by Chris Blanchard
from issue # 28
I’ve seen my share of tomatoes. As a garden manager at Heritage Farms’ Preservation Gardens at Seed Savers Exchange, I grew and evaluated more than 500 varieties. Many of them were marvelous, tasty, bright, and flavorful. None engaged me more than the varieties that resemble bell peppers and make such colorful vessels for stuffing.
Like bell peppers, stuffing tomatoes have a hollow cavity in the fruit. They don’t have the partitions packed with gel and seeds found in other tomatoes. Instead, the fruit holds just a small seed cluster that looks like a strawberry, so it’s easy to prepare the cavity for stuffing. But convenience has its cost: These varieties are not as flavorful as other types. The flesh, however, is firmer, which helps these tomatoes stand up to stuffing.
Stuffing tomatoes probably emerged as garden flukes, which amateur breeders and small seed companies have kept going. They lack the broad appeal that would attract a large commercial venture, but you can easily grow your own from seed. Don’t wait for stuffing tomatoes to come to a produce counter near you because they probably won’t. Give them a try in your garden.
If you routinely grow healthy tomato plants, you can easily grow stuffing varieties by following the same practices. Preventing blight will be more important because you’ll be using them as edible bowls, and cutting out blemishes in the walls won’t be an option. Pruning out suckers increases air circulation, which helps fend off blight, and consistent watering helps prevent blossom-end rot.
Many red stuffing tomatoes are available, but I prefer the more exotic color schemes. Of all the stuffing tomatoes I have tried, the pleated, pink ‘Zapotec Ribbed’ has the best flavor. ‘Yellow Stuffer’ has four distinct lobes, like a bell pepper, and vibrant color. Other stuffing tomatoes, such as ‘Liberty Bell’, share the same shape, but ‘Yellow Stuffer’ is larger and more regular.
My favorite is ‘Striped Cavern’, a small tomato with orange and red stripes. The unusual colors allow for a striking presentation. It looks especially nice sharing a plate with ‘Green Zebra’, a similarly sized stuffing tomato with green and yellow stripes.
The following sources carry the best selection of the tomatoes mentioned in this article.
Tomato Growers Supply
PO Box 60015
Fort Myers, FL 33906
334 W Stroud Street
Randolph, WI 53956