Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Great Tomato Review of 2010

Tomatoes have come in waves around here. One wave hit while we were in Argentina, and our friend Russell was able to harvest and enjoy our tomatoes; we caught the end of that wave upon our return. We've had a steady stream of tomatoes since then, but now we're gearing up for another wallop of ripening tomatoes. Though I've put off canning all summer, I can see that I'll be able to put it off no longer.

It's been a good year with some great tomatoes who stole my heart and my tastebuds. Before I get started, I should say that I took some of these pictures with eggs (courtesy of Blondie and Smalls) so you could have a size reference. Let me introduce you to this year's tomato team, listed in no particular order.

1) Guernsey Island Pink Blush
Here, you can see that Guernsey Island Pink Blush is a small tomato, but larger than many cherry tomatoes. I guess one could categorize it as a "grape" tomato, though better tasting than any grape tomato I've experienced. Slightly elongated, most fruits have a small nipple and are a sexy, deep pink color. They're incredibly sweet with a fantastic eating texture: firm but thin-skinned, balanced perfectly between gel and flesh. The flesh has a slippery, tongue-like texture, which sounds kind of naughty, as if you're French-kissing a tomato when you eat one, but the tomato kisses you back, and who doesn't want such a sweet kiss? The only thing I've done with this tomato so far is pop handfuls of them in my mouth as appetizers or garden snacks, but I'm sure these would be great in salads, topping a fire grilled pizza, or tossed with pasta.

2) Goose Creek
This tomato was a complete disappointment to me. It was way too small for a regular tomato, way too grocery-storish, way too unproductive. Supposedly able to set fruit in heat, it stopped making fruit as soon as it warmed up. It also gets sun burned far too easily for my climate. It was all around lame.

Except for one thing: the tomatoes dried very nicely in one of our heat waves.

Despite this, I will not grow Goose Creek again.

3) Linnie's Oxheart
Oooooooh baby, these are some mothers, some bright red triple Ds of a tomato. On top of their heft, they're delicious. They've got a great, balanced flavor and are just about the meatiest non-paste tomatoes I've ever encountered. Linnie's Oxheart (and Kosovo, below) have solidified my love for oxheart tomatoes. They taste good, they're super-meaty, they're usually large, and they make great sandwiches and canners. That's what I want out of a tomato: everything. Though Linnie's Oxheart and Kosovo are very similar, Linnie's wins by a hair on flavor. To my tongue, Linnie's Oxheart has enough tang to balance the sweet, making the flavor more complex than in Kosovo. The plant has been a steady producer, offering no big glut, but one or two ripe tomatoes at a time, spread out over the season.

Linnie's Oxheart is a winner and will stick around.

4) Kosovo
Kosova wins the blue ribbon this year. The flavor may not be quite as complex as Linnie's, as it sits on the sweeter side of tomatoes, but it is so meaty, so productive, so blemish-free, so early and so late, it has given me nothing to complain about. The first ripe tomato in my garden was not a Guernsey Island Pink Blush; nope, it was a huge, pound-plus Kosovo. And even through the heat, this guy keeps setting fruit. The plant is now easily ten feet high, and it shows no wear-and-tear of disease, heat stress, drought stress, or age that many of the other plants now exhibit. As well, while many oxhearts have wispy leaves that offer too many opportunities for sunburn or bird buffets, Kosovo has regular, sturdy leaves.

The fruits are very deep pink, and the flesh has few seeds. In fact, it has so few seeds that seed saving from this guy is quite a bit of a chore—a very, very worthwhile chore. I'm looking forward to canning a load of Linnie's Oxhearts and Kosovos in the next couple weeks.

5) Black and Brown Boar
Such a pretty tomato, isn't it? I love the way the bronzy-greeny-browny stripes look against the rust red on the flesh. The interior doesn't have the same stripey quality; it looks like a basic "black" tomato on the inside. And the taste? Good. Much better than any grocery store tomato and most farmer's market tomatoes, but it didn't blow my mind. They taste similar to the Japanese Black Trifele that I grew last year, though the flavor of the Japanese Black Trifele didn't fare as well with the heat as Black and Brown Boar's does (by this time year last year, Japanese Black Trifele produced tomatoes that were mushy and way too juicy to enjoy). Black and Brown Boars also fit in a funky middle-ground of size. They're not large enough to use much in meals, and they're too large for cherry/grape tomato uses. I guess I just like my 'maters on the large end or the small end. I have little use for mid-size. Black and Brown Boar, I just want you to swell up for me a bit, okay? If you could do that, I'd grow you again.

6) Brad's Black Heart
By far, this is the best tasting tomato of the year. Daaaaaaaaaaaaang, just thinking about this tomato makes my mouth water. Sweet, smokey, a little salty, meaty . . . hungry yet? I wish this tomato was a better producer. It's semi determinate, but seems to send up new stalks, that, though they get no taller than the small plant, set more fruit. So it didn't stop setting fruit, like a determinate variety, but it did slow way down. I have two of these guys in my garden, and they grow the same way, in spurts and sick-looking. They don't seem to have any real disease, but they've never appeared to thrive either. That won't stop me from growing them again though; this is the tomato to slurp up in simple 'mater salads of garlic, olive oil, basil, salt, and plenty of tomatoes.

7) Green Pineapple
In the picture below, Green Pineapple is in the bottom and Not Wes is on the top.

Green Pineapple has a mostly golden-green skin when ripe, but the flesh is disarmingly green, lime Jell-o green, apple Now And Later green. They're juicy, flattened beefsteaks, and they fit firmly in the sweet end of the tomato flavor spectrum. Despite the expectations their coloring creates, they aren't tangy. They're nice eating in salads, especially with a shot of sherry vinegar to zip them up a bit, and I've enjoyed growing them. While the green-green color is fascinating to add to salsas, and although they're certainly unique, they're not on my must-grow-again list. Of course, I say that now, and who knows? By next year, I may really want to have Green Pineapple again just for the variety.

8) Not Wes
I picked the Not Wes below on the shy end of ripe. They're good that way, but they're great when they turn dark gold. I've written about them before, so I won't beat a dead horse, but I will add that they're a funny tomato in that they seem to love the microclimate of my yard. And who wants to mess with that? I'll keep them around as long as they keep doing they're funky, beautiful thing.


Rowena said...

I am especially taken with the hearts...both Linnie's and Brad's. The insides just look so tempting! Still, 8 tomato reviews is quite an awesome thing and am glad that you've shared them with us again!

michelle said...

This is a great informative review of the tomatoes you're growing this year. Brad's Black Heart sounds like one that I would like to try. The Not Wes plant that I'm growing from the seeds you sent me is turning out to be Not Quite Not Wes, the tomatoes are yellow but they aren't as funny shaped as yours. They have narrow shoulders and wide hips, a slightly pointed tip, something like a flattened oxheart shape. They are the very last variety to ripen and I picked the first one yesterday and haven't had a chance to taste it yet. I'll be posting photos of them when I've harvested few more.

Christina said...

Rowena: My pleasure, Rowena. It's fun to have a variety to examine each year.

Michelle: It's funny. I bagged the blossoms to keep from cross-pollination, but something may have gotten in there anyway, because my Not Wes aren't quite as Not Wes-y as they were last year. Last year, I had two plants that spit out loads of deep gold, funky-shaped fruits. This year, I have two plants, and one of them produces mostly round, with a few unusually shaped fruit, and the other more oxheart shaped fruit. Interesting. I hope yours tastes good. Mine have been good here.

Amy said...

The Brad's Black Heart variety sounds wonderful, and it looks gorgeous besides. Thanks for these great reviews!

kevin said...

Thanks for your great tomato review. I planted a Brad's Black Heart over a month ago and in comparison to the other sixteen varieties I'm growing, this one looks sickly and weak although it has no signs of disease. After reading your review of Brad's Black, I see that I have nothing to worry about. Thanks again!