In March, Tom Wagner, the tomato breeder who created Green Zebra, Banana Legs and more, sent me seeds for four blue, open-pollinated, tomatoes he’s stabilizing for market.
As I wrote in this blog last spring, I started plants from seed for Pansy Ap, Blue Bayou, Helsig Junction and Fahrenheit Blues and put them out in the garden June 10.
I’m excited about these tomatoes, as their blue pigment contains the same vitamins and anthocyanins found in blueberries.
Those antioxidants help to prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.
Some of the cultivars have blue skin only, others have blue in their flesh.
Blue tomatoes color quickly after setting their fruits. You have to wait until all the green has turned to red or blue to pick.
Tomatoes and other warm season crops went in late due to a cold spring that lingered, tornado damage and torrential rains. The weather hasn’t been any better since. Extreme heat replaced the chill, and parched ground alternated with heavy rainfall. This summer was the ultimate test for the viability and performance of any tomato. Blight, rot, mildew and more have developed on all crops, including tomatoes.
I included two grafted tomatoes amongst the dozen I planted to test their ability to eliminate late blight. It’s been epidemic in the past two years. Big Beef was sent to me to trial by a plant company. The other, heirloom Japanese Black Trifele, I purchased from Territorial Seed.
All tomatoes were planted alike, in full sun, fertile soil, caged, mulched with 6 inches of straw and spaced wide.
Tomato Seed Trial Results
Plants of the blue tomatoes have shown no disease, and they’ve set heavy crops. All fruits are small in size, from 3-inch salad types to cherries. They were bred that way by Wagner, as he used salad-sized tomatoes like Green Zebra as the parents.
Pansy Ap tomatoes have a robust, yet nuanced taste to them. The bottoms of each fruit change from white to red when mature.
Pansy Ap, a 3-inch tomato, colored blue and ripened first. Skins were dark blue with white bottoms that turned to red when fully mature. Bursting with tomato taste and blushes of citrus and merlot, flavor was robust, yet nuanced. Fahrenheit Blues, the cherry with blue skin and streaks of blue in its flesh, was sweet and robust. Cherries grew in long tresses for easy picking.
Big Beef grafted tomato plant was disease-ridden from the beginning. All tiny fruits aborted, as they were consumed by fungal diseases.
The two grafted tomatoes were polar opposites of each other. After six weeks in the ground, Big Beef looked like a flame-thrower had hosed it. The plant was stunted, all foliage was edged in black, tiny set tomatoes were covered with mold and plants were withering. Obviously, the grafted rootstock didn’t stop blight and other fungal diseases. Japanese Black Trifele was healthy, huge and loaded with fruit. Its rootstock obviously worked, giving the plant plenty of disease protection.
Japanese Black Trifele grafted tomato plant had no sign of disease, grew fast and set a huge crop of fruits.
I’ve harvested more than 70 fruits from Japanese Black Trifele, each averaging about 12 ounces. Flavor was intense, like most heirlooms. The black interior seed cavities are a bit strange looking, but they give the tomato its complexity. One tiny Big Beef fruit finally formed and is struggling to put on size.
Did you try any new tomato seeds this season? What are your results? Please share your tomato experiences by posting below.
Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.
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Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including amazon.com.