I thought I’d share some of the new varieties of tomatoes I’m growing this year, along with some old favorites.
Garden Gem is a new hybrid, poised to take the fresh market grocery store tomatoes on. Same disease resistance, same shipping quality, but with much improved flavor. Dr. Klee describes the research at his site:
The first step in a flavor improvement program starts with a simple question: what do people like and what’s in the varieties that people do like? In order to answer this question, we took a giant step back to “heirloom” tomatoes.
Blush has been around for a few years, an open pollinated variety with a great history of breeding, since 8 year old Alex was instrumental in choosing its parent lines.
The year that the cross that created Blush was made, Alex participated in setting up crosses for our annual winter crossing list. He chose 3 of the 19 crosses to be made that year, after the other 16 had been established (by a PhD-holding plant breeder with big plans). The striking outcome is that about 90% of the value from that year came from Alex’s 3 crosses. The progeny from his crosses continue to permeate most everything we are doing.
Both have something in common in that one of the progenitors for each is a variety called Maglia Rosa.
Note also the meatiness of Garden Gem … I think it will make a great all-purpose variety for the home gardener for canning and sauces, as well as fresh eating.
Another aspect, which you can’t tell very well from the picture of Garden Gem, is the faint yellow striping in the skin, and some later fruits that have a hint of a nipple on the blossom end.
Next up, another Garden Gem, followed by Maglia Rosa, and then Green Tiger. See hints of vestigal “nipple” alluded to earlier in the Garden Gem.
Cute little feller … a Currant Tomato. Actually, a different, but very close relative, and source of much research and study, since it still grows wild in the Andean mountains … PITA to pick, but great “conversation piece” when used as a garnish. Solanum pimpinellifolium
We grew these as part of a variety trial a few years back … more for the novelty. But when we did a Brix test that year, it was the highest recorded.
A little odd, since the flavor is not in the least “sweet” … coulda been just more concentrated. Dunno, really.
Aunt Ruby’s German Green. One of my long term favorites. It’s a more tangy than sweet heirloom variety that stays green when ripe.
Green Zebra … an open pollinated variety bred by Tom Wagner and introduced in 1983 according to Wikipedia.
Green when ripe, and with yellow striping. Dunno why most of mine this year are exhibiting a lobed shape, rather than perfectly round.
I may have to buy new seeds next year.
Another hybrid from the research lab of Dr. Harry Klee of the University of Florida. This one is named Garden Treasure.
I don’t have any information about its progenitors, like its companion Garden Gem.
Beautiful, baseball-sized fruit. Very slight indication of green shoulders, and with the same faint yellow stripe as Garden Gem. Also a heavy fruit, very meaty.
And very good flavor. Pretty good balance between tart and sweet. I can see these being popular with fresh market growers.
I sourced the seeds from Dr. Klee’s efforts by making a small donation to his research program at the University of Florida. The idea was brought to my attention by his colleague, Dr. Kevin Folta in this blog post.
We can look forward to new, satisfying varieties that merge the best of production traits with the historical successes that delighted the senses. These are new heirlooms, and they open an exciting peek of what is coming in plant genetic improvement.
Here are more details of the story and the individual varieties! I hope you order some seeds and give your feedback to Dr. Klee so he can build your ideas into the future of tomatoes!
I often complained about the flavorless red things that you find in grocery stores, so here was a way to support researchers working to overcome that.
And Dr. Klee is not alone. Rutgers University went about restoring the old fresh market hybrid varieties that gave “Jersey Tomatoes” their deserved reputation.
Read about Ramapo, Moreton, and a processing tomato at the Rutgers site Rediscovering the Jersey Tomato .
And there are other research programs at Purdue, University of Michigan and Israel conducting similar efforts. No doubt there are others.
The future of good tasting grocery store, and fresh market tomatoes seems bright.