And the winner is…announced somewhere in this blog. I’ll try to keep it brief!
This year’s tomato tasting involved a LOT of dwarf tomatoes, many of them being trialed by San Diego Seed Company (thank you to SDSC for providing a bunch of tomatoes!). For those who are unfamiliar with dwarf tomatoes, they’re dwarf-sized plants but NOT dwarf-sized tomatoes. Like long-vined indeterminate tomato plants, dwarf tomato plants can produce cherry, roma, saladette, slicer, beefsteak (really any size) of tomato. They’re “dwarf” because they don’t get really tall–they’re more like super-producing tomato bushes.
To make things interesting, I included long-vined indeterminate tomatoes from my garden, to see how these “traditional” size tomato plants competed against the dwarf varieties.
Similar to last year, I created a scorecard (click here if you want a copy of the scorecard) that weights flavor/taste as twice as valuable as appearance and texture. In addition, we threw out the highest and lowest scores for each tomato and then took the average score. The highest possible score is 16.
We evaluated nine beefsteak tomatoes. Separately, we compared three cherry tomatoes with one another, and two paste tomatoes with one another. We didn’t expect the paste tomatoes to score as highly in taste because they’re bred for having a meaty interior for sauces, a different breeding priority than pure taste.
While I’m acting like this is all scientific, it’s really just around 20 people voting on what they (very subjectively) like best. Todd couldn’t believe that his favorite cherry tomato scored lowest among the group. So, my recommendation is to grow at least 10 different varieties yourself and find out what you like. If you think that’s a lot, consider that many of these are dwarf varieties, so you can basically stick them in 10-gallon pots all over your patio.
The winners in each category:
- Lucid Gem: A long-vine indeterminate tomato that also won last year’s taste test. We grew these in our garden in a 15-gallon pot and had them crawl over an arched cattle panel. One plant provided plenty of tomatoes for the tomato tasting. Score: 15
- Snake: A dwarf indeterminate with a smooth red exterior and excellent flavor. Grown at San Diego Seed Company’s Ramona farm. Score: 14
- Sweet Scarlet: A dwarf indeterminate with a beautiful red color and nicely ribbed form. Grown at San Diego Seed Company’s Ramona farm. Score: 13.1
- Blazing Beauty: A dwarf indeterminate with a gorgeous, glowing orange color. Grown at San Diego Seed Company’s Ramona farm. Score: 13
- GinFiz: A long-vine indeterminate tomato that’s what’s called a hybrid heirloom. These are very large, deeply ribbed yellow-orange tomatoes with marbled red interior. They cost $1 per seed from Johnny’s Selected Seeds and so I’m not sure whether I’ll make that investment again next year given their placement, though as you can see third place was super close. To be determined! Score: 12.7
- The bottom four were Bo Mango, Stony Brook, Wild Fred and Dixie Giant, respectively. All four were dwarf varieties and scored below 12 – not terribly well-liked among our group. It’s too bad because Stony Brook has gorgeous stripes. But in this test, we double-weighted taste as a contributing factor to the score.
Both types of paste tomatoes came from San Diego Seed Company’s Ramona farm. I typically don’t grow many paste tomatoes, but I currently have some San Marzano II tomatoes growing. They were planted late, so they weren’t ready in time for the tomato tasting event.
- Blue Beech: These are pretty hefty in size for paste tomatoes and scored better across the board. Score: 10.9
- Banana Toes: These plants produce prolifically, but the tomatoes themselves weren’t a hit with the testers. That said, most people use paste tomatoes for making sauces, which include multiple ingredients. Score: 8.3
Next year, I’m going to offer a larger selection of cherry tomatoes. Missing from this year’s tasting was Apple Yellow. Gophers killed a couple of my Apple Yellow tomato plants this year and the remaining plant was in between production of ripe tomatoes. (This means we–technically I–ate the ones that were ripe instead of saving them for the tomato tasting.)
- Sungold: Not a surprise, but this one was a clear winner. Sungold usually performs at the top of our tasting. Last year, it was right behind Apple Yellow and Citrine, which weren’t tested this year. They are adorable shiny round orange cherry tomatoes. The challenge with Sungold–and the reason you’ll find them in people’s gardens but not at the store–is that they tend to crack, which doesn’t do well when shipped to stores. SDSC has developed a non-cracking version of Sungold, but it didn’t perform as well in the taste test. Score: 14.4
- Two Tasty: This is a new hybrid from Burpee that I’ve been growing in the dahlia garden. They’re not my favorite seed company but I thought I’d try this on a whim. I really like them. They scored second overall but I thought they had a unique flavor and gorgeous appearance. Score: 12.2
- Dezi Cali Sungold. This is the new Sungold variety from San Diego Seed Company, the Sungold that doesn’t crack. Todd thought they outperformed the others but most testers disagreed. Score: 11.8
Here’s a look at several of the varieties (all photos by moi). In order: Bo Mango, Dezi Cali Sungold, Blazing Beauty, Blue Beech, Sweet Scarlet, Wild Fred, Dixie Giant, Snake, Sungold, Two Tasty, Gin Fiz and Lucid Gem.
The hardest part about hosting a tomato-tasting is scheduling, because I never know exactly when a majority of tomatoes will ripen. But plan on end of July / early August for next year. Hope to see you then!