growing sweeter/flavorful tomatoes

momotaroFebruary 10, 2008

I was wondering if there is a difference in tomato flavor if it pollinates by self pollination vs bee pollination.

I saw this video on youtube, maybe a year ago, where a tomato grower grew his tomatoes in a certain way so that it would be smaller, which made it sweeter.

The method was:

1. Using bees for pollinating

2. Mulch heavily with straw (to control tomato water intake)

3. Use small amounts of nigari (magnesium sulfate, used to make tofu) to encourage tomatoes to grow with less water

The video was a Japanese food/cooking show which had english subtitles. It used to be on youtube, but probably was taken down as I cannot find it anymore.

The tomato variety was called 'teppen tomatoes' (ã¦ã£ãºãããã) which were actually the same variety from the groceries in Japan; however, by using this growing method the tomatoes were smaller/sweeter (equivalent to the sweetness of watermelon, or so they say).

I am no expert in growing tomatoes and was wondering if any experienced tomato growers know if by using this method will produce sweeter/more flavorful tomatoes.

I found some links regarding the 'teppen tomato', but it's in Japanese so I can't read it.

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I've learned that the climate controls a lot of flavor development in tomatoes. Here in Michigan, in cool, wet years, tomatoes have relatively little flavor. Hot, dry weather, on the other hand, yields excellent flavor.

Overwatering and overfertilizing seems to make tomatoes and many other things big, lush, juicy, and relatively flavorless.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 8:40AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Weather and variety are the primary factors affecting taste. Weather can be controlled to a degree with mulching, proper watering/soil moisture levels, and nutrient supplies.

But tomato blooms are self-fertile and pollination is only minimally affected by insects. Self pollination is also affected by weather in that air temperature determines if the pollen is viable or not - even a bee can't help then. ;)


    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 10:40AM
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Thanks for the info.

I live in California and last year's weather was pretty hot and dry, but my tomatoes didn't do to well at all. I think it was the clay soil that was the root of the problem. If I had to dig a hole during the summer I would have to use a pickaxe just to break the surface.

By the way, I found the video clip I was talking about in my above post. It's about 9 min. long and subtitled in english if anyone wants to watch it.

Here's the link:

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 11:57AM
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momotaro, that was very fascinating. And we think we have crazy TV shows! Thanks for posting.

Don't know why they seemed to be making the correlation that the bees were increasing sweetness. Bumblebees are used all the time in greenhouses that are growing tomatoes to increase pollination in an enclosed environment that has limited airflow. So that is nothing unusual.

I have read of withholding water to increase tomato solubles while growing processing tomatoes --called I believe a type of 'dry culture' but I can't find the link.
We know that too much water prior to harvesting make a tomato bland and tasteless. This Japanese grower has just carried it to the nth degree.

Looked up nigari--magnesium chloride plus trace minerals. Derived from processing sea salt.

It wasn't a small operation--I presume they have done comparison studies. Growing with and without sort of thing.

momotaro, those tomatoes looked like your namesake. Momotaros, according to Tomato Growers Supply Co. is the most popular tomato in Japan. His method just 'shrunk' their size. It is my favorite tomato just grown 'normally'-as it is very sweet. Wouldn't hurt to cut back on the watering abit prior to harvesting but I really wouldn't want to grow them to that smaller size.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 10:18PM
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momotaro - your problem is the clay. You need to add
some amendments to the soil to loosen it up.

I'm in SoCal just east of Los Angeles about 30 miles.

I moved into a new house three years ago and have been
adding Kellog's AMEND to my soil every year. Now I have
wonderful soil. Also, I added lots of coffee grounds and
used grass clippings as mulch. And lots of worms too. The
first year I had almost no worms.

Kellog's is a 'local' company that has lots of experience
with California growing and conditions.

So amend that soil and watch those tomatoes grow. And no,
I'm not associated with Kellog's. I do data processing for
MetLife. But their products worked well for me.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2008 at 1:53AM
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Agree. SoCal clay soil sucks. Plow in as many amendments as it can. Chunky amendments are better than smooth. They make spaces for air in the soil.

Some sage bushes will grow very quickly in this soil (I have some kind of red sage that's very aggressive, this way). Also, Martha Washington geraniums (pelargoniums) You can just plop untreated stem cutting anywhere in the ground and they will take off and develop heavy root systems in short order that break up the soil. And they're pretty!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2008 at 2:33PM
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farkee - I bought Opalkas, and Brandywine Suddith's strain earlier this year and was looking for sweet tomatoes. I saw the description for Momotoro's, which reminded me of those Teppen tomatoes, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

The sweetest tomatoes I've ever tasted were San Marzano Redortas. Then again the only tomatoes I've ever eaten were Redortas and grocery bought tomatoes.

qaguy - I had a feeling it was the soil. I noticed that my tomatoes didn't reach full height till August/September when the soil started getting damp (and I started seeds around Feb/April).

doof - This year I'm working on lasagna beds. Hopefully, if I do it right the soil will loosen up.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2008 at 11:53PM
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if you're after sweet and don't mind small (smaller fruits tend to be sweeter) try

Sweet Quartz - TGS
Sweet Hearts
Sun Gold
Sweet 100

Not sure the why of magnesium offhand. Might be a salt stress which may be helping to accumulate and/or effect reducing sugars in some way. Seems like I have read something about nutrients levels being used in hydroponic glasshouses to alter sugars and/or soluble solids (sugars are a subset of soluble solids).

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 7:17PM
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where a tomato grower grew his tomatoes in a certain way so that it would be smaller, which made it sweeter...On rec for Razzleberry hybrid (Park Seeds), 2 words: "Avoid It."


    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 7:31PM
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On rec for Razzleberry hybrid (Park Seeds), 2 words: "Avoid It."

What no math?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 2:34PM
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LandArc(z9 CA)

My understanding is that the Japanese have a strong preference for pink, and very sweet tomatoes. I think if you try Momotaro and Odoriko, you will find them quite sweet on their own. On the use of nigari, this can be read 'epson salts' with the same nutrient profile in terms of magnesium sulfate. Nigari has some other minerals and components differing from epson salts depending upon where it comes from.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 7:09PM
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