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Tastless tomatoes?

 
garden master
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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I love tomatoes. They have never done well in my garden. Usually I would get 2 or 3 tomatoes about late July. Then I would keep tomato greenery alive until September when the plants start to set fruit again, gifting me with 4 or so more ripe fruit per plant before frost threatens. Then comes the rush of harvesting some green fruit to ripen inside, lasting through early December. I have never had enough to warrant canning. Occasionally I'd throw a few at a time into the freezer, waiting for enough to make tomato soup. That year, as a newish gardener, the only variety I planted was Rutgers, adapted to a garden within 30 miles of me. That gardener claimed to put up lots of sauce each year. I do not remember if it set fruit in the heat.

I am growing two new varieties of tomato this year. Note that the seeds came from a small shop without adequate photos. I chose Homestead, and Mortgage Lifter, varieties that are supposed to fruit in HOT weather. My record keeping for my current garden is reprehensible, so I do not know which it is that survived my mistreatment this year. This tomato has lived up to fruiting in heat. The inside of the tomato looks like it could be either one. The shape of my tomato looks more like Mortgage Lifter. However, the taste leaves a great deal to be desired. The best thing I can say for it is it has a tomatoey texture. Given the reputation of the variety, ummm, maybe I'm eating them too soon? A lack of some kind of mineral? They have had a rosiness in color, not the red like in the grocery store varieties. I'll take a photo of my own next time, before I ingest it.

I would like to have a prolific, large sandwich sized tomato that tastes great, that I can also use in canning. It should also set enough fruit to can a whole bunch. It MUST set fruit in HOT weather. We often have temperatures in the upper 90's for July - early September. I assume plants are affected by heat indexes? Those often reach 104 to 115 in August. I have not had any problems with any type of blight. I don't know if it is in my area, of if I've just been lucky? Do you have any tomato suggestions?

Previosuly trialed assorted tomatoes:
Cherokee Purple: Yummm!!! But so thin skinned. Not enough quantity for preserving.
Green Zebra: Good, I just wasn't impressed, as no fruiting in the heat.
Amish Paste: Boring, no heat production.
Black Krim: Yummy!!!  But so thin skinned. Not enough quantity for preserving.
Hybids Big Boy and Early Girl:  No fruit set in the heat.
Some kind of red pear shaped paste: Boring. No fruit set in the heat.
Beefsteak: No fruit set in the heat.

Tom's Wild Cherry: This one has earned a place in my garden. First to flower, fruit and ripen, sets fruit in the heat. Mildly frost tolerant, so fruits longest as well. Constant salad additions all summer long! But too tiny for preserving.

In my search for a larger fruited variety, I abandoned the previously mentioned line of Rutgers. I do have seed left over that I will try to germinate next spring. Cross your fingers for me. The seed is at least (gasps) ten years old. My general gardening skills have much improved over time, so hopefully it will do better for me next time. Maybe I'll have to grow three kinds. Tom's, sandwich size and Rutgers. But I dream of simplicity.
 
steward
Posts: 2769
Location: West Tennessee
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Hi Joylynn, after reading your post I suspect it may not be the tomato varieties or genetics themselves. My guess is the culprit is soil fertility, by which I mean minerals and the bacteria and fungi that make those minerals available. I live in Tennessee along with you, and have my entire life, and have a few decades of tomato growing behind me. My experience includes using the blue powder in the yellow box when I first started as a teenager, to a small outdoor hydroponic thing using a 5 gallon bucket, to planting them in the ground and planting them in store bought potting soils. Only in the last ten years or so when I shifted to organic fertility use, did my tomatoes not only become ridiculously abundant, but bursting with flavor. By organic fertility I mean things like guano, fish, kelp, meals (bone, blood, fish, feather etc.) compost (both purchased and homemade) worm castings, and also focus on adding soil microbes and mycorrhizal fungus from inoculants. That is when everything started to fall into place for me.

Tomato plants are what they consider “heavy feeders”. I’m not exactly sure who “they” are, and what precisely is defined by heavy feeder, but in my experience they seem to take whatever fertility I give them. I also seem to notice when I miss a weekly (or a couple) fertility applications later in the season, say end of july and into august when the plants are as tall as me, and fruit set, size, and quality seem to diminish.

A brief note on flavor compounds, a lot of them in all fruits and vegetables are sulfur containing compounds. Having sufficient sulfur in the soil helps a plant, bush or tree make delicious tasting fruit and vegetables. It's not exactly this simple, there's a lot more to it, but I just wanted to make a note on a specific mineral and flavor.

If you have any more questions, I’ll be happy to try and answer them. We all have different amounts of enthusiasm and time to devote to gardening, and if you would like my ideas on easy fertility to help get the results you’re looking for, I can help with some suggestions as well.

Edit: I forgot to add my observations on tomato varieties. I have found that hybrids, often used in commercial agriculture applications, do indeed tend to have less flavor. It seems that when cross breeding varieties for size, shelf life, disease resistance, blemish free appearance, less bruising etc, the flavor of a tomato (and a lot of other hybrid veggies) are reduced or, maybe even lost. I quit growing commercial hybrids (like better boy and early girl for example) and focus entirely on heirlooms now. They can be more challenging to grow, like having the thin skin and short shelf life like you mentioned with the cherokee purple and black krim, but it's all good to me.

 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
689
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My guess is the culprit is soil fertility, by which I mean minerals and the bacteria and fungi that make those minerals available.



I am not convinced you are wrong... Here's the thing... My delicious Matt's Wild Cherry is in the same soil as the maybe Mortgage lifter. In well decomposed wood chips.

I have not been adding any type of fertilizer this year. The plants are the best looking I have ever had.

 
James Freyr
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:
I am not convinced you are wrong... Here's the thing... My delicious Matt's Wild Cherry is in the same soil as the maybe Mortgage lifter. In well decomposed wood chips.

I have not been adding any type of fertilizer this year. The plants are the best looking I have ever had.



What I believe is going on at this particular location is the fungal and bacterial populations are abundant, and making available all the nutrients the plants need. Wood chips is, I believe, the best single addition, to convert crappy soil into healthy soil. There are soils out there that have sufficient minerals to grow things but lack the bacteria and fungus to access those minerals. I will go on to say that the best soils will only contain 60 or so minerals, and the missing 30ish of the 90 or so that make real nutrient dense foods, and healthy life, are found in the sea. Adding a little unrefined sea salt is an easy way to get all the minerals needed for healthy life, both the soil life and the animals and people that eat those fruits and veggies.
 
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