I can't remember such a fun (or busy!) spring - zipping about here and there, my latest event - last evening at the Pittsburgh Botanical Garden - provided once again a wonderful opportunity to be inspired by and learn from a warm and welcoming audience of fellow tomato lovers.
I like to vary my presentation so that it fits each location, each audience - working beforehand to understand the particular challenges faced by audience members. It is really an enjoyable challenge, and builds my own capabilities and understanding of tomato success.
There is one slide that remains pretty constant, however - my current "favorite varieties" list. It therefore seemed a good time to simply post it in this blog - I will expand a bit to offer my reasons why. OK - here goes...
- Cherokee Purple - combination of performance, flavor, beauty - and my luck in getting to name it!
- Lucky Cross (or Little Lucky – both great!) - the only big yellow/red bicolors I enjoy eating because they takes like its mother, Brandywine! This is also the first variety that I collaboratively created, starting from a surprise bee-made cross (Larry Bohs of NC was my partner in crime on these)
- Cherokee Chocolate - first mutation I found, equal to Cherokee Purple in every way except skin color (this one has yellow skin, Cherokee Purple clear). One of "tomorrow's heirlooms", born in 1995.
- Cherokee Green - another surprise - a flesh color flip out of Cherokee Chocolate, and so delicious. The amber skin is the ripeness/ready to pick indicator - born in 1997.
- Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom - One of my top 3 (along with Cherokee Purple and Sun Gold) - spectacular in every way - incomparable flavor.
- Green Giant - descends from Lillian's Yellow, sent to me by a German gardening friend - spectacular flavor - barely changes color when ripe.
- Dester - a new favorite, first sampled in a Seed Savers Exchange tomato tasting a few years ago. Looks like German Johnson, tastes like Brandywine.
- Sun Gold - the only hybrid on my list, and one of my few "must grow every year" varieties.
- Brandywine - perhaps the most famous heirloom tomato of all, well known since the mid 1980s - finicky and variable season to season, but when it is great, it is superb - the single greatest large tomato I've eaten is Brandywine (this is the pink potato leaf Brandywine).
- Sweet Scarlet Dwarf - one of the very best flavored of our 70 new Dwarf Tomato Project releases - beautiful potato leaf plant, medium large scarlet red fruit that awaken your taste buds.
- Dwarf Sweet Sue - my favorite of all of the dwarfs - so I named it after my wife! Medium sized, bright yellow, scrumptious.
- Dwarf Blazing Beauty - another of our dwarfs, this time rich orange juice hued, and unusual in its relatively low sugar level...this is one tart, zippy tomato.
The Dwarf varieties are found in an increasing number of seed catalogs. Our foundation companies - those that offer the most and that we work with faithfully on releases - are Victory Seeds, Tatiana's TOMATObase, Sample Seed Shop and Heritage Seed Market. Recently, Restoration Seeds and Fruition Seeds are jumping in big time....and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Sow True Seeds are ramping things up as well.
My other favorite trusted seed sources for great tomato varieties (in addition to those above) are Johnny's Selected Seeds, the Seed Savers Exchange commercial catalog, and the Tomato Growers Supply Company. There are many great seed companies, but it is the ones noted here with whom I've developed a long time trust and friendship. Lack of a mention does not mean lack of respect or quality.