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Old December 17, 2016   #16
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: SE PA
Posts: 646

A couple years back I tried Roma...production and meatiness okay, but the taste was bland. This year I tried San Marzano; it tasted okay but yield was lacking. So far, plums don't suit me. I tried Rutger's select this year; they had a nice thick wall and decent taste, but they came in really late compared to others and overall production was low. The first wave of them was picked after the second wave of most others. That Kosovo sounds good; I'll have to look if I received any of those seeds from Tormato last Spring.

The backbone of our sauce/soup production of late is big beef F1, and the last two years, Estiva F1. Trenched into CRW cages, the main stems get huge and support a lot of tomatoes through three big waves despite the blight. This year my brother's estivas had half dollar size stems after 2 weeks in the ground. Those two hybrids produce nice reliable pollination and therefore reliable yields with good taste. They are juicy, so not ideal in that regard for sauce, but taste is more important.

The heirlooms like mortgage lifter, brandywine, cherokee purple are great in sauce too, however they are more flat with the ridges/lobes. With the weather and disease here in SE PA, a higher percentage of them get cut away versus the rounder big beef and very round, uniform estiva. The heirlooms get picked first for sandwiches, but also tend to rot in a shorter time on the counter than the F1s. Brandywine in particular I have had trouble with getting good pollination, three years now, although last season was fair.

Next season I am going to repeat the heirlooms we like, probably add some more from seeds acquired last Spring, but will still hedge with Big Beef F1. I bought a big pack of them last year, but I think the Estiva were used up.

At this point, if I only grew one heirloom for everything it would be Mortgage Lifter, but the way we grow them, I figure I'd only get 1/2 to 2/3 of the overall yield compared to those F1s. I would be satisfied with an all Big Beef garden if it came down to it.

This was the first year I started all my own plants, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, okra, everything. It was hectic but fun. I grew for three gardens. Make that four - I forgot about taking plants to a buddy in Coatesville for their first garden. I also gave away a few groups of 4-5 big beef plants to friends that normally buy plants. The plants I gave them were mostly in 2" soil blocks or potted up, laid over leggy and rearing to go. I explained how to trench them in, water when dry, but don't drown them everyday. It sure was a kick to be told in August/Sept how amazing their tomatoes turned out, had so many they had to give away, couldn't believe the size of the plants, everyone told them they were the best ever, etc. We are in a good area for tomatoes, that's for sure. As long as you get them off to a good start, and water when needed, there should be plenty, mid July through mid Sept.
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