Tomato variety change and taste test

After a sunny, mostly warm (for Pacific NW) summer, we did a taste test on our tomatoes this weekend. We were particularly interested in the Early Cascade [EC] and Champion-II [C2] tomatoes. The ECs availability disappeared suddenly a few years ago, but though a hybrid some have tried to continue the line. Champion disappeared this year, seemingly replaced by C2.
The verdict is not a happy one. The ECs, once our favorite early season variety (sure, it had a thick skin and was on the small side) took forever to start producing. And after a few weeks of the first ripening, the taste is - mediocre.
Champions once were on the cusp of whether they'd ripen in our coastal climate before cold set in. The C2s are earlier to ripen, but like the new ECs have barely any flavor at all.
These used to our favorites :(
We had one very pleasant surprise. A new variety for us "Kimberly" was both early and tasty (if a bit on the sweet rather than tangy side). Smaller than we'd like it, nearly a cherry, but still very productive.
"Fireworks" had amazing sprays of flowers, and a tolerable flavor, but wasn't that productive, and the plants weakened from a probable fungal disorder that seems prevalent in this area.
------------------ I'd be delighted if others would share what they've learned - we're definitely going to be trying new varieties next year! We're especially interested in early to mid season as we don't get enough heat here to ripen most varieties.
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We went all-cherry some years back, after comparing the total output of "regular" and "cherry" tomato plants - it simplifies a lot of things, and when one cracks (if it's got infested beyond just eating) it's not a big loss. On the whole they seem less prone to cracking and many fungal diseases, though this year has been bad for the latter and they all succumbed eventually. Frankly, I also never found (for instance) Brandywine to live up to the catalog hype about its supposedly superior flavor; but it sure was a pain to grow, comparatively, with a good deal more loss.
A "plum" size we haven't grown for a few years, Principe Borghese (supposedly an Italian sun-drying variety) was a good meaty little tomato. For our sunless drying, a bit big (prefer just cutting cherries in half), so we downsized out of it, but not a bad one on the whole.
Jelly Bean has ben a good red cherry for us, and Sungold/Sun Sugar for orange, though you might find the latter (or all three) a bit over the top if you are objecting to sweetness. Despite being hybrids, the volunteers (if not weeded out) often seem to come fairly true-to-type.
Tried "Tumbling Tom Yellow" this year, would not recommend it. Watery and tasteless and more than average foliage disease issues.
"Yellow Pear" (open pollinated heirloom) has been productive, but I don't care for it much. Didn't grow any this year, not watery as far as I recall, just not the preferred taste here, rather acid. May suit your taste better, assuming you can even bring yourself to try cherries (it really is pear shaped, but is similar in size to cherries.)
"Green Zebra" is an oddity that I have not grown (bigger than my cutoff since I swore to just stick to cherries), but have had from further north than here so it would probably grow for you (I'm zone 4, New England, not great but usually not terrible tomato country, terrible pepper & eggplant country most years.) Starting any tomato indoors is assumed here - the volunteers in the garden only get a few weeks before frost hits.
This year was pretty whacky weather-wise and nothing really got going early, after a roller-coaster spring (80+ for weeks in March, hard freezing again in late April...) and then all the tomatoes got some sort of fungus that took out the foliage at the end of the year. Ordinarily I'd be running the dehydrator full-out right now as the frost is coming, but the vines all died out weeks ago.
If you have the space for them, I'd also suggest trying a Pineapple Tomatillo (open pollinated, not a tomato, a tomatillo, or "husk cherry.") They make much smaller tomatillos than the usual ones you find in stores, and you can either harvest them green and tangier (as the ones in the stores generally are) or let them go ripe, sweet and yellow where they do have a slight reminiscence of pineapple to the flavor. The plants get big (3x3 feet) and they really need an indoor start to get going well for harvest in summer here - but they do volunteer - since none of last year's old seed came up, we've made do with the ones that volunteered, but we'll lose them all soon, (even more tender than basil) so we didn't get many ripe ones this year - but the plants are covered with fruit right now. We've saved some new seed from those for next spring. They have had very little pest and no disease problems for us.
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On Mon, 08 Oct 2012 16:59:02 -0400, Ecnerwal

One year I grew several cherry tomatoes.
Jelly Bean Yellow Jelly Bean Green Grape Dr. Carolyn (white) Black Cherry Juliet (a slightly larger red cherry or very small Italian. Very prolific. Window Box Roma is also a good one for the deck.
I thought there were more but these are the only ones that show up right now
I am narrowing the varieties each year and also the number of plants. I do like to try something different each year to see if there is something really good to replace an old standby. I am thinking about dropping "Early Girl" since it is not all that much earlier than "Better Boy" which is a favorite here. Unless we eat lots of canned tomatoes this coming year I will plant about half as many "Viva Italia" which is our favorite for canning and sauces. Room to try a few old ones and see how they do this time. Maybe more cherries. I do have an outlet for the glut if it happens.
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On Mon, 08 Oct 2012 16:59:02 -0400, Ecnerwal wrote:

We usually have at least one cherry variety. Mostly they are flavorful and productive until they split and get moldy. For me they seem more prone to this than the larger tomatoes. Mainly we don't grow more because one or two gives us all the cherry toms we want; and they are take so much more time to process if canning.

I haven't found a plum variety yet that will grow in our cool environment and have much flavor.
[snip cherry info]

New England, while having a shorter season, is considerably warmer at its peak. Its challenges are different, and highly variable with exact location. It seems that the lack of high temperatures (which we really like for us) is a problem for many garden plants.

My condolences! We had one season where almost all of our tomatoes got late blight, going from huge luscious plants to grey dying hulks in a couple days - and the picked, rescued fruit got moldy and nasty in a week. It was awful. I hope you got something out of your crop.

[snip]
We've grown tomatillos- They do fairly well here, and tend to reseed themselves pretty effectively. We just aren't that crazy about their taste as tomatoes.
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Frank Miles wrote: ...

we are located in mid-michigan.
we grow beefsteak for canning/juice and sweet 100s for cherry tomatoes.
this year we added roma tomatoes and tried the ball beefsteak tomatoes that were supposed to be resistant to diseases.
we were coming along well until a flash flood knocked everything back for a few days and then fungal attack took out the beefsteak and roma leaves. both types had a large crop on them even in spite of the heat and drought we'd been experiencing. without the leaves the plants took forever to ripen anything and most of what we picked was orange. which we made into salsa. the taste was still ok.
as for splitting, no tomato plant resists splitting if the rain hasn't been coming and then there is a storm. the cherry tomatoes will split and we pick them and eat or put them in with the juicing or chunk tomatoes when we put them up.
our previous six years of tomatoes all did get ripe and we've always been happy, so this year was not a normal year, but we'll go back to the regular beefsteaks next season and hope that the weather isn't quite as difficult. i'm not sure we'll try romas again, but for salsa it was nice to have a firmer tomato. i never did get to make sauce as nothing was ripe enough for the color/flavor.
i think it was only the last few weeks that we had more leaves growing and few enough fruits to get red tomatoes. we have one more to eat up and then that's it. frosts/cool weather shut down the tomato plants a few weeks ago.
songbird
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