Garden Lifestyle

Roundup of the Top Tomatoes for 2014

A late start, continued unseasonably cool weather and drenching rains early in the season meant tomatoes had a difficult time this year.

Of all the tomatoes I grew this year, one heirloom stood out from all the rest.
Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

The advice I always give to gardeners about when to plant their tomatoes didn’t hold true this year. It’s always safe to plant tender crops like tomatoes when night-time temperatures are a reliable 50-55 degrees. However, spring weather wouldn’t cooperate. It took until mid-June for temperatures to warm up enough for planting.

Looks like I’ll be investing in more Ez-walls Plant protectors just in case another cool spring decides to hold back my tomato-planting. A little drum roll, please, as I unveil my top tomato picks for this year:

Costoluto Genovese: This Italian heirloom tomato plant was my favorite this season. The tomatoes had a terrific tomato taste, not too sweet and not too tart. I loved the way they looked, too. Most of them were deeply lobed with scalloped edges and they turned a beautiful, rich red color when ripe. I’m saving seeds from the best of these so I can grow them again next year.

Sun Sugar yellow cherry: I planted these bright orange cherry tomatoes in a hanging basket on a large trellis just off the patio, near the grill. That was the perfect spot for the sweetest of the varieties I planted. The only downside? Very few made it into the house because we’d eat them right off the vine as appetizers while waiting for the grill to heat up and for dinner to cook.

Sungold: The perennial winner at tasting competitions, Sungold is a delicious orange cherry tomato. The plant is prolific and it continues to pump out perfectly round fruits on extremely long vines. I’ve made several batches of roasted Sungold’s to freeze and use in tomato sauce this winter.

Black Krim: These heirloom black tomatoes are my all-time favorite tomatoes, and my vegetable garden wouldn’t be complete without them. The tomatoes have a deep, complex flavor, smoky and just slightly tart. The plant that grew in a large container produced especially huge fruit, as in one can fill up my two hands.

Amsterdam: These tomatoes were a new variety in 2012, and I can see why they were on the National Garden Bureau’s list of favorites. The fruits are about the size of two cherry tomatoes put together and they’re loaded with a balanced tomato flavor. It’s the richest tomato taste I’ve found in any small-sized tomatoes.

Chef’s Choice: An All-America Selection’s winner for 2014, this orange tomato is a cross using the fabulous Amana Orange. Its color is just as bright on the inside as its outside, and it stayed sharp once simmered into tomato sauce. I can see where this tomato gets its name, but it’s a good tomato for fresh eating, too.

Tiny Tim: This little heirloom packs a big tomato punch. The plant grows to only 12-18 inches tall, but it produces a lot of fruit. It makes a perfect patio plant or it can be grown inside on a super-sunny windowsill.

Indigo Rose: I looked forward to growing these dark purple tomatoes with the rosy interior, but I was disappointed with the taste. Compared to the other varieties I grew, Indigo Rose had a flavor that fell flat. On the plus side, there were a lot of cocktail-size tomatoes loaded with antioxidants.

Fastastico: Another All-America Selections pick for 2014, Fantastico performed well in both vegetable garden bed and patio container. These grape tomatoes produced a lot of sweet tomatoes that were consistent in size and taste. The tomatoes showed up early and kept producing all summer. Unlike the two types of cherry tomatoes, there was no splitting or cracking.

I also grew two admirable paste tomatoes, San Marzano and Roma, and a tomato I’m still waiting on: Julia Child. If the tomatoes on this plant ever get ripe, I’ll be sure to report on the flavor results.

That’s my list. What were the best tomato varieties you grew this season?


(Note: Some of these tomato seeds and plants were sent to me as complimentary samples.)

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