Tomato Trial Results
November 20, 2009
This is 'Juliet' the winner in production and tomato late blight disease resistance in last summer's tomato trials. Of all the varieties I grew, it had the best production and withstood the blight the longest. It is a hybrid, and indeterminate (tall) plant. It was advertised as "grape" type, but the fruit was much larger than a grape, as you can see in the photo below, often reaching 2" long. It was just right for quartering lengthwise and adding to a salad or for halving lengthwise
to stuff and broil as an appetizer. Not a really great flavor or texture, but OK and far better to have lots of OK fruit than 3 or 4 really good ones followed by death of the plant, as happened in the following case. 'Green Zebra' is an heirloom with fruit that is green when ripe, with yellow strips. This is how the plant looked by the time the 'Juliet' was in full production:
This 'Green Zebra' grew to about a foot and a half, bore 4 ripe fruits, then died, while the 'Juliet' reached 3 1/2 feet with probably a couple hundred fruits. The photo below is of 'Legend', the variety bred to resist tomato late blight at Oregon State. It was actually the first to die. So much for the theory it was resistant!
I think we have a strain of the fungus that it can't combat.
So what of the others I planted? 'White Currant' bore second most fruits, though they are very small, and had somewhat more blight damage than 'Juliet'. It is another indeterminate plant. It is very rangy, reaching its branches out far from the support. The fruit has a somewhat different, intense flavor, that some liked, and others found too surprising. There are also red and yellow versions of currant tomatoes, but I happened to get the white (which is really pale yellow). All are supposed to show some blight resistance. I thought they would be tiny, but many were the size of smallish cherry tomatoes. They were nice in salads.
The point of my trial was to grow varieties that anyone, someone on the net, a seed company, another gardener, claimed to have resisted blight. Another of these was 'Koralik' a determinate cherry-type tomato, an heirloom from Russia, that Territorial Seeds said seemed to have some resistance and to be early and productive for its size. These plants had more damage than 'Juliet' but did do relatively well.
They were a standard cherry size and flavor. Nice, though not remarkable.
Another, 'Tommy Toe' showed similar resistance. It is a taller plant, but not as productive. The fruits are round, and a bit larger than most cherries. They were as wide as the fruit of 'Juliet', but round rather than elongated.
'Matt's Wild Cherry' was the last of the tested varieties. It did have a crop, not much bigger fruits than the currant tomatoes, not as strong a flavor, some blight damage.
All of the above was at Dearborn Garden in the Mission, which is relatively sunny. The following images are from City College of San Francisco, where I had a second planting. Here it is colder and damper, so when blight is present, it does more damage. I did get some good ripe fruit from all trial varieties except Legend, but by the end of the season, all were suffering.
I think this is 'Tommy Toe', with typical brown fruit and brown stems caused by blight.
Here is 'Juliet'. The fruit toward the back has typical browning, and you can see that the stem to the left is still green, but the one it joins is brown and so are the leaves.
So what to do next year? Any other tips out there? Are there any other varieties you've found to have a vestige of resistance? Otherwise, I guess at least I'll have some tomatoes next year from 'Juliet' and one of the currant types.
All you tomato gardeners, if you had any blight this year, and your plants are still in the ground, get out there and rip them out. Pick up every fallen leaf. Do not compost the dead plants. Don't replant until April. This gets rid of last year's spores. More may blow in. The disease is airborne, not soil borne, but at least you aren't harboring it over winter. Take out peppers and eggplants and any leftover potato shoots too.
Finally, I will share a sign I saw in my communty garden. The gardener said he'd been in a demo and happened to have it along, so he thought he'd display it: