Where did all the flavor go in our tomatoes? Are you tired of buying tomatoes at the Market that look good but when you go to eat them you find they are lacking in flavor? We have decided to offer Heirloom Tomatoes this year, grown from seed at Becky’s Flower Farm. Heirloom Tomatoes are proven to have the aroma, flavor and freshness you are looking for. This flavor is not found in the hybrid tomatoes available today. Hybrid tomatoes (often called ‘regular’ tomatoes) are the most common tomatoes available in markets and have been genetically mutated to improve shelf–life, marketability, and distribution issues. Hybridization also led to a tomato with uniform red color, thicker skin, and a consistent shape. Unfortunately, hybridization often result in a tomato with a loss of flavor. While there are still some great tasting hybrid tomatoes out there, there are a lot of hybrids that lack that rich taste we are looking for. Heirloom Tomatoes are open-pollinated tomatoes, whose seeds have often been handed down from generation to generation. They are generally thin-skinned, have a natural resistance to disease and are extremely flavorful. Plant some Heirloom Tomatoes this year and see if you taste a difference!
We have several different varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes organically grown from seed to be available this Spring. They are almost ready to be ‘hardened off’ or conditioned for growing outside. Generally in my area of Northwest Arkansas, zone 6b – 7, our last frost is around April 15 after which time it is considered safe to tomatoes. If planted before the last frost, they will need to be protected from cold nights and that fluke frost. If I get anxious and plant before that date and a cold night or late frost is predicted, I protect the plant by covering it with a larger plant container. Optimum temperature for growing tomatoes is 65 to 85 degrees. This has been an unusually warm year so far, so who knows??
When planting your tomato plants, pick a sunny spot and prepare the area by incorporating some well-rotted compost into the hole you are digging. Remove the lower leaves of the plant and place deep into the prepared hole so 2/3 of the stem is buried underground, leaving only 1/3 above ground. Your tomato plant will grow roots all along the buried stem developing a stronger plant with a large root system able to support more fruit and endure hot weather. If your ground is real hard and you aren’t able to dig deep, work the first 6 inches of soil and lay the tomato on it’s side with only 1/3 of the top sticking above ground. Cover with soil, water well and don’t forget to label so you know which tomatoes to grow next year. Water generously for the first few days. After that you should give your plants about 2 inches of water per week throughout the growing season. I like to add a layer of mulch around my plants to maintain moisture and restrict weed growth.
Heirloom Tomatoes available for Spring 2017:
Mortgage Lifter – An heirloom beefsteak variety and a longtime favorite also known as ‘Radiator Charlie’. A meaty and very flavorful red/pink skinned large tomato with few seeds. Tomatoes range from 1 pound to more than 3 pounds. This indeterminate, open pollinated tomato has a mild, delectable, sweet flavor.
Magnum – Another beefsteak heirloom tomato, Magnum produces large 14 – 16 oz. red tomatoes with a wonderful full-bodied flavor. Perfect for salads or slicing for sandwiches, or making a rich tomato sauce. A high yielding indeterminate variety with plant size 4 to 6 feet tall.
Hawaiian Delight – A large, golden-orange beefsteak variety producing high yields of 1 ½ lb fruit. When fruit is ripe it has a luscious, very rich, sweet pineapple like flavor. This variety is perfect for sandwiches, salads, and slicing. Plant size is 4 to 6 feet tall and is an open pollinated and indeterminate heirloom variety.
Clint Eastwood’s Rowdy Red Tomato – Is known and loved for its’ robust, bold, and tomatoey flavors while sporting a firm, juicy flesh. This tomato invites snacking in the garden, canning, cooking and seed saving. This disease resistant variety is very productive with lots of 2-inch (6-10 oz.), deep red, round fruits. A must to try!
Indigo Rose – Want to try a purple tomato? Indigo Rose is the first high anthocyanin tomato commercially available anywhere in the world. Anthocyanin is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in blueberries and reported to combat disease. The high amount of anthocyanin create a vibrant indigo color on 2″ round fruits. The purple coloring occurs on the portion of the fruit that is exposed to light, while the shaded portion starts out green and turns deep red when mature. Inside, the flesh reveals the same red tone with a superbly balanced, multi-faceted tomato flavor.
Allow fruits to mature completely for best flavor. Indigo Rose is an indeterminate, open-pollinated plant consistently producing a heavy crop whether planted in pots or a traditional garden. Plant size is from 3 to 5 feet. Bred at Oregon State University.
Hybrid Tomato (This is my go to tomato for making salsa as they are firm and don’t need peeling. Throw them in the blender or cut up for awesome salsa!)
Juliet – Produces a firm, bite-sized Roma shaped tomato perfect for cooking or adding to salads. Fruit is sweet flavored and juicy, remaining fresh a long time. Plants are heat tolerant and very productive with 1-2 oz fruits growing in clusters along the vines. Plants are disease resistant and fruit has proven to be very crack-resistant. These are an indeterminate variety that will produce until frost. An ‘All American Award Winner’ in 1999.
Indeterminate – Plants that will keep growing and producing new blossoms even after fruit set. Harvest may last for several months until killed by frost. Indeterminates can reach a height of 6 feet or more and require staking for support.
Determinate – Also known as “bush” tomatoes and grow to a compact height of 3 to 4 feet. Determinates stop growing when fruit sets on the top bud. All the tomatoes from the plant ripen at approximately the same time (usually over period of 1- 2 weeks). Only a limited amount of staking may be necessary making them perfectly suited for container planting.
Open-pollinated – Seeds from open-pollinated varieties produce plants and fruit that are identical to their parent. (Note: All heirloom varieties are open-pollinated but not all open-pollinated varieties are heirloom varieties.)