My favorite tomato varieties

Pink Boar tomato.
Photo Pam Dawling

Over the years I have developed definite preferences about some tomato varieties, and I also enjoy trialing a few new kinds each year. We do our experimenting in the hoophouse, where we can keep a closer eye on the plants, and keep the labels visible (few weeds!)

New this year have been Pink Boar, Geronimo, Cherry Bomb and Estiva. Two of those I want to grow again, and two can fade into history.

Pink Boar is a beautiful fruit, with olive green strips on a wine-red background, and dark red flash. The flavor is sweet, tangy, rich and juicy like Black Cherry and some of the other dark-fruited tomatoes. The plants are vigorous (some say “aggressive”) and productive, although I do notice a bit of a tendency to split. Not big messy splits like Black Prince, but manageable if you pay attention to harvesting them when ripe. It may be our “beginner problem” of not knowing their ripeness signs as well as the other varieties. I recently told one of our crew “close your eyes and press the bottom of the fruit.” If it’s at all soft, it’s ripe. I learned this years ago from a completely blind friend who grew a garden.

75-80 days to maturity, indeterminate OP, 2-4oz (56-112gm), 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) in diameter. They were bred by Brad Gates from Black Boar and Brown Boar, as part of their Wild Boar series. I hear they grow OK in Texas. You can buy the seed from High Mowing, Baker Creek, Peaceful Valley, and Wild Boar Farms, the breeder himself.

Cherry Bomb tomato.
Photo Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Cherry Bomb is a firm, bright red cherry tomato with a sweet, well-balanced flavor. The 64 day, F1 hybrid indeterminate plants produce good handfuls of ripe 15-20 gm fruits at each harvest. They are not prone to splitting (unlike Sun Gold).

Cherry Bomb has a high resistance to late blight. We have rarely suffered from late blight, but I like to grow a few resistant tomatoes just in case. And we have been looking for a tasty reliable red cherry. This might be it. Cherry Bomb is sold exclusively by Johnny’s Selected Seeds, who rate this variety for outdoors, not just hoophouses. It’s out of stock until August 2023, so it must be popular!

We love Sun Gold, Black Cherry and Five Star Grape, but have still been searching for another cherry. We weren’t wowed by Washington Cherry or Riesentraube (gave those up after one year). Initially, we were taken with Amy’s Apricot, but we lost patience with its variability. It’s tasty, and a nice one for those growing only a few plants, who like surprises. But we have enough confusion, and want more predictability.

Mountain Magic tomatoes in mid-July.
photo Pam Dawling

We appreciate Mountain Magic more each year! We have been growing Glacier and Stupice as early hoophouse tomatoes for years, but the green shoulders are off-putting. Glacier is a 56-day OP determinate with potato-leaf foliage and good flavor. Stupice is a 55-60 day OP with potato-leaf foliage, but is indeterminate. From suppliers’ photos you wouldn’t know these two varieties get green (or yellow) shoulders, and the descriptions often don’t mention that either. Some particular varieties are more prone to green shoulders and there is also a weather component. When these varieties are in sustained high temperatures (hoophouses!), lycopene (red color) production is reduced, and when direct sun beams on the tops of the tomatoes, temperatures inside the fruits rise. Perhaps we’ve been pruning them too much.

Hoophouse tomatoes with yellow shoulders. Glacier or Stupice.
Photo Pam Dawling

Another factor is that at high temperatures, chlorophyll can’t break down, and the red color is hidden. The yellow color is carotene, and it is more heat-resistant than lycopene. We’re ready to wait a few days longer, and have fruit that are red all round.

Mountain Magic is a 70-75 day indeterminate red 2 oz (56gm) hybrid, from breeder Randy Gardner in NC. It is productive, beautiful (no cracks!), trouble-free (resistant to both early blight and late blight, as well as Verticillium and Fusarium wilts) and, importantly, delicious. It looks a bit like Amy’s Sugar Gem, but is more regular, and has a better flavor. This year we increased the number of Mountain Magic and cut back on the Stupice and Glacier. Next year we will probably grow a higher proportion of Mountain Magic again. And stop pruning the Stupice and Glacier we do grow!

Not quite ripe yet! Jubilee tomato in late June.
Photo Pam Dawling

Jubilee (also known as Golden Jubilee) is a lovely medium-sized orange 80 day indeterminate OP we have grown every year for a long time. Beautiful, meaty, delicious sweet fruit. Disease-resistant and crack-resistant. The seed has been harder to find since the start of the Covid pandemic. One year we even bought somebody’s home grown seed that arrived labeled “Probably Jubilee”. It was close enough under the circumstances. Reimer, Eden Brothers, Willhite, Victory, Sandia, Hoss Tools and Bentley have it currently.

For more Tomato Appreciation, see Craig LeHoullier’s Tomato Collection Tour. I linked to part 6: numbers 51-70, because Craig mentions Valencia, a selection of Sunray, which was selected from Jubilee (a stabilized cross by Burpee between Marglobe and Tangerine). In my search for a good reliable tasty orange tomato I have at some time tried almost all of these, without knowing their family connections.

Craig says his “Grow Every Year” category includes Cherokee Purple, Cherokee Green, Cherokee Chocolate, Polish, Lucky Cross. Others, such as Brandywine, Dester, Ferris Wheel, Yellow Brandywine, Anna Russian are grown in his garden every other year.

Tropic tomato in mid-July. Photo Pam Dawling

Our workhorse red slicer is Tropic, a heat-tolerant, disease-resistant 80-day indeterminate OP from the University of Florida program. Good sweet flavor, 8-9 oz (225-250 gm) fruit. The Southern Exposure Seed Exchange selection is available from Wilcox. Other suppliers of Tropic include Urban Farmer and TomatoFest.

If you are searching for heat-tolerant varieties, as we might all be wise to do, to face climate change, peruse the TomatoFest site Tropical Hot/Humid Tomato Seed Colleciton.

7 thoughts on “My favorite tomato varieties”

  1. My workhorses are Illini Star (smaller pink slicer with excellent disease resistance), Sunrise Bumblebee (cherry), and Vinson Watts (large pink slicer). I might have to try Mountain Magic and Jubilee, though.

    1. We tried Illini Star but the flavor wasn’t exciting. I’ve noticed that a variety that tastes well grown in one location might not be as good elsewhere. We tried Tappy’s Finest after someone moved here and raved about it, but it just wasn’t that great here. I think it’s like with grapes – terroir – the soil and location contribute to flavor.
      I do want to try some of those beautiful Bumblebees! I’ve heard Vinson Watts has good disease resistance and does well later in the summer, when others start to drop to disease.
      Pam

      1. My biggest challenge with Vinson Watts has been the earliest fruits’ tendency to merge into one mega-fruit and wrap around the stem, making them difficult to harvest cleanly. They’re nicely productive for an heirloom.

  2. I have a community garden plot in D.C. where disease pressure is through the roof. Have been very impressed for the past few years with Jasper for cherries, if you haven’t tried them. Valentine also is super easy to grow and incredibly productive – but not as tasty in my opinion. Thanks so much for this blog – such an amazing resource.

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