Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Tomato Selection for Central Texas and Rules for Anywhere Else

I have found that many failed attempts at growing tomatoes stem from selecting a variety that is not well suited to your climate. So, how can we select the best ones? Our selections when we are perusing seed catalogs or picking robust transplants at the local independent garden center will ultimately set us up for success.   

I love heirlooms. I love newer hybrids, as well. I like an old time, tried and true, if it ain't broke- don't fix it variety as much as I appreciate newer cultivars that have their own disease and pest resistance and proclivity towards successful growth in the environment they were bred for. Choose what is right for you. I'm a Rebel- I'm not going to judge! 

At Lake Austin Spa Resort, where I am the Flora and Fauna Manager, I have worked with Richard Martin, who is the Culinary Gardener, to curate a collection of about 25 varieties to grow for our Chef, Stephane Beaucamp, to incorporate in his menus and for our world-class guest chefs to use in their dishes. Needless to say, we had to take a great deal of information into consideration when we made our picks.

Consider your specific climate. Is it hot and dry? Hot and Humid? Cool in the spring with a mild summer? Start by selecting tomatoes that are heirlooms form a similar climate or new cultivars developed for an environment like yours. If you are in Central Texas, a Siberian tomato variety is not going to work well, I don't care how many ice cold sweet-tea's you bring it. Look for varieties that come from places like Sicily, Iraq, Spain. Seek cultivars that were developed in similar areas for your specific climate. I like to look at reviews- when I shop for heirloom, I love Barker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have a kick-ass printed catalog and a fantastic online catalog, as well. The online version has reviews. If somebody in an area similar to mine highly rates a tomato, I can infer it will grow well here. If someone in Northern Michigan has great success but notes it is heat sensitive- no way will it make it past March in Texas. "Will this tomato grow in my region?" is the most important question- all of the cool qualities are secondary. 

Next, and this is the fun part, pick the characteristics that you desire in your tomatoes. Size matters! Do you want itty-bitty cherry tomatoes or ginormous whopping Stare Fair winners? What color? You can find everything from white to black. Orange, purple, blue, pink- there is every color you can want. Some are highly acidic, some are sweeter. Some are determinate, basically meaning they put on the whole crop at once, some are indeterminate, which means they put on a little at a time all season long. If you want to make salsa or sauces, determinate is your choice. If you want tomatoes on your plate all season, go for indeterminate. 

For our purposes at Lake Austin Spa Resort, I needed all of the above. I am gifted with abundant space and supplies, so I can have 25+ varieties of tomatoes, which makes me feel like a pampered Tomato Princess. I am abundantly blessed. Here are some of the varieties I chose, and why:

Cherokee Purple: this tomato consistently works in Central Texas and is both beautiful and delicious. If you only pick one, this one should be on the top of the list.

Mushroom Basket: an Italian type heirloom with gorgeous lobed fruit. This one can get BIG. if you want an impressive, tasty slicer, this is a great choice. 

Abu Rawan: this is an Iraqi heirloom and boy does it perform in the heat. When all other tomatoes are shriveling in the July and August sun, this one keeps cranking out fruit.

Brad's Atomic Grape: who doesn't love a grape sized tomato that is purple, yellow, red, and orange? 

Indigo Sun: I have grown this for the last four years, and it never fails to impress me. No matter how stressed it gets, it keeps banging out tomatoes. I suggest popping them in your mouth, whole, straight off the vine, warm from the afternoon sun.

Reisetomate: it is German, so will it work here? Maybe not, but it looks really cool. Remember- I'm a Rebel Horticulturist, so sometimes I need to break the rules, even if I made them! I hope this one works, it is super weird. 

Other varieties that I have chosen for this season are:
Blue Berries
Mortgage Lifter
Pantano Romanesco
Dad's Sunset
Carbon
White Tomesol
Dark Galaxy
Wagner Blue Green
Black Beauty
Costoluto Genovese
Yellow Pear
Lucid Gem
Solar Flair
Purple Bumblebee

I hope you have a fantastic time selecting your tomatoes! Be sure to check in with your Independent Garden Center for the best stock and selection, as well as pro advice for your area. 







2 comments:

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