Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Tomato taste test - which ones do you like?

I am a member of the Diggers Club. Now I know that some BLF members have said that this is a very expensive organisation, and I agree with that sentiment. I belong for a couple of reasons. The first being that I really believe that what they stand for is spot on. Even if they seem to think that everyone of their membership is really well off and can afford around $100 to listen to speakers, who while they are no doubt  very good at what they do, are certainly no more knowledgeable than, for example,our own Annette McFarlane who gives free talks at libraries, who no doubt pay her a fee, but we get it for free.

The other reason is that they have a very large range of heirloom seeds. Some of which you can't get elsewhere and I am particularly keen to read of their experiments with Tomato Taste testing. Each year they do blind testing with a number of guest tasters, comparing most of their range with some bought at supermarkets. They stress that modern supermarket tomatoes are bred for withstanding long distance travel and storage, are ripening artificially, and must have thicker skins to resist deterioration. Taste is not as important as these other criteria. This is added to the fact that growers push a lot of water into their crop to boost the weight and size. This is in addition to the problem of spraying of the fruit for all the diseases and pests that they are renowned for.  Organic growers tend to have much healthier considerations.

My criteria for growing a good tomato are: are they easy to grow? Do they give a good amount of tomatoes per plant? DO THEY TASTE GOOD? Even if a tomato satisfies the 1st two criteria, who wants to grow them if they don't taste very good? Now I have had varied success with them over the years, as I'm sure we all have. I tend not to grow them in summer and rely on the cherry types that self seed and which satisfy all the above criteria. 

Diggers top taster one year was the black cherry tomato and I tried these but they took for ever to produce a quite small crop. They did taste good, but I've not grown them since. Maybe they are more suited to a colder climate, Maybe I didn't grow them very well. Others may have tried these, I would like feedback.

The ones I tried this year, were Amish Paste, a long Roma style tomato, and Green Zebra, a rounded type. Both did very well in the Diggers taste tests, and both satisfied the 3 criteria. I got very good crops from the Amish Paste, and I thought that they were very tasty. The Green Zebra were not quite as prolific, but a winner in the taste category too. Have any of you tried these? What are your favourite types and why?

The Amish Paste were prone to splitting, but as these were grown in old feed bags and polystyrene boxes they may not do this in a rich garden environment. I just cut off the split part and have had a bumper crop. I will definitely be growing more of both these types next year. Maybe we could get together and do a blind tasting with our best types next year.   

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Comment by Rob Collings on November 27, 2015 at 22:48

Wow Elaine, I feel like a copy-cat making my blurb.

Taste, aroma and fullness is the Black Russian, however a more temperamental plant in late spring and summer.

Roma is my summer saviour along with a cherry tomato that comes up everywhere (for so many years now).

Tigerella and Zebra tomatoes I'd rate similar on taste, being tasty, but I tilt to tigerella for the less fuss and colour, although summer's not the best for both at my place. Late Winter and spring work well.

I general, for some reason, I go for the red & darker red tomatoes over green/yellow.

Comment by Susan on November 27, 2015 at 19:26

left to right; cherry roma, pohlmon's honey drop, diggers lemon drop, random self seed.

Comment by Susan on November 27, 2015 at 18:20

My standard cherry type tomato is the diggers cherry roma - very sweet, self seeds and is very prolific.  Like you, I did try some of their others: Red fig and tigerella -> reds; lemon drop and beams yellow in the yellows.  It could be where they were planted, but they didn't seem to do well or taste very nice.  At the moment, I have a tigerella and lemon drop that have self seeded in the garden that I have let grow for their colour only.  I also have this large round cherry tomato that self seeded years ago in a flower bed and just keeps coming up.  I let it go because it is extremely hardy and prolific and while not my first choice for eating fresh (they mostly get thrown in the freezer for cooking with), are fine if I don't have anything else.  I would definitely be keen on trialing any tomato's in a blind test :) Would love it if we could also trade seeds that we know do well AND taste good.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on November 27, 2015 at 14:41

So far have grown: Roma, Green Zebra, Black Russian, Yellow Pear, Tommy Toe and similar cherry types.

Roma are so-so, don't grow for flavour more for crop coming in close together so making sauce is simpler to gather ingredients. Commercial seedling Romas have tough skins and are not so great for eating fresh.

Green Zebra are a tad more acid but do have a full rich flavour. Not the best of croppers for me though.

Black Russian runaway winners in taste (although the Black Krim (or a similar name) which is available at Woolies doesn't have that deep rich flavour). This year a bumper crop on huge strong plants but failed to follow-up with nutrients when crop ripening and majority of crop stung.

Yellow Pear not strong on real tomato flavour but pleasant to eat nonetheless. Shy croppers but don't blame the plant, culture has a lot to do with it.

Tommy Toe although great for flavour and good keen croppers, not so keen on our summers.

Currently bought seedling cherry type, cropping well, good rich flavour and keen summer growers. Will check name on tag later and add it. Can recommend these for summer.

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