. The flavor of Blue Cream Berries is unremarkable yet good; being that the good flavor is wrapped inside brilliant, glowing skin makes it worth growing again.
Of the three cherries I’m growing this year, Sunchocola has the richest flavor. It’s not a looker like Blue Cream Berries, but oh, the flavor. You eat the Blue Cream Berries tomatoes and you say, “Nice tomatoes.” You eat the Sungolds and you say, “Explosively sweet!” Then you eat the Sunchocola and you say, “Wow! That flavor! Wow! What is it?” It’s soft and mellow, not acidic; it’s slightly sweet but doesn’t taste fruity; and there’s something smoky in the background, something pleasantly roasted, just rich.
The size of Sunchocola is slightly big for a cherry, and the color is red burnished with brown, which I suspect influences my perception of its flavor.
We eat all of the above tomatoes whole, as snacks. Below are three tomatoes that we slice and use in other ways.
I first tasted Sunchocola in my mother-in-law’s garden in Oregon, and knew I needed to try it in my Southern California yard this year. But her favorite eating tomato has long been Momotaro. It’s all she grows in that tomato category, every summer.
Momotaro was developed in Japan. It only produces acceptably in our yard, not as prolificly as some others. But considering its taste, I forgive it.
Let me come back to Momotaro after looking at the others.
This one’s a classic. It is a “Roma” type, having an elongated shape with a meaty middle. Some call them “plum” tomatoes even though the plums we mostly grow in Southern California are round. It’s the Italian plums that are shaped like San Marzano tomatoes, or is it the other way around?
For our family, the role that San Marzano plays is that of the producer. San Marzano makes tons of fruit. While we eat a few of them fresh, mostly they go straight into freezer bags to be used in the winter for salsas and sauces.
Unfortunately, like other Roma types, San Marzano does get blossom end rot more than average, but since it is so incredibly productive it doesn’t discourage. The color is classic tomato and the flavor is classic tomato.
Indigo Rose is anything but an old reliable. It was bred relatively recently at Oregon State University. It’s got peculiar coloring. Similar to Blue Cream Berries, it starts out black and then fades as it ripens, but this one ending up black and red, and this one having more remarkable flavor to match its appearance.
As I’ve written before, Indigo Rose is the best tasting indigo tomato that I’ve tasted. It has a pleasing tomato flavor with no bitterness, and it is juicy rather than meaty.
And boy does this puppy put out the fruit. It’s looking a little tired here at the end of August, but the plant has been pumping out tomatoes continuously for a couple months now. The tomatoes vary in size from jawbreaker to just under tennis ball.
So I sliced up these three bigger tomatoes and photographed them side by side.
Look at the glow of that Momotaro in the middle! Looks like I doctored the photo.
Inside and out, Momotaro has a deep pink color rather than the classic red of San Marzano. But it is meaty inside like the San Marzano, not so hollow and juicy like the Indigo Rose.
I tasted each, one after the other. Indigo Rose, very pleasing flavor. San Marzano, a little bland, but I knew it would ripen to a fuller, delicious but regular tomato flavor. Momotaro, something special, a dense texture, a mild but somehow superior flavor than the others.
I wondered if it was because I’d grown that Momotaro without irrigation. As I mentioned in a previous post, I grew a few tomato plants without irrigation this summer and was curious to discover whether the fruit would taste richer and more concentrated. So I sliced up a Momotaro from a plant in the garden that had been watered just like my other tomatoes. Nope. Same exact texture and flavor as the unirrigated one. Both superior.
Twenty minutes later, my wife was eating her lunch, which included some of the tomatoes I’d sliced, and she stopped me to say, “That one tomato that’s really red is even better than the others.”
She didn’t know it was Momotaro, but her mother would be proud.
What to do now?
The end of August is too late for planting new tomatoes, in case you wanted to try any of these in your garden. But I’ll set it on my calendar to remind us of this post around New Year’s, when it’s time to order tomato seeds or plants for growing next summer. (I usually start tomato seeds around the end of January and put them into the garden ground starting in mid-April.)
Have any other tomato varieties that you’re definitely going to grow again next year? Please share in the comments. I’ve already been recommended to try Blue Beauty, another Brad Gates / Wild Boar Farms variety, and I’d love to add a few more to the list for next year.
That’s the beauty of tomatoes: there are so many varieties that you can never try them all. At least we can focus on trying the ones that have already proven to grow well somewhere in Southern California.
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