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My 2020 Tomatoes : Flavour and Overall Ratings

by | Sep 17, 2020 | Food, Gadgets, Greenhouse | 2 comments

Sweetness and Tomatoes: My 2020 Results

It’s not always about the sugar. As humans we can taste other things and we do: bitter and sour appeal more to us when we taste a savoury condiment or drink. Salty is great on french fries. But for snacking tomatoes I love sugar. I love it when I pop a tomato on my pizza or put it out with basil for snacks. And I love it early in the season.

From sweetest tomato on the left to blandest on the right the winner this year was Jasper. It was also my smallest tomato. Go figure.

  When I picked tomatoes from my greenhouse in early July many varieties were already juicy and ready to eat.

 

And this is why I decided to test all my tomatoes so I could share the info with you. Sadly I didn’t think to do this when I had more kinds of tomatoes coming off the vines like Indian Stripe, an heirloom related to Cherokee Purple that was so early I have already eaten them all.

 

Ready before I was, this very juicy tomato did not get measured for Brix. I will grow it again next year simply because it was so early.

 

Aussie is also an Heirloom and comes true from seed. These were so massive I kept giving them away just for the fun of it. Trouble is I forgot to Brix test it. But I generally find the bigger the tomatoes the less sweet. So I will grow it again and expect it will score a 3-4. It is a repeat just because of the novelty of such huge tomatoes. Many were over two pounds.

 

Next year I will start testing earlier. Note: sweetness changes with picking time and fruit ripeness.  I picked these all at the same time, early in the day, and they were all fully ripe. Sweetness also changes with nutrients in soil. I will test some of the same varieties again next year to see if their Brix test changes with how I fertilize.

 

Juliet tomatoes are on my list every year. This is because they are sweet (a Brix of 6) and they are paste-type so are easy to cook into sauce. I also find they are one of the earliest tomatoes I harvest and that is a good thing.

 

My friend Maxine pointed out to me that depending how you cook with tomatoes it may not actually be worth going for the sweetest kinds. She prefers to make tomato sauce so she likes the drier, less juicy varieties and expects they may not be as sweet.

Dwarf tomato developer Craig LeHoullier agrees with Maxine and by email he said: Looks like Speckled Heart grew well for you and fulfilled what I thought it would be – a nice productive, pretty sauce type tomato (the lower Brix), rather than a fresh eating tomato (though I like it for that as well – I am not a sweet tomato lover as a rule).

In my garden I like to eat handfuls of fresh tiny tomatoes and also to cook with them so I grow a variety of kinds. Also, I am lucky to have a greenhouse so I grow outside and inside. I have more options.

 

One of my favourite ways to use  tomatoes is in Kale salad. At these times I like the tiny super sweet varieties like Sweet 100 or Jasper, shown here with my homegrown, steamed Goodman Cauliflower and roasted Sieglinde Potatoes.

 

Fresh pasta sauce is usually made mid-season and at the end of the season. This means I use more than one kind to get the quantities I want. Here you can see a variety of tomatoes put to use in the making of sauce.

 

So a general rule is the bigger the tomatoes the less sweet they are but I have also noticed the really big ones do not produce as many tomatoes. I only got six huge Aussie tomatoes on my one plant. I did get about twenty Pantero Romanesco on each of my two plants and they seemed to produce about the same outside and inside the greenhouse. I got these seeds from Emma Biggs so they are a keeper and I will grow them again next year.

 

A variety of mid-season tomatoes including Pantaro Romanesco –  showing their large size and early production. This was both an early and a late season variety and a favourite in pasta sauces because they produced so many fruits.

One type of tomato was so new that I couldn’t even find any info about it when I tried to track down what it would look like. I got the seeds for Dwarf Speckled Heart from Craig LeHoullier and they are part of his dwarf tomato breeding program.

They have not been released yet so they are still too new to have loads of buzz on the net. They were all ready together at the end of August and this was both a good thing and a bad thing. I got over 5 lbs of fruit off one plant and each fruit was on average 1/4 lb (108 grams). But they only got a Brix count of 3 so they were pretty but not super sweet.

Dwarf Speckled Hearts are somewhat heart shaped and striped. They are not particularly sweet and they are ready all at once so that could be good or bad, depending how you cook them.

Dwarf speckled heart is a new tomato variety ideally suited to sandwiches, salsa and sauce! It is a beautiful dark red colour with very little liquid and a low Brix rating.

“Looks like Speckled Heart grew well for you and fulfilled what I thought it would be – a nice productive, pretty sauce type tomato (the lower Brix), rather than a fresh eating tomato (though I like it for that as well – I am not a sweet tomato lover as a rule,”  says developer LeHoullier.

For a closer look at the tomatoes I tested for Brix this year I split the lineup in two. Here are the photos and Brix ratings for the tomatoes from biggest to smallest:

The tomatoes still in the garden on September 14, 2020 were lined up from largest to smallest and tested for Brix.

The smaller tomatoes tend to be ready early and late depending on whether they are grown in the greenhouse or outside. These were all picked and measured on Sept 14. Jasper were definitely the sweetest of the lot and although they are small they are so sweet and early so definitely worth growing.

 

I love tomatoes and will continue to grow an assortment in my garden. There are so many to try that some will be dropped while others are added next year. Tell me what you are growing and why? I always love feedback and recipes.

 

Simple dishes like bruschetta benefit from a variety of shapes and colours. This is why I continue to grow yellow types like Rumi Banyan and orange cocktail-size tomatoes like Clementine.

Off the list for 2021: Arbason. They are red, have the taste and texture of cardboard and seem to need a greenhouse or cover to grow at peak. They are also hybrids and this means every seed costs about 10 cents each. This really adds up when you grow a lot of tomatoes from seed. These are going away not only because they are very expensive to buy…. they also scored the lowest Brix rating of my varieties – 2.

PS I used a  refractometer to test the Brix levels of my tomatoes. You can get one online at several sources but VeeGee is the brand I use for testing the sweetness of plants I grow. 

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this Elaine! Are you growing these outside or under cover? I will definitely try the Jersey Devil. What location (where in the world?) are you growing these?

  2. We have had an amazing tomato year with the plants so productive I am struggling to keep up with processing. My favourite sauce type is Jersey Devil, huge pepper-shaped fruits, and for fresh eating Indian Stripe and Sungold.

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