Bob Vitali emailed: "I live in Eastern Massachusetts and I was
wondering what are the best tomatoes that are the heartiest, and the fastest growing
tomatoes for my area."
It is already time to transplant which means that you are probably going to be stuck
with the selection from local nurseries. "Stuck" isn't the right word. The local
nurseries will give you a good selection for your area. For fast growing and earliest
producing I would recommend a cherry tomato. One plant is enough. Having said that I have
to admit I didn't plant any cherries this year. An oversight since I do like them and they
are the earliest.
A good nursery should be able to help you decide. They won't have a wide selection but
what they have is probably what they have found does best for them and among their
customers. One of the varieties they may have is Celebrity. It is an All-America winner,
produces good seedlings which is why greenhouses like it but it also has flavorful, firm
fruit and is widely disease resistant.
It is a determinant variety which means that the plant will grow to a certain size and
stop. Indeterminate varieties grow like vines. If you stake them, the stake may have to be
six feet high or they may ramble all over the place.
You can get much more variety if you are starting your own seedlings. The catalogue in
front of me has thirty-nine varieties listed. The four varieties I'm planting were
selected from that array.
The earliest tomato I am planting this year is Glacier which is supposed to produce in
56 days. It is a small tomato and as early as sub-arctics which I have planted before.
Sold by Fedco Seeds (perhaps the only source) Fedco says "Glacier's rich tomato
flavor relegates the insipid sub-arctics to the compost pile. It is also far superior to
the highly touted Siberian tomato
Brandywine, a 112 year old Amish heirloom, "with a hint of tartness and a dollop
of good old-fashioned tomato flavor is at the leading edge of the heirloom revival. It had
dropped out of seed catalogues for a number of years but, fortunately, was kept alive by
individuals who saved their own seed from year to year. Why would a variety that many now
argue is the best tasting tomato, period, be dropped from catalogues. One of its features
is that the fruit ripens unevenly throughout the season with "at least a few quite
early for such a large tomato." This is a great feature for a gardener but not for a
farmer. I believe that varieties like this were dropped because breeders were breeding
tomatoes for the convenience of farmers, machines, boxes and marketers rather than for
gardeners and people who care about the taste and nutritious value of the food they eat. I
hate it when I'm cynical.
Sochulak, an Italian paste tomato, is another new tomato to our garden this year. The
catalogue description sold me.
"Very heavy early yields of oblate pink fruit with a meaty texture suitable for
eating or cooking. Eaten out of hand has the best flavor of any paste tomato. This
heirloom, pronounced suh-coo-luk, came from Italy to Maine three generations ago where it
was maintained by a family in Washington County. Seventeen years ago Roberta Bunker
received a sample. Over the years she has selected it for earliness and disease
resistance. Although it is still not blemish free, it is a fine choice for home gardeners.
Oxheart type grows medium to very large size and quickly fills up the sauce pot."
(Fedco Seeds, PO Box 520, Waterville, ME 04930-0520)
After 26 years of gardening I have not settled on a tomato that is in the "must
İMay 31, 1997
Mort is a husband and father. He authored a book, Gardening For
Independence and was named Environmentalist of the Year by Down East Magazine
in 1987. You can eat his organic produce at his son's southern
Maine restaurant. He is a consultant for organizations. His address is 802 Bald Hill Road, Wells,
Mort retains all rights to his columns. Anyone interested in using them can get the
rights at a very reasonable rate.