“The List” that hangs above the benches of tomatoes at Tagawa Gardens includes more than 150 varieties that we brought in for the 2017 season. That’s a lot of tomatoes to choose from! With so many choices, I got to wondering: What are the veggie pro’s who care for and advise on all of these plants growing in their own gardens? So I decided to ask them.
“Sun Gold” always scores big!
It seems I’m not the only one who loves this flavor-packed little tomato! It came up frequently in my survey of several of the folks in Tagawa’s veggie department. I’ve been growing this variety for several years. Aside from some occasional cracking (usually when I’ve been inconsistent with the watering), this tomato never lets me down.
Jere, Tagawa’s Co-Supervisor of Veggies and Annuals, says she hears from customers that a lot of their Sun Golds never make it in from the garden. One woman told Jere that her husband and children eat as many while harvesting as they bring into the kitchen. That’s a pretty good endorsement!
Sun Gold’s are also some of the first tomatoes to ripen. You’ll be picking plenty of these 1 ounce fruits by mid-summer.
And still more cherry tomatoes…
Michael spends many of his hours at work tending to the tomatoes at Tagawa’s. Like a lot of gardeners these days, he’s a big fan of the cherry varieties. Why does he choose to go small? He says “It’a all about the taste!” Michael loves Sun Gold, but his top pick is Sun Sugar. These little orange tomatoes are just half-an-inch to one-inch in size, but they pack a mouthful of tomato goodness!
One Sun Sugar plant will produce hundreds of beautiful little tomatoes. The vines are vigorous and will need support, but it sure sounds like it’s worth it!
Chocolate sprinkles, anyone?
Gotta love the name of this tomato! They’re new to Tagawa’s this season, and I’m growing two of them in my garden. Chocolate Sprinkles is named for the soft brownish-green streaks that highlight its beautiful red skin.
They’re described as having a “rich, robust flavor.” And to add to their appeal, they’re early and heavy producers. I’m hoping to be trying my first Chocolate Sprinkles within a couple of months. I can’t wait!
And before we move on to the bigger tomatoes….
We can’t forget to include a long-time favorite: Sweet 100’s. David, one of the folks you’ll frequently find caring for the Tagawa tomatoes, says the Sweet 100’s top his list of small tomatoes. Flavor, sweetness, and heavy production would put this tomato into the Tomato Hall of Fame (if there was one).
They’re great for salads and snacking, and the vigorous vines will produce from mid-summer to first frost. What’s not to love?!
Let’s ramp it up a bit to the big guys!
Deborah is the lovely lady who is the Co-Supervisor of all things tomato at Tagawa Gardens. When I asked her which home-grown tomato makes it into her kitchen most often, she didn’t hesitate. She wants a beefsteak tomato… large, flavor-drenched tomatoes. And with her busy life, the reason is simple. Beelsteaks offer purr-fect big slices for tomato sandwiches!
Deborah plants one robust plant like a Ball’s Beefsteak in a large pot, at least 18″ across. Give the plant some good support. And then stand by with some fresh bread and a little salt and pepper. You’re just 76 days away from a great tomato sandwich feast!
A beautiful tomato with an exotic name…
“Gregori’s Altai” sounds like a tomato that came from a faraway land. And it did. Gregori’s Altai originated in the Altai mountains that run between Siberia and China. It is the top tomato choice of Trish, one of the tomato experts at Tagawa’s.
Trish has plenty of reasons why this is the first tomato on her list. She says Gregori’s Altai has exceptional flavor, with a good balance between tart and sweet that is “just right.” She loves watching her young daughter sit down and devour a whole tomato without any prompting to “eat your vegetables.”
For an heirloom (vintage plants with old-fashioned flavor), this tomato is ready to harvest fairly early, about 67 days from transplanting into her garden. Each of the tomatoes is about the size of a baseball. Trish says once the harvest begins, it goes on and on. Based on Trish’s recommendation, Gregori’s Altai is already at home in my own garden.
And what else is growing in my garden?
I’m trying something new this season. All of my 14-or-so tomatoes are growing in specially-conditioned bales of straw. I tried a couple of bales for tomatoes last year, and they did especially well, so I’m expanding this year. I’ll be blogging about Straw Bale gardening next week.
But as to varieties? In addition to Chocolate Sprinkles and Sun Gold, I have a couple of repeats on the list. Paul Robeson was a star in my garden last year, and is one of the best-tasting medium-sized tomatoes I’ve ever grown… not to mention one of the prettiest. The fruits are a dark mahogany red. They’re real works of art, named to honor the famous singer, actor and civil rights activist.
I’m also growing one of my “work horse” tomatoes again, Big Beef. Lovely, smooth red fruit and plenty of disease resistance. And to honor my favorite American President of all time (and with fingers crossed for an excellent harvest), Abraham Lincoln is front and center. I’ve never tried this heirloom before, but good ol’ Abe offers hefty tomatoes weighing one pound or more. It requires a longer growing season, around 80 to 85 days. But I have a feeling that with a little cooperation from Mother Nature this season, Abe would be pleased.
The food of choice for the ‘maters
All of the Tagawa staff that I spoke with pay close attention to feeding their tomatoes to get the best harvest. Many of them use “Grow,” one of the products in the Age Old line of fertilizers. Organic gardeners are also big fans of “Tomato Tone.” Both should be use as directed on the label. Extra fertilizer does not bring better results!
Need tips on growing?
Tagawa Gardens has plenty of expert advice that’s just a visit away. Our tomato-loving pro’s can guide you toward just the right tomato for your location and preferences. And they’ll be happy help you meet other challenges that can keep gardening in this area “interesting.”
Don’t be shy about showing off your successes! Our annual Fall Tomatopalooza contest is in mid-September. Start growing now and see if you can win first prize for the biggest or the tastiest tomato! There are Tagawa Gift Cards for the winners. We hope to see you there!