Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Tomatoes

Its seed catalog season, and I've got my favorites. It is time to order seed, because I want to have plants with flowers before I put them in the ground.

At right is the Tye-Dye from Burpee. It is on the winter catalog cover. It is supposed to taste good, but its claim to fame is the mixed orange and red color. I am skeptical about vegetable that only look good.

Orange color or even albino tomatoes come from breeding varieties that don't have a lot of lycopene, the carotenoid that gives tomatoes their bright red color. (I put the structure at the bottom of the page for the chemistry geeks.) Lycopene is a quencher of singlet oxygen, and many anti-aging and anti-cancer benefits have been suggested, though not proven to my satisfaction. Nonetheless, I'd rather have tomato with more color than less color.

If you want more lycopene, then you should try a black tomato, which are not black because gardening catalog writers have notoriously poor color vision. (previous post.)

At right are Black Cherry Tomatoes from Pinetree Seeds. They are browner in real life than in my picture, which I took last summer. They taste great, but the skins are a little thick. Some catalogs claim these are disease resistant. I had pretty good luck with them last year. They grow fast enough to stay ahead of the mold.

Some people claim the open pollenated, so-called heirloom variety Pruden's Purple is a black tomato, but it is not a very good variety to me. The plants are all-over the place. The tomatoes crack and the yield is fairly low.

A promising variety is Black Truffle from Burpee, which is a hybrid, but Burpee does not claim any disease resistance. Supposed to be a version of Black Pear. It is a Burpee exclusive and the seeds are $0.13/each which for Burpee is not too bad.

There are several more black tomato heirloom seeds here. Many of these are Russian heirlooms. No one is claiming any mold resistance for these seeds. If you gardened last year, you know that the wet spring wiped out many tomato crops. I don't have a big enough garden to experiment with questionable disease resistance.

One of their seeds is called Black, and here is a flavor review from Hanna, the Illegal Gardener.

I am tempted by this seedless tomato (available from Burpee but not exclusive.)  The question is "How do you get a seed from a seedless tomato?" The answer I suppose is hybridization. The hybrid is seedless, but the parents are not. Seedless tomatoes are not new, but the seeds do make the flavor more bitter -- probably more nutritious too.

The award for ugliest tomato picture is this, Ananas Noire; it must taste good or no one would offer the seed. It is supposed to be black tomato too, but obviously it is especially color-blind catalog writer.

!!See my previous tomato posts: Feb 09 on the 2009 Garden, and black Kumato tomatoes.!!

Lycopene - Here is a 1933 reference.