flavourless tomatoes

north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)September 20, 2012

After another tomato disaster season, I'm looking for advice. I considered posting under the thread 'Let's talk tomatoes', but that seemed to be more about tomato successes than failures.

I don't know where I'm going wrong, but I managed to grow the worst tomatoes this year ever.

Firstly, one variety that was supposed to be Tumbler ended up being some kind of large yellow tomato. I could have accepted that as just being some kind of label error, but these tomatoes were tasteless.

Then, the other type I grew has very tough large cores. I could have forgiven that feature if it tasted good, but no, it's equally blah as the other one.

My question is, what could cause home grown tomatoes to have no flavour. Is it the soil? Something lacking or what. I fertilized with some kind of 'green' 6-6-8 fertilizer. I put compost and manure in the planting hole. I mulched them with dried leaves. The growing conditions were quite good..lots of heat and sun.

The only major negative about the growing area is that there is a very large birch tree very near that causes watering issues. However, even the tomatoes I grew in containers had no flavour, and they would have had different soil conditions.

So now I'm thinking of just giving up. It's not worth the bother if I can buy better tasting tomatoes in the store.

I welcome any suggestions you can give me.

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You must fertilize like mad. I find slow release isn't enough. I actually put in slow release and still fertilize with liquid every single time. Don't put in manure unless you know its exact composition, since I find they're typically too nitrogen rich.

Plant deep. Remove leaves six inches about the crown. Plant that entire stem part.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 1:46PM
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I'm glad you started this thread. I have the same questions, but I'm going to offer up my theories, too.

I think flavour has been bred out of tomatoes, along with the acid. I don't quite get why people are looking for sweet tomatoes. They're not supposed to be sweet. But, that doesn't explain why my heirloom tomatoes just don't have that good old fashioned bite to them.

I think it's the soil. The depleted soil. I firmly believe that if we amend the soil for long enough with compost, etc., that we'll get the tomato flavour we want.

Of course, I could be wrong. I understand when Shazam says to fertilize like mad, but our parents didn't and their tomatoes were great. So, I'm back to the soil. I think.

Anybody else? I hope together we can come up with a solution.

Oh, and if anybody wants to list the tomatoes they've grown that have old fashioned taste and acidity, by all means, bring it on =:) I'm ready, willing, and able to do what it takes, LOL !

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 3:16PM
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marciaz3 Tropical 3 Northwestern Ontario

A few years ago our neighbours at the lake gave us a few of their tomatoes and they were beautiful looking but had no flavour either. I figured it was because they used Miracle Gro. Could be wrong, though.

Ours were pretty flavourless at the beginning of the season, but then they started tasting more like tomatoes. I didn't do anything special to them and didn't fertilize as much as Shazam said to. We have pretty good soil. Over the years, we've amended it lots - black earth, sandy loam, leaves, and in-place composting. So NAF might be right about it being the soil.

Maybe try with some amendments next year and just plant a couple of plants and see how they do.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 4:03PM
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Tomatoes do very well in very rich soil. You can even grow them in pure compost - most plants can't tolerate that much nutrition.

I was thinking that tartness might have to with nitrogen in the form of urea. Almost all fertilizer manufacturers have moved away from it since it makes vegetables taste very bitter, but it might be advantageous for tomatoes.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 5:08PM
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Pudge 2b

Read about potassium deficiency and how it relates to tomato flavour, specifically the acidity. Regularly adding small amounts of wood ash to your soil will help with potassium (but not over the whole garden because I think it's potatoes that it adversely affects). It leaches out with rain, so regular small applications are better than adding a whole lot at one time.

In some recess of my feeble memory I'm thinking that alfalfa tea helps this problem, too. I could be wrong about that, though.

I think that level of ripeness is also definitely a factor in tomato flavour. In the winter I buy Roma's, then leave them on top of the fridge for another week or so before eating them to get them to a really deep red colour. I've been ripening my garden tomatoes to very ripe for making sauce, and the flavour is much better than the ones that weren't so ripe.

Of course, there are some of those 'uniform size and ripeness' hybrid varieties that just suck when it comes to flavour.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 8:16PM
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north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)

Okay, so now I know where the contents of my compost pile will be going this year.
Thanks everyone.
Naf, I agree that some varieties have sacrificed flavour for uniformity etc. but you'd think vine ripened tomatoes would have at least some taste.
Next year I also intend to grow my own so I get what I want. I was lazy this year and just bought my plants from the nursery.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 9:22PM
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My bet is that the main problem is the variety you are growing. Modern hybrids sacrifice a lot of flavour to produce perfect-looking tomatoes that are uniform in size and ship well. Garden tomatoes can be ugly and don't have to ship farther than your backyard to your kitchen. Try somewhere like Heritage Harvest Seed, in Manitoba. They carry tons of heirloom tomato seeds that should give you the taste you are looking for. Focus on ones that ripen early, not the 80 or 90-days to maturity ones. Try a bunch of different types next year to find a favourite.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 1:24AM
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bdgardener(3 AB)

I agree with it being a soil problem, but I don't use any commercial fertilizer. We have cows, and I use (hot) composted manure. By hot I mean 2-3 years composted. I know some people will go OMG, it should be 10 years at least, but this is the way my babba did it so I continue in her footsteps. I have never had better tomatoes, onions and bean. Yes I get alot of leaves on my tomatoes but I trim. Right now I'm adding it to beds that have been cleared in prep for spring. I add a lot to the beds it always flattens out over the winter, I have never burned anything this way. I do agree with variety as well. Cheryl

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 8:21AM
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I hit the jackpot this morning! Well, sort of.

I just ate the best toasted tomato sandwich I've had all year. It wasn't quite as good as when I was a kid, but the closest I've had. Problem is, I'm not sure which tomato it was. Some of my tags went missing. It was either Crimson Cushion, or more likely, Andrew Rahart. I'm pretty sure if I eat one of those every day for a week I might be lucky enough to get sores in my mouth =:)

North53 - I got the seeds from Heritage Harvest Seeds in Manitoba. You might even live close enough you could go there in person if you wanted to.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 3:00PM
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north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)

I have bookmarked Heritage Harvest Seeds and will definitely be making an order for next year.
Naf, I'm jealous of your best sandwich. I had one for lunch, and it was just meh.
I need to ask around and see where I can get a load of real manure. I bought a few of those bags this year, and the contents didn't resemble anything like aged manure.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 3:29PM
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I just had a sandwich with Crimson Cushion on it.

Pretty good, but not great. Probably good enough that I'd grow them again.

I'm waiting a couple of days for what I think is an Andrew to ripen. Keeping my fingers crossed that it's "the one". =:)

I'll keep you posted.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 6:37PM
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Ginny McLean_Petite_Garden

I have to agree with Don on this one. Unfortunately, many of the disease resistant, thin skinned, unblemished, perfect tomatoes are that way at the sacrifice of taste. I planted 36 different varieties this year and the best are still the old heirloom varieties, IMO. I still like Manitoba, Early girl, Ultra Girl, Beefsteak and Purple Cherokee of the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Had a breakfast sandwich this morning with Pink Ponderosa, the potato leaf tomato, and found it a bit too meaty and dry for my liking. Very mild, sweet taste. It will be a good one for tomato paste or sauce.


    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 7:19PM
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Ginny, Purple Cherokee sounds interesting. I've never had a tomato that was that dark colored.

North53 - I had another sandwich this morning with what I think is Andrew Rahart. It was pretty darn good. There seems to be a fine art to making the sandwich though. You have to use real butter on one side of lightly toasted bread, mayo on the other, just the right amount of salt, and of course a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. =:)

I'm looking forward to next year when my soil may be better, and using tags that don't disappear so I know what the heck tomato I'm eating!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 3:03PM
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Okay now you are just making me hungry I can almost taste it so agree with the generous amount of pepper. When I go to Subway I always say make it black when they add pepper.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 10:57AM
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Hmm, water stress might also do it---potted plants tend to be drier, and tomatoes near a tree you said was a water thief....

Although I should say my method of ripening tomatoes is something like spoiling them in childhood, neglecting in adulthood and ignoring in old age.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 2:26AM
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