Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tomato Patch: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Yellow Plum tomatoes ready for preserving

This is a progress report on two of my trial tomato varieties for 2011, Yellow Plum and Super Marzano, seeds of which I bought from Tomato Growers Supply Co.

For a generation I’ve been growing small yellow tomatoes—usually Yellow Pear or Yellow Plum—for the primary purpose of making a family heirloom recipe, Yellow Tomato Preserves. I’ve learned over the years to choose Yellow Plum if I have a choice, because the Yellow Plums a slightly larger and meatier than the Yellow Pears, which means less preparation and cooking time.

This year I spotted Yellow Plum seeds in the Tomato Growers Supply catalog, and I have been delighted with the fruit. They are, on average, an inch and a quarter in diameter, meaty, about one ounce each, with little green in their cores (which tends to discolor the preserves over time), and somewhat more resistant to splitting after rain than the Yellow Pears I’ve grown in recent years.

8 ounces of heirloom gold
Monday afternoon and evening I made my annual batch of Yellow Tomato Preserves using a recipe very similar to the one my great-grandmother used. (For that story, see the link below to a posting I made last year. It includes a link to an online recipe.) That recipe calls for five pounds of tomatoes and five pounds of sugar, plus lemon (and I add pectin), and this week yielded eight eight-ounce jars and six four-ounce jars of preserves, plus a little left over for the preserve maker, of course, to enjoy on toast or English muffins the next few mornings.

The Yellow Plum tomatoes I prepared and cooked this week were the best batch that I can remember processing. For that, Yellow Plum tomato seeds from Tomato Growers Supply Co. get my “Thumbs Up.”

I intended to order San Marzano paste-tomato seeds but spotted Super Marzano VFNT hybrid seeds in the Tomato Growers catalog. Hey, why not? They have good resistance (VFNT) and the description sounded great: “average 5-inch long fruit … high in pectin, giving sauce and paste natural thickness.”

Half bucket of stunted Super Marzano tomatoes
But Super Marzano has been a disappointment. I’ve picked scores of fruit off three plants, and only three or four have been 5-inches long. Almost every fruit has been stunted because of blossom-end rot, as the photo indicates. Yes, I added some pulverized lime and water, as I do when I plant all my tomato varieties. A Big Mama plant between two Super Marzano plants has no blossom-end rot, and neither do two rows of Brandywines in front of the Super Marzanos.

I will try to salvage some of the fruit that seems least affected, but Super Marzano has been a super disappointment. I think it’s prone to blossom-end rot. For that, Super Marzano seeds from Tomato Growers Supply Co. get my “Thumbs Down.”

Comments posted earlier this growing season indicate that many tomato-growers are having major blossom-end rot problems with their paste-type tomatoes. If you’re growing a variety that has been relatively rot free, please post a Comment and tell us what it is—and add any special tip you have to prevent the problem.

To read my posting of August 2010 about why and how I make Yellow Tomato Preserves, CLICK HERE.

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