Best Tasting & Easily Grown Tomatoes

aloha2009March 12, 2012

I'm new to the vegetable garden world and would like to tip toe into the world since my first love is flowers, flowers, and more flowers.

At this point, I'd like to purchase a plant (no seed), so I realize my options will be more limited. Of the tomato plants that are commonly found at the nurseries.

What in your opinion are the more successful and tasty ones? I love tomatoes and though they aren't the prettiest plants, I feel compelled to find ways to incorporate them into my landscape.

Denver area.

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mstywoods(z5, Westminster, CO)

We love Black Krim. a Russian heirloom tomato. We grew them in California, where they did very well, so we were curious how they'd grow here in Colorado. We've grown them 2 years out here, and they have done great. We tried Brandywines and a few other varieties last year, but still think the Krim's are our favorite all the way around.

Give 'em a try, but think you'll have to start from seed as I don't believe I've seen any in the garden centers out here. I'll be starting my seeds pretty soon, and if I get some extra by the spring swap, I'll bring some :^)


    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 7:36PM
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mstywoods(z5, Westminster, CO)

I should add that the Krim is a great eating tomato. But for canning tomato sauce, you might possibly not like them as they do have a lot of seeds and gel. But if you don't mind not tossing most of that part away and having your sauce thinner and with a few seeds included, they work fine ;^)!

I did grow some Roma's last year, that grew and produced really well. But the fruit was a bit mealy/mushy, so I only used those in canning and didn't use for eating fresh. Will have to research what we might do differently with them to see if we can get a better texture.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 7:46PM
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Do you have Bonnie Tomatoes available in Denver, Aloha? If so, folks advising you may benefit from the link below for Bonnie Heirlooms. I see that Bonnie has Black Krim - at least, in some parts of the country, they do.

I haven't grown any of the varieties on that page with the exception of Yellow Pear . . . How's that for a sorry state of affairs? So many heirlooms, so little time & space. :o( And, so few good tomato-growing days to the growing season here, also.) You didn't say anything about cherries and I'm not going to suggest the Yellow Pear, anyway.

Bonnie sells Mountain Pride and I'm fairly sure that I tried that a half dozen years ago. It was, at least, one of NCSU's Mountain series of tomatoes that I was anxious to try - didn't convince me that determinates are a way to go.

I do know that Bonnie sells Big Beef hybrids. I have grown that variety for about 20 years. It always comes thru for me! I remember that Kenny has had good things to say about Big Beef, also. I can't imagine not having Big Beef as a sure-bet in my garden. About the only other sure-bet like Big Beef is Early Girl and . . . it is certainly a step above that one.

Jay may be along to say something about Goliath hybrid and I will second whatever praise he wants to place on them. I don't know if Golaiths are available to you but they are a fairly popular slicer. So, there are 2 hybrids that I think should do real good for you.


Here is a link that might be useful: Bonnie Heirlooms

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 9:43PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

If you're only planning to have one plant this year, Aloha, I'd recommend getting a cherry tomato--just to be sure you actually get some tomatoes to eat. I grow 7-8 each year, and there have been a couple years where one or two of those plants failed COMPLETELY, and if "that" particular plant had been the only one I had had, I would have gotten no tomatoes at all! I have NEVER had a problem with cherry tomatoes--tho I guess they could fail too! And I don't know if this is true for everybody, but my cherry tomatoes are always the first I get to eat, and they keep producing--more and more--all summer. My full size tomatoes don't get ripe until much later, and, for me at least, seem to be much more likely to stop setting fruit if the temps get too hot. The cherries almost always keep on keepin' on!

If you decide to go with a cherry, almost everybody likes SunGold a lot (there are a couple grinches here on RMG!), and I THINK it's a variety you could find as a plant. Pretty sure you'd find Sweet 100, or one of its relatives, too, and while I've never grown it I think it's probably one of the most available and might even be available at big box stores and pretty much anywhere. (Not positive since I never buy plants.)

Think about starting with two plants so you can get some "for sure" tomatoes from a cherry and also give the larger ones a try to see how they go for you. I can't recommend a specific full size variety because I'm sure none of the ones I grow will be available as plants, but the ones you can get as plants are usually the "popular" varieties that can be most easily grown by the most people, so probably any that you find will be as likely to do well for you as any other. Or, when you start looking and find out which varieties you'll be able to get, come post the names here so people can give you pros and cons on specific varieties.

Not sure if any of that is gonna be helpful, but just a little bit of info to keep in mind--or something!

My first love is flowers too, perennials for the most part, but even with my small yard I can't imagine not having my little veggie garden! If you grow a tomato or two this year I'm gonna bet you'll add a few things next year after you find out how VERY much better the home grown veggies are.


P.S. Do you come to the swaps? I don't remember where you live! If you do/can come, there are always lots of tomato plants available at the spring swaps, and since they're all started from seed, they're the varieties that the individual members like the best. And the price is right! FREE! Just thought I'd mention it! :-)

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 10:41PM
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I'd like to find some seeds for Sweet 100, if anyone has any.

Sweet 100 used to be available everywhere, listed (and priced) as a hybrid. Then someone discovered that it was actually open-pollinated. It seemed to immediately disappear from the seed/plant market, replaced by Sweet Million, listed and priced as a hybrid. I don't know if Sweet Million is different from Sweet 100, or if it's a hybrid or secretly an open-pollinated tomato.

I am taking notes on the good, prolific, successful tomatoes for our area! I don't mind starting from seed, and I'm also OK with buying plants.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 10:14AM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Well, if we're picking from the Bonnie's list Steve posted, I would have to recommend Cherokee Purple. Some people don't care for the purple/black type tomatoes, but if you do, than Cherokee Purple is a great slicer, and fairly productive for an heirloom. Black Krim is similar in taste, but the fruit is smaller.

If you're are doing sauces, the Roma is a decent paste tomato. I tried Mortgage Lifter last year, and it wasn't overly productive for me. Then again, it was not in an ideal location, so it may have been user error. I've read lots of good things about that one though.

As far as cherry tomatoes, I'm going to risk being pelted with little cherry tomato bombs, and disagree with Skybird : )
I've grown both Sweet 100, and Sun Gold, and neither impressed me enough to grow them again. Seems like Sun Gold had splitting issues if I remember correctly. Anyway, the best tasting cherry tomato I've grown is Black Cherry. I'm sure I'm in the minority, lots of people rave about those two, so maybe just ignore my opinion, LOL.

another Bonnie

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 11:27AM
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And yet another Bonnie here!

I agree with highalttransplant on the sweet 100 and sun gold. Neither worked for me in my micro-climate.

Loved the Cherokee Purple, that i did get at the spring swap in 2010, and growing it from seed last year and this. Mortgage Lifter did NOT produce for me either.

I have had good success with Pomodoro Ox Heart and Principe Borghese. Both are under 80 days, good flavor and very productive for me. Am trying the Super Sweet 100 found at box store and is hybrid and the above stated Black Krim.

Several of our local greenhouses have wide selections of heirloom sets so be sure to check your local markets. Even our farmers market has tomato sets in the spring.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 12:41PM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Yeah, that's a good point, Bonnie! I have found a much better selection of heirlooms at the locally run nurseries, than the big box stores. Probably healthier too!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 1:03PM
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It is kind of fun that you got ideas from three Bonnies, Aloha.

I had avoided your question on "tasty" tomatoes and focused instead on "successful." I love to grow, talk and dream about tomatoes and so hope everyone will forgive me for expressing some ideas about taste.

I like the taste of just about all of them . . . okay, that may not have been very helpful. . . Individual preferences abound. The flavor of the golden cherries like Sungold, delight me! Some folks find them "cloying."

DW wanted to grow Black Cherries a couple years ago. I knew she wouldn't like them! She thinks a tomato should be mild, mild, mild in flavor & tartness -- right, she doesn't have all that many varieties to choose from.

Lots of people think a tomato should be - red. Any other color is subject to suspicion. Some folks think that Early Girl has the flavor of a garden-fresh tomato! That's fine and it probably reflects those people growing up where what must be the country's most popular tomato, was grown in the family garden. Nothing wrong with that . . .

In my limited experience, I like 'em all . . . Oh, I wasn't going to say that! But Aloha, you will - at least - need to decide between a cherry and something larger. Right now, I'm just delighted to see my Tigerella seedlings showing up! So, there are intermediates of more than one color that can please if'n you find yourself caught not knowing which way to go on these issues.

Polygonum_tinctorium, has both Sweet 100 and Super Sweet 100 listed. They do put the word "hybrid" after each of the names, however.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 2:41PM
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I will add my 2 cents which along with a couple of dollars will still buy a cup of coffee at a few places. First I have to say I'm one of those grinches Skybird mentioned. I agree with highalttransplant(Bonnie) about Sungold. It usually splits bad even if picked at first blush and let ripen inside. Does have a good flavor but I grow a few others I like better. One is a bicolor cross I'm still trying to stablize and another is a Sun Gold cross. A hybrid I like real well is Sweet Treats. Fairly new but a few nurseries/greenhouses around here carried it last season. Most I've gave seeds or plants too have liked it as well if not better than Sungold. It produces as heavy if not heavier, tastes very good and doesn't split as bad if picked when ripe and not over watered. Another hybrid cherry I grew last season that the hail beat up terrible but that still produced some was WOW. I won't list many of the op/heirlooms I grow as you may have trouble finding them as seeds let alone as plants.

The one hybrid I suggest anyone grow is a small fruited variety called 4th of July. It produces early, decent taste, heavy and has great disease resistance. It is as reliable as Sungold and larger. It is one I always try to grow myself. Has replaced Goliath as a stand by. I do still grow Goliath most years. It is larger fruited but has experienced some disease issues some years. Jet Star and Jetsonic are both reliable hybrids I grow most years and recommend. Last year after the hail wiped out so many of the plants I started I bought a few at the local nurseries. First year in a while that I had grown large numbers of hybrids. I grew most the Boys, Girls,Beefs,ect. Beefy Boy is a new hybrid that did well overall.

I could fill a page with op/heirlooms I like. And not knowing what you can find it makes it hard to suggest many. I will only list those I've seen in nurseries/greenhouses around here. Cherokee Purple if it is the real one and not one of the imposters out there is very good. Black from Tula I like better than Black Krim and it does well here. If you like a orange/yellow type Kellogg's Breakfast is very good. The Heinz varieties do well almost everywhere espeially 1439 and 1350 but I've only seen them at a few places. Personally I would stay away from the Brandywines. They have never been heavy setters around here. The only exception is one I grow named Randy's Brandy but you would have to start it from seeds. Right now I'm drawing a blank on others. After I get home I will look at my grow list and see what else on it you might find as a plant. Jay

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 3:24PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Game on! Let the Tomato Wars begin!

LOL! I cracked up when I read your post, Bonnie--a/k/a HighAlt! I decided a few years ago that the biggest problem with growing tomatoes is finding out what works for YOU. I've been getting recommendations here for what to try ever since I got this house and had a place to grow veggies, and sometimes they do well, and sometimes they totally flop! I don't think there was anything wrong with the recommendations for the ones that flopped, I just think the people recommending them had different growing conditions from me. I still haven't found a red that's on my Must Have list, but I did FINALLY find a yellow/orange last year that will most likely be found in my garden into perpetuity! This won't help on this thread because I'm sure it's not available as a plant, but if anyone is wondering, it's Earl of Edgecombe. Set fruit the earliest of my large tomatoes and didn't seem to be much phased by heat--and large flavorful tomatoes. Ripened well when cut and hung in the garage too! It's a keeper for me--but who knows how well it would grow for someone else!

But the thing that really cracked me up, HighAlt, was your recommendations for cherries! Hmmm! Too bad we're too far away from each other to do some Pelting! ;-) On the recommendation of several people around here I tried Black Cherry in '08, and I didn't find them to have much flavor at all (Who's gonna do the Pelting now!) For me they also took a LONG time to ripen, and they seemed to ripen just a few at a time, so I never really got a large amount to gorge on at any one time--unlike SunGold. I do totally agree that SunGold has a cracking problem, and if I didn't like the flavor so much I'd be looking for a replacement. BUT, I think I MAY have even found a solution to the cracking problem! When I go on vacation I always take a box of MY tomatoes with me, and in the past most of the SunGolds cracked right when I picked them, and even many of the ones I put in the box to take seemed to crack--sooner or later! This year I stood and Glared at then for a while, trying to figure out what to do--but I REALLY wanted some with me so I finally decided to cut off the whole "clusters" of tomatoes, which included many ripe ones and others ranging from near ripe to mostly green. There are a LOT of tomatoes on each SunGold cluster! I packed them carefully in the box, fully expecting them to split when I pulled them off the "cluster" but found, to my amazement, that when I started "picking" them, they weren't splitting! So I don't know what made the difference--is has to have something to do with the lack of water available after I cut them, but they rarely split if they've been cut from the vine with "stem" still attached, and then kept that way for "a while" before they're removed from the stem! I will be experimenting this year to see how long you need to wait to prevent the splitting! I started harvesting all my cherries like that after vacation last year, but there wasn't enough time left in the growing season to come to any good conclusions.

My Must Have red cherry is Sweet Baby Girl, but that won't help here, again, because I'm sure it's not available as a plant! Even the seed is somewhat hard to find! But Sweet Baby Girl, IMO, has a GREAT flavor (not the same as SunGold), and it does NOT crack! Almost never! Don't remember why I tried that one, but I sure am glad I did! Interestingly, I have "discussed" SBG with Digit recently, and he said he had grown it too, but described a small plant that could be grown in a pot. NOT the same thing I have! Mine get over 6' tall and would EAT a pot! I'm sure we're not talking about growing conditions in this case, and we apparently got seed for two different things!

From Digit's list Yellow Pear was one of the very first cherries I tried--I think because I remembered growing it when I was a kid--but for me it was a complete catastrophe! I DID get tomatoes, but they were mushy and mostly flavorless! They were bad enough that I didn't even eat most of them--threw them in the trash! Home grown tomatoes--in the trash! I don't believe even the good Illinois Dirt they were grown in when I was a kid could explain the difference in this case, so I don't know why they were so bad, but I will not be wasting time with them again.

I haven't seen this linked around here for a while, and I recently managed to find it again after losing everything to the hard drive crash, so here is a link to the Cornell Tomato Base. It's set to list them by DTM (you need to scroll past the ones that don't have DTM listed), but you can change it to look them up by ratings or variety name or some other things! The ratings come from Real Life people who have grown them! On this list SunGold is rated 4.5, Sweet Baby Girl is 4.0, Black (and Chocolate) Cherry is 4.0, Sweet 100, Sweet Million, and Super Sweet 100 are all 4.0. you can check out the specific comments about each if you click on the individual varieties!

Like Bonnie/Lucky, I've had problems with Mortgage Lifter! I had grown it in the past with no luck at all, but wound up growing it again this year since, in my search for the perfect yellow/orange, I had neglected to buy seed for some new red varieties! This year I finally did get some tomatoes off of it, and they were large and pretty flavorful, but they were very late, and it definitely had the hiccups when it got hot out! I'll "keep it on the back burner" but will be testing out some new ones this year.

Bloody Butcher, another one that came highly recommended around here, suffered a TOTAL Failure to Thrive for me, and I never got any tomatoes at all off of it--but there are definitely other folks around here who LOVE it!

Another highly recommended one here, Thessaloniki, did very little for me. Grew it twice and both times I got VERY few small tomatoes and I rated the flavor as: very average! Others in our area swear by it!

Had tried Kellogg's Breakfast in the past and not gotten much/anything but decided to give it another whirl this past year and I did, pretty late, get some big and pretty tasty tomatoes, but Earl of Edgecombe was better and more productive. It'll be another of my Back Burner ones for possible future reconsideration!

So, in my opinion, I guess the moral of the story--with or without The Pelting--is that you really just need to try different varieties and figure out which are going to work the best for you, and which ones have the flavor you like best. Taste is a very subjective thing, and while reading reviews might help a LITTLE bit, the best review comes from your tongue and your sense of smell!

I still very much recommend you go with more than just one, Aloha, because if you just grow one and happen to get one that flops, or that just doesn't Tickle Your Taste Buds, you might decide they're not at all worth growing--and they are SO, sosososo, worth growing, even with the yearly catastrophes we all experience!

Still picking a few tomatoes from last year,

P.S. If you check the drop-down menu under "crop," the Cornell site has listings and ratings for WAY more than just tomatoes!.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cornell Tomato Base

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 3:43PM
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kvenkat(5a Colo)

Cherry tomatoes are great to have since they start producing before the bigger guys and are just perfect for snacking. Many are heavy producers too.

For the last 2 years I have grown Husky Cherry Red. I love it but I tend to prefer a tart tasting tomato over a sweet one.

As for the larger varieties, I am still trying different ones. This year I am going to start seeds under lights. My list:

Chudo Rinka
Gardener's Delight
San Marzano
Isis Candy
Husky Cherry Red

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 11:55PM
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I obviously knew nothing about tomatoes! I pretty much thought they were basically the same for the most part but I see there's a lot to learn!

I've only known about the swaps for a year now and was only able to make it to the spring one, which was a lot of fun! I got several starts and most of the them are doing quite well, though I don't have them in their forever home.

It makes so much sense now, that all those wonderful tomato plants that were brought, we're ones that someone really liked and they did well. Hopefully I will make it to the spring one and get a tomato plant or two.

I'm convinced after reading this that I really should try a few varities since here in Colorado tomatoes aren't a sure thing. I'll plan maybe 3 larger tomatoes varities and 2 cherry sized tomatoes varities. If I'm lucky enough I'll give whatever we can't eat away.

Since I've already showed my ignorance of tomato plants, are there any other things like pests prevention/eradication or staking I should know about?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 9:50PM
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My advice on care is probably really thru-my-hat since I have no horticultural training. Tomato varieties in my garden were very, very limited until about 10 - 15 years ago and I still struggle with being able to grow a nice crop.

They like fertile soil. I use an organic fertilizer.

Of course, there's the nasty tomato worm to worry about. You will see the damage - and it might be extensive. Yet, still have trouble finding the big caterpillars. I have grown sunflowers in the vegetable garden for years and since beginning that, have not had tomato worms! The sunflowers are visited frequently by finches & chickadees long before they have seeds. I don't think the camouflaged tomato worms can hide from the birds. It is just what has happened in my garden.

Until a few years ago, I wasn't aware of how much damage flea beetles can do to tomato plants. Oh yeah, radishes and all of their relatives - flea beetles will sometimes even kill them. The pests show up in bad numbers on the tomatoes only some years. With too much damage, I think they really set the plants back. I sprayed Spinosad for things like that in 2011 and it worked well enuf on the flea beetles. I sprayed the plants a couple of times.

Staking or cages are a good idea. It keeps the lower leaves and fruit from getting dirty and diseased. I only stake some of my plants and having 60+ is the reason why. I may stake them all this year but there has been adequate room for them to sprawl and that's another factor in your decision. I'd prefer to use cages but you have to take into account the room you will need for them - in storage, after the growing season is finished.

That's what I can think of at the moment . . .


    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 12:16PM
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Steve covered things well. I will add a few observations of mine from my experience. I don't plant onions and potatoes too close to my tomatoes anymore. They tend to attract thrips,aphids, potato beetles, leaf miners and other insects that cause harm and carry diseases to tomato plants. Other than that and maybe some mid season fertilizer there isn't much to growing tomatoes when all goes well. Jay

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 7:16PM
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Azura(z5 CO)

Black Krim, Black Cherry & Cherokee Purple are awesome, wonderful producers of delicious tomatoes in my garden, year after year! If you are on the south side of Denver I had the best luck finding heirloom tomato varieties at Arapahoe Acres last year.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 9:53PM
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I know this is an old post but if you're like me and new to Colorado and want to know good varieties...

The link is to a Colorado Springs garden center 2014 tomato "book" which has many varieties listed in this post.

Here is a link that might be useful: Good Earth tomatoes 2014

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 1:45PM
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Wow! That's quite a local source!

I was thinking that the yellow/orange were not too well represented but I may tend to over-emphasize them, see above regarding DW's preference for "mild." I'm finally getting around to trying Azoychka this year!

A very mild yellow (bicolor) that I've grown several years now is Dagma's Perfection. One of my plants already has a flower bud. I'll take that off but it hardly matters. This variety seems to refuse to set fruit until the heat of summer. Then! It ripens them very quickly. This is no "keeper" for your October kitchen counter. Still, it's a keeper for the garden. I'm also pleased with Casey's Pure Yellow. That's a real early tomato. Earliness is likely more important to me than in Denver, just judging from that list of "locals" and the number of 80+ day varieties.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 10:30AM
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jaliranchr(z5 EC CO)

I agree with Steve that it is a very impressive list of tomatoes. Some I would consider a bit risky, but in the right year ... you just never know and sometimes, it is fun to roll the dice.

Welcome to our madness, karcolom!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 11:05PM
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