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bower January 6, 2018 12:42 PM

determinate blacks 2017
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So this past season I had three determinate black lines to grow out: the Black Nipper cherry F5, the black-Beta Sundog F4 and the F3 of a determinate selection from the Rodney line.

Due to space limitations, I grew only two Sundogs and two Black Nippers, but I decided to grow ten of the Rodney F3's to select for fruit size as well as taste and growth habit. So this was a new experience for me, having to evaluate ten very similar fruit. Very grateful to my taste testing crew for their help.

This is what my taste table looked like:

Fred Hempel January 6, 2018 12:55 PM

Those fruits look like they are in great shape! Very impressive. Can you tell us about your growing techniques?

KarenO January 6, 2018 01:05 PM

Beautiful colour Bower. Subtle differences in the early selections are so important aren’t they. The plants all remained determinate for you ?

bower January 6, 2018 01:20 PM

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Fred, these are mostly greenhouse grown fruit, in containers 5 gal and up. Once again, I had too many plants for the space, and perhaps waited too long to move some of them outdoors where I have minimal shelter for about 15 plants.
The Rodney line were not prone to splitting, although I did have a few of the de-selected (later and more 'ruffled') fruit split outdoors. The best of the Rodneys are pretty darn good. :) Sundogs were awful 'boat' shapes very prone to cracks and corky stem end. Black Nipper cherry will split in some conditions if left ripe on the vine.

Here is a picture of one of my outdoor shelters, with a couple of Rodney F3s among others in the 'bus shelter with rails'. The Black Nipper cherries are in the grey tub (2 plants) second from the right next to my 'wood stacker' row by the door. They grew insanely leggy in the big tub and crowded greenhouse, and you can see they're easily as massive as the indeterminates in the blue container next to them... And that is Pink Tiger down the row in a blue pot, next to another Rodney. They both went outdoors a bit earlier than BN F5. Pink Tiger stayed a great compact size with lots of fruit on board. No splits! :yes:

bower January 6, 2018 01:33 PM

KarenO, they were all true determinates - that is, having terminal buds and the cluster patterns associated with that gene. But I think I missed my chance to select for a nice compact growth habit in the Black Nipper line - or would have had to grow hundreds to find it. The Sundog plants were determinate but also quite monstrous in size. They hit the rafters just like any indeterminate...

One thing I've learned from growing these indeterminate X determinate crosses, it is not that easy to recover a "compact" growth habit with the genetics of a really rampant indeterminate parent like Black Cherry on board - at least not without having to choose between compact plant size and other key traits like fruit quality - or else not where the environmental conditions promote unruly growth as in my greenhouse - and not without growing much larger numbers of plants than I could manage.

With the Black Nipper, each time I had a more compact plant turn up, these plants had inferior fruit - smaller and sour in a cohort of otherwise very tasty plump cherries. There was no point in selecting in that direction. So in the process of growing only a few to choose from, I may have lost traits that I valued. Live and learn.

The "Skipper" line - which is a sibling line to 'Rodney' - are being grown out as indeterminates but still throwing a few determinates at F3, and every one has been pretty awful for one reason or another. Mostly the determinate Skippers had smaller and not nice fruit, one of them this year might have been okay but succombed entirely to foliage disease while the rest of the Skippers in the same row (at my friend's farm) were outstanding for foliage health.

BigVanVader January 6, 2018 01:34 PM

I'd be very interested in a "black" determinate slicer with Chr. Purple texture/flavor. Those look amazingly perfect in appearance. How was the best flavored one compared to your fav blacks?

bower January 6, 2018 02:12 PM

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BVV, the big slicer "Sundog" is a Beta-orange black (I think Uluru Ochre may be, for comparison) so although the size of a CP the taste is quite different, and they were not at all close to stable - the two fruit were really different. The Rodneys were quite good overall with a couple outstanding flavor, but they are much smaller than a CP. So there's work to be done before we get where you're dreaming of. :) I'll post some pics and talk about them more, but I wanted to say something about the Black Nipper first.

I have a few good things and bad things to say about them.
- They have been a great parent line to work with. Easy to use as a mother. Rodney and Skipper were a cross with the Black Nipper F2 and both lines have amazing flavor and other qualities.
- They set lots of nice plump fruit outdoors here, which Black Cherry wouldn't do for me (pic 1)
- I still think the fruit are 'as good as Black Cherry' but I will do a side by side grow and taste test before I'm sure of it.. it's been a while since I tasted Black Cherry!
- They still have the 'self-staking foliage' trait for which they're named. I went to tie up the branch that was working its way across the 'wood stacker' and found it was already firmly clutching onto the rope. :D (pic 2)
Incidentally, how does a determinate grow longer? A new shoot emerges from the side of the terminal bud. This becomes a new sequence of the determinate cluster pattern. Technically I guess "semi-determinate" is a better word for it.

On the down side, one key trait I seem to have lost along the way is the robust foliage health. The past two generations have not been at all resistant to molds and blights, and started to suffer as soon as it turned wet and cold. So although they don't seem well suited to my greenhouse for the growth habit issues, they're not great for outdoors either. :bummer: I may go back a couple of generations at some time and try again...
I think the plan for the F6 though will be to put them outdoors when they're small and see if that makes a difference to foliage health as well as growth habit.

bower January 6, 2018 03:20 PM

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KarenO "subtle differences" :yes::roll:. I have to say it was a bit daunting for me to pick my way through the ten "Rodney" F3s but the closer you look, the more clear the differences are. The question is, how to decide among several key traits - size, color, taste, texture not to mention growth habit tendencies. I was not 100% in agreement with my taste testers, although I respected their choice and in the end I agreed - because I let the #1 tasting plant set some late fruit when others had been long since cut down and carried away, and they were really perfect and exquisite, outstanding taste. But bearing in mind my experience with 'lost traits' in the Black Nipper line, I saved seed from all of the plants that I thought were contenders.

Overall the determinate Rodney F3s were really good. They are very different from the Skipper line (my personal fave) but have great qualities of their own. The texture of the fruit is very smooth and dense, with regular shapes that are not prone to cracking or deformities of any kind. There was some sunscald on shoulders which varied from plant to plant but could be due to position - my ideal fruit has no corky bit at the stem end so I took a hard look at that as well. The taste of the losers was still rated "respectable" by the tasters.

So here are some pics of the top contenders. RodneyTerracottaEast was my pick for growth habit - no leggy bits. Slightly larger fruit according to my notes although only 5 locules; slightly 'ruffly' shape. Largest fruit weighed 91 g, average 78 g. Some sunscald on the upper tier. Tasters rating "respectable".

Rodney Whitepot was my personal top pick. Really dark color, six locules, perfect flat beef shape, least amount of 'cork' from the stem, and notably sweet which enhances the taste overall. Weights mostly 50-70 g. No sunscald but maybe due to position. Tasters rating "sweet".

Rodney Greypot3P5 has a rounder fruit shape and looks a bit smaller although recorded weights were similar to Whitepot up to 74 g. There is a bit more cork in it, the color is paler, and only 4 locules. But it has a flavor note in it which was not present in the others. Tasters rating "best".

Incidentally, the tasters visited on different days, so not influenced by each other, but gave exactly the same responses. When given a fourth contender to taste they both said "I can't taste any difference". I think it may be tricky to taste ten similar tomatoes in a row! :roll:

bower January 6, 2018 03:43 PM

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Here are a couple of pics of the plants in the greenhouse.
Rodney TerracottaEast had a nicely balanced shape in spite of the overcrowding. It is near the S glass. Small pot 5 gal? Estimated yield for Rodneys in 5 gal pots about 2 kilos each.
Rodney Whitepot and Rodney Greypot3P5 to the right of it, showing the difference in fruit shapes from a distance. The two Sundog plants are in the green tub on the right - not really visible. It is really hard to take a picture of plants in the greenhouse because just too small and crowded. I need to farm out some growouts because crowding is not the solution in this semi-underground greenhouse. :no:
Third pic is of another two Rodneys in a large green tub. Yield was quite a bit higher with the extra soil volume, but they were also more crowded and shaded as a result. Just about the entire crop from these two plants went to a friend's chickens, because of the amount of potassium defects on the fruit - uneven blotchy ripening. :evil:

bower January 6, 2018 04:46 PM

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Sundog F4:

I was actually surprised at how different these two fruit are. I expected there to be a strong linkage between determinate and Beta, so that determinate would also be a diagnostic for B/B black. But fruit #1 was a lot more orange especially just under the skin, with green gel and brown looking flesh, while #2 had a much redder interior, that made me wonder if it was only B/- . :?!?:
The taste of #1 was really interesting with carroty notes, but I was not impressed with the amount of cork and shape irregularities. #2 had a better shape but the unique taste wasn't there.
At its best I really enjoyed the perfectly ripened #1 the most, but I had a lot of problems getting that "perfect ripe" condition. Some fruit that were waiting in the dish for tasters to visit were subjected to a couple of really hot days and turned into a mushy horror show. My fault for not having a cool room setup this year, but still it's a deadly trait IMO for a large fruit that has to be eaten at one precise moment to enjoy it.... and another reason for this one to go to the back burner for me. I don't have as many uses for, and don't like the amount of risk involved with very large fruit. Don't like shape defects and not sure about the genetics.. How difficult is it to breed that out? :?!?: Something I may find out in the future, because I think a cross is needed to bring this closer to my personal 'ideal fruit'. Smaller, shapelier, more reliable.

greenthumbomaha January 6, 2018 04:54 PM

Those are beautiful tomatoes! So healthy looking leaves too! Shame they please the eye but not the tongue. If you miss the mark on flavor, do you cull the plant after feeding the chickens or continue to grow and test thru the season. Any difference in taste when roasted?

- Lisa

bower January 6, 2018 05:11 PM

Hi Lisa,

I kept those plants growing in the hopes that I would get some decent fruit. And there were some, but there was nothing so special about the taste that I would consider them 'contenders' and save seed. Just in case there may be anything in the genetic makeup that made them more susceptible to potassium defects - although the environment can account for it.

Also I am planning to ditch all the soil in that container, just in case there was any contributing factor. I did change out my container soil this year but was a bit short of nutrients. I had more peat than compost, and I don't think the soil is anywhere near the condition I had after multiple years of adding 1/3 fresh compost and kelp. So I have to keep working on that and up the compost next season. I also need to grow LESS plants in my greenhouse. 20 plants in there is a very full house. I had 50 in 2016 and still 30 after thinning it out this year. It is literally under the ground and very narrow space 28 X 12. Temperature extremes, especially heat and high UV direct sun which is not diffused because of having glass instead of plastic. Ironically the sunny weather this year made heat = rapid growth and more risk of potassium defects due to shade. The only way to win it is to select for resistance and of course, thin it out. :roll: So hard to do when working on breeding projects... you want to grow more not less.

Re: roasted. Yes I had so many Rodneys of various kinds, I made batches of roasted Rodney sauce, it's all delish.:)

bower January 6, 2018 05:53 PM

I didn't get really solid data on earliness in 2017 for several reasons. First, I started seed in three waves instead of all at once or within a week. Since day length changes quickly here, that makes a difference, so there's not an equal baseline for comparison. Also didn't keep any Moravsky Div, they all went to the farm, so I didn't have a "standard" to compare.
Second, after starting late in the first place, the plants had to be held back for two weeks when they should have been transplanted, due to extreme cold. Third, we had a heat wave after transplant which was too hot for fruit setting in the greenhouse, blossoms dropped. Fourth, we had an extended period in August of sunny heat, when fruit hung green ripe but didn't color up as expected. I did take data of days from seed to first ripe, but take it with a grain of salt.
Last not least, outdoor plants ripen fruit at least 10 days later than in the greenhouse.

Earliness for the three black determinates in days from seed:
Black Nipper F5: 126 days outdoors
Rodney F3: 115-120 days from seed. The main crop (big flushes) was about 135 days from seed.
Sundog F4: 141 days from seed. This was main crop as well as first fruit - flushed all over as soon as they started. This is later than previous years/generations.

bower January 6, 2018 06:21 PM

Early Indeterminate Blacks
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Just a word about the indeterminate early blacks.
Whiskeyjack F2 took the prize for earliness at 93 days from seed. There's a thread about it - taste test winner as well. Super sweet.
Skipper F3 came in earlier than the Rodneys at 107-111 days from seed.
This sibling line of Rodney is mostly large cherries (40 g) that is 2 locule fruit although I did get seed from one multi-locule purple this summer. They have a unique chewy and meaty texture as well as fantastic taste in both the brown and purple lines that emerged in F2. We grew out ten I think in total - 6 at the farm, 2 in my greenhouse and 2 outdoors. The foliage health of all of them except for one determinate plant was really outstanding in all locations.
Skipper fruit was not at its best this really hot sunny year, and the weakest of them in color and taste were in my greenhouse where it was hottest. The taste and sweetness intensity was weakened by the conditions afaict, so I believe they are at their best in cool temperatures. Still my personal fave since I do expect more of those cold conditions in future. 8-)
In all of the locations grown this year it was outstanding and long standing in terms of stem and foliage health. Rodney foliage health is decent but Skippers stood green and healthy when everything else in my yard was crushed by the wet and cold. They were outstanding in the farm greenhouse as well when other plants were defoliated with disease in hot and dry conditions.
Since I don't want to lose the health trait by choosing one fruit over another - and since many of them were as tasty and good as one another - I saved seed and hope to grow forward multiple types of 'Skipper' in the future. Here are some pics.

Whiskeyjack is the larger fruit, shown with a purple and brown skipper for size comparison on the black plate.
The others are Skippers, brown or purple, pointed or not.

KarenO January 7, 2018 03:08 AM

they look wonderful, the pointed purple looksvespecially appealing to me, love the shape and the colour.

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