Long-keeping tomatoes

scottokla(7)November 28, 2008

Of the four tomato varieties I let grow until the first frost, three were OK as far as the fruit lasting a week or two before rotting, but none were great keepers. I was able to pick about 100 before the frost and I made salsa 5 or 6 times since then. I am down to 5 tomatoes left.

Better Boy made nice early-summer fruit, but they were not good as late-summer and fall fruit, or as long-keepers.

Celebrity and Early Girl made nice late-summer and fall fruit and they kept fairly well.

Brandy Boy was good all season long and they kept fairly well also.

What are your recommendations for fall tomatoes and for long-keepers in our area? Normally I don't get many fall tomatoes, but the August cool-snap caused me to have a nice fall crop this year without planting new transplants.

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


For longkeepers, there are quite a few options--some are hybrids and others are open-pollinated/heirloom types. Most are sold as longkeepers, but there are some "regular" tomatoes that have a pretty long shelf life too.

Sandhill Preservation Center has the largest variety of long keeping types and most years they list five:


Yellow In Red Out

Old-Fashioned Garden Peach (not the same as regular Garden Peach sold in other places, which is not a long keeper)

Green Thumb

Ruby Treasure

Burpee usually has at least a couple of types, generally Red October (a newer variety) and Burpee Longkeeper (an oldie dating back to the 1970s).

A long time ago, Organic Gardening did some research and came up with the long keepers they thought were best and came up with these: Dwarf Gold Treasure, Sheriff, Winter Red, Mountain Gold and Flavor More. I bet seed can still be found for Winter Red and Mountain Gold, and maybe Flavor More, but probably not for the others.

Some tomato varieties that are not sold as long keepers, but which seem to have long keeping qualities, include: Heidi, Granny Smith, Sunray and Window Box Roma.

With all the long keeping varieties, I prefer to pull up the plant roots and all and hang it upside down in my tornado shelter. The fruit ripen slowly and seem to have better flavor than those that are picked, wrapped in newspaper and lined up in a single layer in cardboard boxes. Both methods, though, will give you tomatoes for months.

And, in all honesty, long keepers that are stored more then 3 or 4 weeks will not taste as good as fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes, but they generally do taste better than grocery story tomatoes.

For fall tomatoes, I am especially fond of some of the red hybrids that seem to produce more fruit in fall's shorter, cooler days than some of my beloved hybrids. These include: Big Boy, Better Boy, Supersonic, Jet Star and Prime Time. New to the list of great fall tomatoes after their first season here is Ramapo F-1, available only from NJAES/Rutgers. Oh, and Rutgers tomato is another that produces well in fall as does Husky Red (though it has really tough skin). Some of the heirlooms that produce well for me in fall include Indian Stipe (a Black Krim or Cherokee Purple type but more productive than both of them), Nebraska Wedding, Neve's Azorean Red and Cherokee Green. All cherry and grape types produce well into the fall, but Grape, Husky Red and Husky Gold produced very late into the fall even after other cherry types like SunGold and Black Cherry slowed down. Tess' Land Race Currant tomato produced even after frost had damaged the upper portions of the plant....and produces hundreds (probably thousands) of tiny tomatoes during the growing season. I pick all of them I want, and leave the rest for the birds.

The performance of any tomato varies from year to year and even (as you noted with Better Boy) from season to season. My Better Boys are great in the fall as long as moderate amounts of rain/irrigation keep them happy, but their production drops sharply if I don't keep them well watered. Some of the other tomatoes do a lot better on a lot less water.

By contrast, Aunt Gertie's Gold didn't do much for me in the hot summer, but was great in the fall.


    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 9:43AM
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john_ny(z6/7 Sunset 34)

I once had some real early cold-tolerant varieties called Glacier, and Siberia. These could be put outside a month earlier than other varieties. By starting some of these, in the greenhouse, in January, I had my first tomatoes in May. Then I had some of the regular varieties, for the summer, and Burpee's Long Keeper, which would continue ripening until March. The only month I didn't have tomatoes from the garden, was April.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 3:04PM
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I don't grow a really large variety of tomatoes, and some I grow are hard to get. The best long keeping variety I grow is Sunray, as Dawn mentioned above. Right now it's obvious, as our last picking of ripe and unripe tomatoes is about used up. Sunray is holding better than the others. Some people LOVE Sunray. One of our daughters will only eat this one. But others I've given plants to, don't like it. It is quite sweet.

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 7:42PM
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Thanks everyone.

My conclusions this year are that Celebrity and Early Girl are really good all-around tomatoes despite my lack of enthusiasm for them each spring, and that Brandy Boy is definitely worth growing. Better Boy is good also if cared for well. All of my others struggled, but some of that was my fault.

That Brandywine Red from the cheap packet of seeds from Atwoods is terrible in almost every way. I will likely only use heirloom seed from well-known and reliable sources from now on.

I will go through these 2008 tomato threads when getting seeds in January.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 11:14PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I'm working on my "grow list" for 2009 and, in light of our ongoing drought, really struggling with which ones to grow....and how many plants to attempt to grow if the drought continues, as I fear it will. As soon as I am reasonably certain that I have my list finalized (and I confess to changing it constantly, especially the week I start the seeds), I'll post it.

I'm going to start my seeds Super Bowl weekend as usual, with the intent of planting a last a few earlies in the ground in early to mid-March so I can, hopefully, have ripe tomatoes in April again this year. For what it is worth, I have tried a lot of the tomatoes sold here in the USA as 'early tomatoes', like Kimberly, Stupice, Early Opener, and many others and they are pretty much worthless here. I don't think they like our weather, which often hits the 90s in May, and they aren't that much earlier than many tomaotes considered 'mid-season'. I am not crazy about Early Girl but it fulfills my need for an early tomato, and I've never had a plant produce as many tomatoes as Bush Early Girl did the first year I grew it--it had almost more fruit than foliage. Better Bush is my most reliable early tomato--but only because I buy it already in bloom in 6" pots as soon as it arrives at Lowe's or Home Depot in the D-FW metroplex, usually in very late Feb. to earliest March.

I just wanted to mention that the 2009 Pinetree Garden Seeds catalog, which arrived in my mailbox week before last, has added quite a few more heirloom tomatoes this year. One thing I like about Pinetree (www.superseeds.com) is that they offer smaller seed packets (20 is their standard quantity for tomato seed) at smaller prices so experimenting with some new ones doesn't have to add up to as many $$$$.

Among the heirlooms offered in Pinetree this year are Aunt Ruby's German Green (the most wonderful and unique flavor I've ever seen in a tomato), Opalka, Kellogg's Breakfast, Mortgage Lifter (Radiator Charlie's), Golden Queen, Black Krim, Pineapple, Cuostralee (outstanding flavor), Druzba (also outstanding and a good producer in our heat), Martino's Roma, and Soldacki. Tomato seed packets at Pine Tree range from 95 cents to $1.55 per packet.

Another source for tomato seeds that I don't mention as often (and I should because they used to breed their own and have some of their own varieties that you can't get elsewhere) is Harris Seeds. The Harris varieties that I grow and like include Supersonic and Prime Time. This year Harris has brought back an old variety named Moreton that I can't wait to try--it has an excellent reputation for having fine flavor.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 6:47AM
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