How to grow tasty tomatoes

Guest post by The Diggers Club

tomato tasting

About the Taste Test

The Diggers Club conducted a tomato taste test to see whether heirloom tomatoes could beat the supermarket hybrids. The taste test was held in February 2013 at the Adelaide Botanic Garden, with South Australian garden experts, and cooks and gardeners invited.

Supermarket hybrids are usually dwarf bushy varieties which are easier to machine harvest and are bred for long-distance shipping. Being dwarf varieties they are invariably low in flavour with short harvest periods. The tasty long-harvest period heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate, with lateral branches that continue to grow and therefore need support.

The seeds from these heirloom tomatoes bred in back yards over hundreds of years hold a continuous unbroken link to our history.

The Results

The top ten Diggers Club Tomato Taste Test results were all heirlooms:

Rank Variety Colour Size
=1 Hungarian Heart Pink Oxheart
=1 Jaune Flamme Orange Apricot
2 Tommy Toe Red Apricot
3 Black Cherry Purple-Black Cherry
4 Wild Sweetie Red Pea
5 Wapsipinicon Peach Opaque Apricot
6 Lemon Drop Lemon Grape
7 Ananas Noir Yellow/Black Beefsteak
8 Black Russian Black Apricot
9 Periforme / Granny’s Throwing Red Large pear
10 Purple Smudge Orange Beefsteak

We had three Italian Chef/food experts who rated Italian red heirloom Periforme the best, in preference to highly coloured heirlooms.

tomatoes in basket

Growing tomatoes

Tomatoes are easy to grow with 6 hours of sunshine per day in friable, well drained soil.

  • Sow seed into Jiffy or Peat Pots 6 weeks before transplanting to minimise transplant root disturbance. All but dwarf varieties need support.
  • Being frost sensitive they need minimum 15 degrees C soil temperature for up to 21 growing weeks. Plant out at 1 metre spacing.
  • Heirlooms will fruit from January for 3-4 months in cool climates and all year around in hot climates, hence the ubiquitous supermarket ‘winter’ tomato!

Summary

The first eighteen varieties preferred were all heirlooms from Hungry, France, Italy, Russia and America, and seven of the bottom eight were red commercial varieties from the South Australian market. Since the 1993 taste test which was won by Tommy Toe, fourteen varieties were regarded as better than the garden standard Grosse Lisse.

Would you pay four hundred times the price of heirlooms to an overseas corporation when you can save your seeds and replant for nothing?

Guest post by The Diggers Club

The Diggers Club top five heirloom tomatoes

A good tomato is one the fruits early and continues to yield over a long period. Our trials at Diggers prove heirloom tomatoes fruit earlier, have a higher yield and their flavour is preferred to commercial hybrids.

Here are a few of our favourite heirlooms:

tigerella

Tigerella: The best yielding tomato we have ever grown! It produces around 20 kilos of fruit per plant. The flavour is excellent, it fruits early and the ‘tiger stripes’ are very eye catching. One packet of seed could produce around 500kg of fruit!

green-zebra

Green Zebra: A tomato with a built in colour marker that produces yellows stripes indicating ripeness. This modern heirloom has been bred by Tom Wagner and created huge interest when we first introduced it in 1991. It’s an early tomato, and the green colour confuses the pests. One of the most beautiful, and now a classic, heirlooms.

jaune-flamme

Jaune Flamme: This jewel-coloured heirloom from France produces trusses of orange fruit very early in the season. For tomato guru, Amy Goldman, ‘Flamme can do no wrong. Unsurpassed for flavour and appearance.’

black-cherry

Black Cherry: Dark, sweet and juicy fruit makes them look just like cherries. The round and exceptionally sweet fruit is of the highest standard. It shows good disease resistance and is a strong a vigorous plant.

amish-paste

Amish Paste: Heirloom tomato expert David Cavagnaro rates Amish Paste 100 out of 100; the perfect score. Originating in the gardens of Amish communities, this has a rich sweet flavour for salads but is meaty enough for sauces.

Guest post by The Diggers Club