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Tomato Trial Results for 2002
by John Harmon
September 22, 2002

With the nasty "S" word in the weather forecast the greenhouse-growing season is coming to a rapid end. The tomatoes are ripe and I've eaten a bunch of them just so I would be able to compare them.

Among the new tomato varieties I tried this year was one called "Quest". It's a greenhouse hybrid listed as having "strong vigor". It was the main Beefsteak tomato variety commercially grown in Belgium and France for 2002. It has been used in the southern US because of it's good performance in hot weather in the greenhouse. We had a great season for the greenhouse with above normal hours of bright sunshine right up until September and this variety did very well. The tomatoes are very firm even when fully ripe with meaty interiors. Ripened on the vine they have a very nice tomato flavor and keep fairly well.

What I didn't like about this tomato variety was that it suckers prolifically. It grew multiple suckers from the internodes so it was more work keeping the suckers trimmed than it was worth from a labor point of view. There are many other greenhouse varieties that produce as well without as much work trimming suckers. It is probably our long hours of sunshine in the summer that made this variety go nuts producing suckers. It also has a susceptibility to Botrytis in damp climates. It requires more management than other varieties with leaf removal and pruning. If you live in the south where there is less day length it might be worth trying but be prepared to work at controlling it.

Another variety I tried this year is "Mega Tom" The listing says "Giant fruits weighing 2 pounds or more with high disease resistance and superb flavor". It is an indeterminate variety and claims 79 days to maturity. It didn't like the long daylight at all and produced only small fruit. It was also susceptible to Botrytis. Not a variety I would recommend for the north.

The new variety I tried this year that produced the best was without a doubt "Dinner plate". I kind of ignored this plant and didn't do all the pruning I should have or cut it down to fewer tomatoes and it still did great. From just a single plant I got one tomato that weighed in at three pounds five and one half ounces, three others between two and two and a half pounds and three more in the one and one half to two pound range! They are very solid meaty beefsteak tomatoes with a nice old-fashioned tomato taste. They are not suitable for shipping because they are soft when ripe and bruise easily but for the home gardener they are great. I like this tomato and the long daylight hours didn't seem to bother it at all. It's also a fairly compact plant and didn't have problems with Botrytis even though other tomatoes in the same greenhouse did. This variety is well worth growing and might produce even bigger tomatoes with extra care.

The last variety I tried this year is called "Old German". The catalog listing said "An old heirloom variety producing huge boat shaped fruits weighing 2 pounds or so. Color is golden yellow with pink to red stripes that varies from fruit to fruit. Excellent for slicing". It did live up to its listing but with slightly smaller fruit size than advertised. It's a more compact plant than "Dinner plate" and slightly more resistant to Botrytis than other heirloom tomatoes I've tried. These tomatoes taste great and remind me of the variety "German Striped" with the same red/yellow striped flesh and taste. This was my favorite for toasted tomato sandwiches this summer and produced some nice big fruit in the one and one half to two pound range.

It was a good summer for tomatoes with all the extra sunshine and I did my best to eat as many as possible while the "getting was good" so to speak. With the snow coming and the greenhouses about to be shut down for the year I'll miss the tomato sandwiches but I'm already searching the web for new varieties to try next year.

John Harmon owns and operates Tropicals North. Write to John at The Real Dirt, c\o 211 Wood St., Whitehorse, YT., Y1A 2E4 or e-mail

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