This is a taste test list of any tomatoes I've successfully grown to the point of fruiting. That's not many, and most of them were windowsill tomatoes, since tomatoes outside tend to die from blight before anything ripens. The windowsill being small and cramped, a tomato plant may choose between standing alone in a 1-litre pot or sharing a 5-litre tub with two other plants. A tomato plant needs a 20-litre tub to grow properly, so under these conditions, and with not much sun, they often manage to produce one tomato to a plant for the smaller containers, and three to five for the larger ones.
Tomatoes are subtropical plants that don't handle cold wet weather well, although some types are more resistant to bad weather than others. They are short-lived frost-tender perennials, which means they can be overwintered on the windowsill, but will die once they've exhausted themselves fruiting. Commercially, tomatoes are grown on substrates in greenhouses and picked half ripe, which is why supermarket tomatoes are tasteless; the few times they've been picked too late and arrive at the supermarket (almost over)ripe, they're remarkably sweet.
Although I've always been fond of tomatoes (even watery supermarket ones), what started me growing them was the offer, in a specialty seed catalogue, of "Black Plum" tomato seeds. Of course they didn't survive to fruiting point, and I wept and tore my hair out over wasting such rare seeds. This was just before the "heirloom tomato" boom, and now I can get Black Plum seeds from a wide variety of places. Although the big seed companies are doing what they can to kill heirloom seeds: they may not be commercially sold because they don't conform to all sorts of specifications. One German tomato seeds webshop has put up the mandatory disclaimer that these plants are for decoration, not for eating. The site owner knows this is nonsense, so do the buyers, but maybe one day all windowsill tomato growers may be arrested for illegal activities. Or not. We'll see. That heirlooms have made such a comeback, points at consumer discontent with the aggressive Western agro-industry.
Although the standard supermarket tomato taste is "none", tomatoes come in different tastes, loosely related to their colour. A tomato has two coloured parts to it: the flesh, and the semi-transparent skin. The flesh can be red, orange, yellow, white, green, or dark red. The skin can be yellow (default), orange, white, or some shade of green. The final tomato colour is a mix of these two, so there are red tomatoes (red flesh, yellow skin), pink tomatoes (red flesh, white skin), brown tomatoes (red flesh, green skin), white tomatoes (white flesh, yellow or white skin - different combinations are possible), green tomatoes (don't change colour when ripening), black or purple tomatoes (which are simply darker brown tomatoes), orange tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, "golden yellow" tomatoes (ripening from lemon yellow to light orange) or combinations which are either striped or just a swirl of colours. The skin tends to yellow when ripening, so "white" tomatoes usually end up yellow and "green" tomatoes take on a shade of amber. Now for the taste: one expects the default red tomato to be sweet, but originally tomatoes were quite tart, and some types still are. White and pink tomatoes are reputed to be sweeter than red ones, while lemon-yellow ones are said to be acid. Orange tomatoes, in my limited experience, are also sweeter. Green tomatoes are always said to have a "full-bodied tomato taste", whatever that is, while the taste of dark tomatoes is described as smokey or chocolate-like; it is, at any rate, strong.
As of April 2009, I'm starting to add tomato photographs. Click on the
tomato's name to see them. Photographs of more than one kind of tomato
will appear under all tomatoes pictured.
HA Cuban Black Cherry
Name coined by me: these nameless seeds were bought on eBay from a place
called HeirloomAcres and said to be a heirloom grown by a Cuban family. I bought
it because it was the first mention of a black cherry tomato I'd come across.
It has nothing to do with the Cuban Black but may be the same as the Black
Cherry that suddenly popped up all over the Web as "new" not long after that
auction. (Nope, a few years later I bought Black Cherry seeds, which are much
smaller.) In a cramped 1-litre pot, this plant produced one mahogany-brown
ping-pong-ball tomato that tasted like caramel, liquorice and well-seasoned meat
mixed together. In one word, delicious. The plant itself is indeterminate and
may be most at home in the open, in a sunny garden. Attempt 2: growing them in a
large container, I got huge sturdy plants putting out oval but otherwise
same-sized tomatoes that stayed green forever until picked, after which, put in
a warm spot indoors, they slowly turned dark red. Their taste was understandably
not as good. It seems they yearn for hot Cuban summers. Attempt 3: a stump of a
plant from that same container put out new growth the year after, with small
round tomatoes as delicious as I remember them. The reason was probably the
heatwaves in May. The last tomatoes of that year had another shape: small and
oval with pointed ends - that makes three shapes on the same plant.
As with the HA Cuban Black Cherry, this tomato, claimed to be an early fruiter and a Dutch heirloom, stood in a tiny pot and pushed out one nice, round, blood-red ping pong ball which tasted like the Cuban Black Cherry, only less strongly seasoned. This was the second tomato that stopped me dead in my tracks by its taste: a particularly sweet kind of honey with a twist of lemon and a pinch of salt. It tasted like candy, only better, and if this is the sort of taste humans crave, no wonder they stuff themselves with sweets and chocolate bars as a poor substitute. Of course this tomato was in the privileged position of having all the plant's energy and resources concentrated into just the one fruit, but still, Bloody Butcher deserves its reputation for taste. This is a potato-leaved indeterminate plant that might enjoy more space for both its roots and upward growth; another one that should be grown outside if possible.
In subsequent years they've grown both outside and inside, giving them a
chance to show me how huge their leaves are when they've fully developed. The
first fruits on the plant grown inside grew from double blossoms and were
bunched together like garlic cloves, or like Voyager tomatoes. Grown either way,
the taste was more tart than I remember it. Pity. (Picking a tomato that had
been hidden under foliage all this time, I discovered the secret of its
sweetness: the tomatoes must be allowed to fully ripen to a deep dark red. I
picked the other toms too soon and the lack of sun didn't help with ripening,
More oblong than grape-shaped - halfway between grape and egg - the small
green tomatoes, colouring amber when ripe, have been described in someone's
tomato seed list as "this one will whack your taste buds all over". It is
reputed to have the taste of muscat grapes. In my experience: its taste has the
faintest hint of anise, not pure and recognizable anise, but anise as it would
taste if mixed into tomato ketchup. Not bad once one gets used to it, but a
taste that might raise an eyebrow, as it's not what one might expect from a
tomato. It's also a taste that invites to a binge, as I'll eat one tomato after
another just to get it clear that yes, they do taste like that and no, I'm not
imagining things. Indeterminate, this tomato is halfway suitable for windowsill
growing, if the pot is big enough. (I've seen it officially listed as
"determinate", but it wouldn't be the first tomato to go "indeterminate" for
lack of light.)
This tomato is not known for taste, but for being a good keeper, and is
harvested orange and stored for winter use. Even orange, though, it has more
taste than a supermarket tomato. And that's all there is to say about the taste.
I don't know if this is the same tomato as Long Keeper but can vouch for its
slow ripening; what I grow is usually eaten while still orange. Another
indeterminate that needs to grow in a big bucket. (Note: restraining myself, I
waited until one tomato was a deeper orange-red before eating it. It tasted like
supermarket tomatoes that have accidentally been allowed to ripen on the vine,
before being put on the shelves: sugar-sweet.)
A low bush tomato - can be left unpruned and unattended - growing
lemon-yellow elongated "Romas" with a stubby hamster tail. The type's family
tree: from a mix of "long toms", Banana Legs was isolated as a yellow form. It
was then crossed with Antique Roman, a red tomato, to breed what is alternately
known as Striped Roman, Speckled Roman, Striped Roma or Speckled Roma. This
striped descendant produced a throwback to the yellow form which is shiny in a
waxy way, hence the name Roman Candle. Though it looks exactly like Banana Legs,
it is said to be drier and meatier. Banana Legs is said to be either
nice-tasting or mealy-tasting, and in my case the taste was mealy. Satisfactory,
but not spectacular, and certainly not acid as its colour suggests.
The name is Russian for "striped pepper". The tomato looks like a Striped
Roman with a tapered point, but unlike the Striped Roman this is not a bush, but
needs attention and room to grow. In a stingy little pot, it grew one two-inch
tomato, like a perfect little replica, with about five seeds inside. The taste
was nice but nothing special, rather like Banana Legs. I'm told the taste is
tart and fresh when the tomato is not fully ripe, and becomes mealy at full
ripeness. A not-so-early indeterminate which is supposedly blight-resistant.
Obviously an outdoor tomato for full sun.
Like Bloody Butcher, Stupice - the c needs an accent, the pronunciation is
stu-pi-tse - is a potato-leaved indeterminate said to fruit early, but I've
yet to see it put out a perfectly round tomato. Being early and, in my case,
growing in the shade under plastic cover, the fruits were not remarkably
tasteful. So the year after, I tried growing it in the open, and it died of
blight. Grown under proper conditions, its taste is supposed to rival
Probably the same as what's simply called "Jubilee".
Grown under the same miserable conditions as the first Stupice plants, the
poor plant - indeterminate, later than Stupice - produced one light orange
tomato with not much taste. I've read elsewhere that Golden Jubilee is not a
winner in taste tests. It is reputed to be easy to grow, and at least it
fruited, unlike the other tomato varieties grown alongside it. This really is
an outside tomato, though.
Possible synonym: Sugar Lump, although I've heard that Gardener's Delight
comes in two sizes, so Sugar Lump might be the smaller variety. This type was
grown inside under lights, but really needs a greenhouse outdoors for a big
harvest. Potato-leaved, indeterminate, it's another lively grower that needs
more space than it got. The tomatoes are between orange and red, slightly bigger
than ping-pong size, as sweet as reputed, about the same taste as that one
Bloody Butcher tomato. Sadly, the "full daylight spectrum" bulbs (for domestic
use, so I'm not talking about those heat-generating electricity-guzzling
growlights) burned the foliage, and the plant withered after the first two
Growing anywhere, even on the windowsill, this versatile and tasty tomato
is round, again of ping-pong size, and sweet in the way that a tangerine is
sweet: through a near-absence of acid. It's not just coloured like a tangerine,
it really tastes like one; if it was made into ketchup, the ketchup would
probably taste like lemonade. However, it's not overpoweringly sweet like
Bloody Butcher and Gardener's Delight, and certainly not spicy.
The taste is so light and untypical that, as with Green Grape, one keeps
eating just to assure oneself that this really is what they taste like. Not
that one keeps eating for long with about five tomatoes between two plants.
ABC Potato Leaf
The seed shop where I bought these, Vreeken's
Zaden, also calls them "hazelnut tomatoes" but having hazelnut bushes in the
garden, I can safely say that the tomatoes are (slightly) bigger. Oval with a
pointed tip, these tomatoes are close to their wild ancestors. They are
indeterminate but don't need pruning: like wild tomatoes, they just grow on and
on in all directions. The German description on the packet told me that in June,
this plant is "ein richtiges Blütenmeer", meaning, a sea of blossoms. Well,
outside, maybe; on the windowsill, it laboriously pushes out one tomato at a
time. In a larger pot on the balcony, it sprawls nicely and fruits a bit more.
The tomatoes are not absolute prizewinners for taste, but a colleague who tasted
one remarked on its sweetness. Planted outside in the squally Dutch summer, they
showed none of the blight resistance attributed to said wild ancestors, and
quickly died off.
Snow White (Cherry)
This cherry tomato, not to be confused with the Russian beafsteak that
is called Snow White or White Beauty, sat in a bucket on the windowsill
for a summer and a winter before making some tomatoes. Small fruits doesn't
mean a small plant, and maybe this (indeterminate) plant wanted to put on
some weight first. Like white tomatoes generally, Snow White Cherry is
championed for its sweetness. But since the tomatoes ripened at the same
time as Gold Nugget, I had something to compare them with, and they
are sourer. They're still very nice, of the usual ping-pong size, slightly
downy which gives them a dull surface, a warmer shade of lemon yellow
(definitely never white), with big, easily harvested seeds.
A low bush, it was a real discovery. I put four plants in containers of about five litres, two to a container, on my not terribly sunny windowsill. They grew tall and a bit spindly, and started putting out clusters of four to six tomatoes at the same time as Snow White Cherry (but without a whole winter to prepare themselves) which were oval, had little points at the bottom and soon turned waxy yellow. I bit into one, saw that the gel around the seeds was still green, and thought the taste was watery. Then the remainder of the cluster turned light orange, which is the "ripe" colour, and I tried again. This time the tomatoes had the juicy, restrainedly sweet tangerine taste of Tangella. In other words, they were delightful. Gold Nugget is reputed to be early, which it is, and on a windowsill it is a relatively good producer, with about 10 or more tomatoes to a plant, which is more than I've ever had under these growing conditions. The secret: the plant is parthenocarpic - doesn't need fertilization to set fruit - so the blossoms don't wait around for the bees or the wind but get to work straight away. This means seed saving is problematic: I can get 3 seeds out of a tomato if I'm lucky. The tomato is said to be "almost seedless" which is not true: there are plenty of seeds, with gel around them, but being unfertilized, they're tiny and underdeveloped.
Months later, in December, the plants are still fruiting, and some tomatoes have normally developed seeds. The taste has gone back to watery-sour for lack of sun, but the tomatoes have the strangest shapes, not only oval but almost roundly plump, pear-shaped, very thin, and "tailed": the lower end is like a short round tail. This is the most successfully productive tomato ever to grace my windowsill.
The year after, in May: either one of the plants or one of their cuttings
that rooted has been taken to the office and put on a windowsill in a 5-litre
container. It does fairly well and has about 27 tomatoes divided over 4
clusters. The first three tomatoes have already been picked, and I've found
that the decisive test for ripeness is whether the tomatoes will come off
the stalks easily (at home I pick them when they are still firmly attached,
by pulling the fruit off the calyx). These tomatoes are like the picture in
the catalogue: round to slightly oval, without the pointy end. I conclude
that last winter's weird shapes are a sign of stress.
A bottom-heavy miniature flask tomato sold in the supermarket as a "tasty"
tomato, its taste was still inferior to any tomato I've grown. The shape was
funny, though, and I kept the seeds and grew some plants. Of the two fruiting
ones, the early one has elongated little flask tomatoes (cuuute) and the other,
potato leaves and rounded fruits that ripen later.
Looks like an F1 hybrid, and I've no idea what its real name is. Hybrids
underwhelm me, they're supposed to be superior to true-to-type seeds, but
they're basically proof of laziness: why not keep breeding and selecting until
the good qualities are stabilized? But of course seed companies would rather
sell farmers seeds that they can't save... The little flasks are nice but the
taste is really nothing special; they seem parthenocarpic as they
contained no developed seeds. The oval-round ones are sweet (could it be
This low bush is known for producing sprays of blossoms at the end of its
branches, resulting in many droplet-shaped tomatoes to a branch. However, if the
plant doesn't like its position - which it can also show by shooting up in a
tall vine rather than growing as a low bush - most blossoms will wither off,
leaving the usual five or six tomatoes to a cluster. They are at most an inch
long, sharp-tipped and pale to full yellow. Some are droplet-shaped, some
noticeably pear-shaped, and they don't necessarily contain seeds. As for taste,
I thought it was nice - a bit mealy, a bit acid - and then ate a late Gold
Nugget. Ildi paled in comparison.
This mini-tomato that supposedly needs only a small pot was grown in two situations: outside on a rain-drenched balcony and inside in a 5-litre box of soil. Outside, it stayed a pigmy plant but didn't fruit (probably too cold). Inside, it grew as tall and spindly as its companions, Ildi and Gold Nugget, and put forth about three tiny oval tomatoes, the shape and size of a jelly bean. These tomatoes varied between a vaguely pearly pink-red and normal red, depending on ripeness. It then produced a last round, berry-sized tomato, red with a pearly cast, and gave up for the year. Normally they might seed, but the tomatoes I picked were seedless. The taste can only be described as "unripe". These plants either need more sunlight (and a smaller pot, which would arrest growth and force more fruit) or growing in containers in the open. Given that this is supposed to be the ideal windowsill tomato, I'm not impressed.
The long etiolated shoots withered but the next year, the plant sent out more (similarly etiolated) shoots with nice sharply cut foliage and produced a few more pink-red mini-marbles, more ripe now but still a bit sour. They'd make nice Christmas decorations, but the production is rather too modest.
And again, a few years later, in a dusty attic under lights, some Tiny Tim
plants prove themselves equal to the plants of Black and Red Boar, a
normal-sized indeterminate beefsteak, when it comes to rambling. Unsatisfied
with their own growlight, they grew two yards towards a Naturalite full-spectrum
"sunlight" lamp. Either I bought an odd batch of seeds, or THIS IS NOT A TINY
WINDOWSILL TOMATO. The only reliably tiny thing about it is its fruits.
Like most "pink" tomatoes, Dikaja Rosa ("Wild Rose") is red, just less vibrantly scarlet than a true "red" tomato. The gel around the seeds was a bit lighter than on true red tomatoes too, but that can be a sign of unripeness, since the first tomato had no developed seeds at all and the second had a greenish lobe that wouldn't colour. This tomato is a beefsteak, and the baby-fist-sized tomatoes had that typical flattened look and faint ribbing. If grown in something bigger than a 5-litre pot, I'm sure not only the plant but also its fruits would have been larger and more imposing. More sun could also have given the tomato skins that faint touch of magenta typical of "pink" or "rose" tomatoes. As it was, they were probably not fully ripe, but at least edible.
Tomatoes are sometimes described as grainy or with a fine texture. These tomatoes were grainy, not in a hard-to-chew way but like very tender raw carrots, or sweet grainy pears. (Pears are more grainy than apples, but the riper and softer they are, the more obvious the grain.) The seeds were nice and big, a deterrent to some people but a bonus when trying to save them. Normally there would have been more flesh around the seeds anyway. The taste is also pear-sweet, less sweet than the peerless Gold Nugget, but as much so as Snow White Cherry. I've read on Tomatsidan, a Swedish heirloom tomato page, that Dikaja Rosa performs well in bad weather, and it has been the first "outside" (on the balcony, exposed to the elements) tomato to ripen something this year.
A last tomato ripening in October lacked the grain, but wasn't sweet, either. It was pulpy and tasteless like a supermarket tomato. Ah well, there's only so much a bad-weather tomato can do.
Addendum: no tomatoes survived from a packet called Orangevy Gigant, but the
tomatoes that grew indoors mislabelled as Orangevy Gigant were probably Dikaja
Rosa. The first one was tiny, shrivelled with lack of water and tasted like
tomato ketchup. The second, which was more "boat" and less "baby fist" in shape,
also had a sweet taste, but lacked the pear-like grain and sweetness. That might
be caused by the plant growing indoors, getting less sun and less rain, and
Half Moon China
A white beafsteak reputed to taste like watermelon. Of three plants grown in
a bucket, one produced, somewhere in autumn, two flat, slightly ribbed small
beefsteaks with much corky stuff around the stem and a whole streak of corky
stuff along the bottom. The latter is normal for beefsteaks, but the former
caught my eye. The "white" tomatoes are pleasingly pale yellow with more lemony
yellow around the stem. Though ripening late, they were still not fully ripe
when I picked them (but already going soft, so I didn't want to wait any longer)
with much green gel around mostly undeveloped seeds (I had 8 seeds from one
tomato) and the not-quite-ripe flesh was citrusy, more like lemon drops than
watermelons. The many undeveloped seeds may be a matter of the double blossoms
beafsteak types produce, making self-pollination difficult, which may account
for the famed and prized "seedless" nature of beefsteaks. Clearly a late
producer needing much sun and as such a disappointment, but: beautiful fruits
and, in this case, a fresh acid taste.
Czech's Excellent (Yellow)
(I bought this as "Czech's Excellent Yellow", but have since heard it referred to as "Czech's Excellent", so the last word would seem an unnecessary addition, like the "Cherry" part of "Bianca Cherry".)
Three things have been said about this golfball-sized tomato: better
taste than most yellow tomatoes; more productive than most yellow tomatoes;
early. The latter two clearly don't apply when it grows in a 1-litre container
clamped to a drainpipe. My single CEY plant produced 1.5 tomato. A full-sized
tom and a half-sized one doomed never to ripen hung together for a long time
on a steadily wilting plant being demonstratively green. I despaired of ever
getting seeds, let alone a taste of this famous tomato, when one day the larger
green globe turned full yellow with light brown striping on the shoulders (from
the unnatural growing conditions?). This tomato had the same symptoms as Half
Moon China, probably for the same reasons: a lemon drop taste, greenish gel
indicating unripeness and a grand total of two (2) seeds. In this case the
excuse of double blossoms doesn't apply, so this tomato might, like Gold Nugget,
be parthenocarpic, which would explain its reputation of being early.
Looking through old saved seed, I found some labelled "Mirabell" from two
years back. Had I forgotten all about them? Then the taste must have been
forgettable. But not so the shape. That was the first thing to return to
memory: growing on the balcony what I thought was Snow White Cherry but
what was in fact that other white cherry, I was struck by these oval, oblong,
Green-Grape-shaped but ending in a point, plump crystal lighter pendants
which, unlike Snow White Cherry, were very pale yellow and stayed that way.
The taste was like Snow White Cherry's, acid and sweet, but less sweet because
Mirabell, growing outside, had not basked in the warmth of a sunny window.
The "giant of Alicante" not only has huge fruits, but is huge itself. How big its fruits could get if planted outside in the ground and in full sun, I don't know. I do know that before putting out any blossoms at all, the plants, in five-litre containers, shot up to cover the window with a sprawling green curtain. When tomatoes finally did develop, it was a while before I spotted them. They were, to my surprise, pink (well, magenta really) oxhearts, not gigantic but still almost fist-sized, one of them even with whitish stripes that faded out as it coloured.
The taste was strangely sweet and buttery. I understand what causes this:
it's generally not the tomato itself that is acid, but the gel around the
seeds, which contributes most to the total taste impression. Gigant d'Alacant
has few seeds squashed in narrow seed cavities against the outer walls, and
for the rest, is solid flesh; in fact, the first tomato I ate had no seeds
at all, not even undeveloped ones. This means that there is almost no gel
and the taste is pure tomato body. The second one had a few seeds to save and
the third, formerly striped one, which I let ripen completely, was the
sweetest of the three and had all its seeds in the "shoulder" end, and none
in the tail end. This is the first oxheart I've ever had fruits of, and I'll
see whether other tomatoes of the oxheart type have the same construction.
Another beefsteak grown inside, but in front of an open door leading to a tiny balcony to get just that little extra bit of sunlight, the pretty golden orange Apelsin (Russian for "orange") also had buttery sweet flesh with all the acid concentrated around the seeds. Given its name, it may have been my imagination that the sour gel really did taste like oranges.
A year after, a plant mislabelled as Zhelty Delikates produced big round
orange tomatoes with a pointed end. The orange-like taste makes me suspect that
this was an Apelsin, and that the taste is not a matter of imagination.
The year 2008 was the first year when, starting to run out of viable seeds and desperate to get some tomatoes from my plants rather than watch them wither every year, I bought some plastic greenhouse constructions to grow plants outside but sheltered from the rain. White Wonder was one of those tomatoes for which I was down to the last few seeds. The plants grew nicely but, since the early heatwave was followed by a wet, murky summer that didn't encourage abundant fruit set, put out about two tomatoes, a smaller boat-shaped one that was rotten at the core and a much bigger fist-sized one with a round circumference and patches of lemon yellow where the fruit was starting to ripen. Alas, I had to cut it off unripe because the slugs were beginning to tuck in, and I didn't want this luscious big tomato to go rotten like the other one.
Being a beefsteak, this tomato is mostly meat with cramped seed chambers. As it hadn't ripened well, it was spongy and tasteless, and I had to remind myself: "vitamins! minerals!" to keep eating. It was barely sour, as can be expected from a white, acid-lacking tomato. At least I have new seeds now for future, hopefully tastier tomatoes.
White Wonder had an unexpected rematch through a tomato grown with the
advantage of both indoor and outdoor cultivation. Somewhere in early summer I
clumsily snapped off a shoot of a tomato plant. I didn't know which plant, as
the green bits had all grown together, as will happen when planting tomatoes too
close to each other, but there was a little tomato on it so I brought the shoot
inside and stuck it in a jar of water to grow roots, and then in a small pot on
the windowsill. The little tomato survived all this and grew into a pale
ivory-yellow flattened billiard ball. This was enough to identify it as White
Wonder. The taste: like salmon and asparagus and crab without the salt. It was
sweet-sour with very little sweet and very little sour. I could almost call it a
"Chinese restaurant tomato". And this came off the same plant that produced the
big polystyrene ball.
The Moscovian delicacy is a flask tomato that the slugs started eating holes in at the first hint of red, so the tomatoes had to be brought inside green to ripen in a safe place, which means that the taste was less developed.
There is a type of tomato called "paste tomato" which is described as dry
and/or meaty, and perfect for sauce because it cooks down to a paste rather than
thin juice. I don't know whether this Russian Roma lookalike is officially a
paste tomato, but it was thick-walled, and so "solid" that the gel around the
seeds wasn't runny but stuck in a clot around the core, so getting the seeds out
of the fruit was just a little tricky. It certainly tasted exactly like the
"Roma" tomatoes from the supermarket. Not only would it be suitable for paste,
it might be a good slicing tomato for sandwiches that are not supposed to squirt
tomato seeds when bitten. It might be good for cooking whole, since it looks
less likely to disintegrate on one's plate than the average tomato.
Japanese Black Trifele
There is a series of pear-shaped Russian tomatoes called the "Japanese Trifele" or "Japaani Truffle". The yellow and orange forms are, at least on the seed packet picture, narrow at the top, but the black one is a more chunky model, apple-shaped or roundish but bottom-heavy. It is also potato-leaved, and on the early side. And, as mentioned by several growers, its fruits are free of cracks and blemishes.
The single tomato that ripened inside - nicely red-brown, greenish shoulders
- was not exceptionally tasty. The single tomato that almost ripened outside and
was left to ripen inside, tasted like mashed potato without flavouring. It was
worse than that pulpy underripe White Wonder tomato. Clearly, I've been doing
Porter Texan or Texan Porter - I'm not sure which is the right order - is a tomato said to cope well with dry heat. I put four plants in a medium-size planter, which is of course far too cramped and will dry out quickly, and watered regularly. The plants grew rather well, standing close to an open door which meant they got a little direct sunlight. These, I could have sworn, were the last seeds labelled "Porter Texan" from Anioleka's seed shop close to 5 years ago when it was still in business. Not having managed to grow them to fruiting stage before, I expected medium round red tomatoes. I got small oval pinkish ones.
Of course, "pink" means the kind of red that has no yellow in it at all. The idea that pink tomatoes are pink comes from all the pink shades that they go through when they ripen. I looked this tomato up on Reinhardt Kraft's tomato page, which lists more than 800 kinds of tomatoes, and found only "Porter", which was oval, drought-resistant and good for ketchup. The photograph showed pinkish tomatoes, just like what I had. The small size may be a matter of bad growing conditions. Considering how often the plants wilted in that tiny planter until a bucket of water perked them up again, they can certainly handle drought.
After all these beefsteaks, this tomato seemed quite acid because of its thin walls and seed-filled, and therefore also gel-filled cavities.
I later came across the webshop of Anioleka USA (the original seeds were
bought from Anioleka's seed shop in the UK via eBay) which had the following
Porter Improved Tomato (aka. Porter Improved Pink Slicing Tomato, Porter Improved VF Tomato)
Origin: United States
Item #: TOM054
The Porter Improved Tomato, also known as the Porter Improved Pink Slicing Tomato, is a tomato variety originally developed by Porter & Son Seed Company of Texas as a pink variation of their famous red tomato variety Porter. Like its forerunner, Porter Improved or Porter Pink, is especially adapted for hot southern states such as Texas. Porter Improved is the best pink tomato variety for areas with extreme heat and low humidity.
Porter Improved produces heavy yields of oval shaped, 3-4 ounce pinkish-red tomatoes bursting with exceptional flavors that are wonderful for slicing, using in salads, canning or for making tomato juice.
An excellent choice for home gardeners and for market growers in hot regions.
Porter Improved is drought tolerant and is resistant to cracking and Verticullum and Fusarium Wilt.
I can add that when subjected to rain as in being in a planter in an open doorway to catch sunlight, the leaves will get mildewed, after which it's best to throw the plant away.
(I've seen a tomato of this description listed as "Porter's Dark Cherry" on
Tomatofest.com, but just "Porter" on Reimerseeds.com. Clearly a tomato of many
When I sowed Alicante seeds together with the potato-leaved Gardener's Delight, Alicante surprised me by being potato-leaved too. It was not until two years later with about four seeds left, that I had a plant with a ripe tomato on it. Why this is considered a good tomato for beginners, I don't know. It's a round red tomato, nothing special to look at, but possessing the mysterious power of not wilting when broiled. I eat my tomatoes raw, so this power went untested.
The first tomato to ripen, red and almost round like a standard tomato, and likewise a little acid - just like Porter Texan - surprised me by having no developed seeds at all, just a lot of gel. Maybe it's an "easy" tomato because it's parthenocarpic?
The story continues! Since windowsill tomatoes don't die after their first year, this plant surprised me, after a dry spell in which almost all windowsill tomatoes died, by producing a tiny spray of pointy tomatoes, like three hazelnuts on a twig. I had just taken a peek at the green jungle flattening itself against the window, and spotted something red. More hazelnuts followed and then, after some watering and fertilization, real, two-inch-long little plums, in a quantity that reminded me of Gold Nugget, although Alicante is twice as big, so I can expect only one-fourth of the production. Unlike Gold Nugget, Alicante does not keep producing in the winter months, although it will continue tossing out a blossom or two until it dies (parts of it are already withering). I was still impressed, though. Given their habit of tossing out harvests in their second year, maybe tomatoes should be considered biennal?
Oh yes. The taste. Well, I was happy to have tomatoes at all. The taste
was quite nice. On a par with Siberia. It could have been more intense,
but I was satisfied.
If there were prizes for blandness!! But to start at the beginning. Yellow
Pear plants are a bit thin, mean and straggly and supposed to be close to their
wild ancestors. The first tomatoes to ripen were pear-shaped in the sense of
bottom-heavy, they didn't have a neck at the top (later tomatoes did); they were
like round yellow cherries that have sagged, a very smooth and pleasing shape,
and had no point on the end (at least mine hadn't). These don't move to golden
but stay yellow, and while the plant isn't spectacularly early, the little
fruits, once they start to develop, grow to maturity quickly. Still, if there
were prizes...!! I'd already read that they don't taste of much, which one
taster disapproved while another defended them, saying they were great in salads
because their taste did not intrude. I'll say. These tomatoes don't taste
unripe, nor watery like supermarket tomatoes, nor mealy like something that's
been on the vine for too long. Their taste is modest. They seem to say: "Oh
sorry, am I in your mouth? Please don't notice me." And I can see how that might
work very well in salads.
An early short bush, it showed its earliness by beginning to blossom
on the windowsill in late August. Plants left in a plastic greenhouse
outside are tomato-less as I speak. This tomato is supposed to be
cold-tolerant, so it can't have been the lack of summer warmth. So the
first tomato - medium-sized, almost round, a bit blocky - to be picked
once it was red enough, may have been on the unripe side. The seeds were
few but big, and had to be severed from the core with a small knife. And I
would be lying if I said the taste was any better than "supermarket". It's
been a bad year for tasty tomatoes - the year of the polystyrene White
Wonder and the unseasoned-potato-mash Black Trifele - and since this
tomato was still better than either of them, I'll assume unripeness and
wait for the next tomato to fully ripen. (The next tomato was not any
better. Let's try again next year.)
I had earlier given this plant the following honourable mention:
"grew outside in the shade and had each new cluster of blossoms
blighted off due to successive rainy periods, but still survived
until first frost." This time it also grew in the shade, with slight
protection against rain from being under a canopy of leaves and half
shielded by a section of broken glass pane. It produced two green
tomatoes, one ping-pong size and the other larger, not round but
very faintly lobed, that I took inside while one was green and the
other yellowing. This tomato has the following reputation: early;
robust; good in both hot and cold weather. I can attest to its
toughness, but wouldn't call a tomato that ripens in November early.
The taste was, considering the bad growing conditions, not as bad as
expected: tangy, not completely watery, but sadly not sweet. I
haven't tried it yet, but this might be a good tomato for a sunny
windowsill, as it can stand both the odd dry spell and occasional
(After finding the old packet again, I saw that the proper name was "Gigant Limmony", which still means "Lemon Giant". A number of seed sites sell "Limmony" or "Lemonny", which I assume is the same tomato: a big, slightly ruffled, lemon-yellow beefsteak.)
As it was one of a handful of packets of Russian tomato seeds, I confused
this giant beefsteak with Zhelty Delikates.
The tomato I thought was Zhelty Delikates, a small, tasteless, almost forgotten
lemon-yellow beefsteak, was the sole, mislabelled survivor of the packet. It
will be reassessed if I ever manage to grow a proper tomato of this variety.
The orange version of Banana Legs, this one is said to have, unlike the
yellow version, a fruity taste. For the rest, it's also a low bush: sow, water,
fertilize, wait for harvest. I did all this on a windowsill and somewhere right
at the year's end, a bottle-shaped tomato was produced on the usual etiolated
stem. I let it hang to colour until it showed signs of blossom-end rot (my fault
for watering once a week) and then picked it, although the shoulders showed
faint streaks of green still. For a not-completely-ripe tomato, it was
surprisingly sweet and fruity, the same taste as Tangella. What's more, it had
started producing a second little bottle. The first ripened in December, the
second in January and the plant even produced a third; and that's how one gets
by tomatoes in wintertime, if one doesn't mind a very modest harvest.
Not to be confused with either the Russian Black or all those other black
tomatoes with Russian origin. This one still awaits a taste test, as I can't
pass balanced judgement on a single very immature green tomato that somehow
managed to ripen off the vine.
This "golden delicacy" is yellow and round with a pointed end. Depending on
how much nutrients went to the tomato, it varies from plum-sized to almost
baseball-sized, becoming flatter as it gets wider. Though lemon-yellow, it's not
very acid. Like most beefsteaks, it has a thick fleshy core, the flesh having
the usual buttery taste, and relatively few seeds squashed in narrow seed
chambers against the outer wall. Tomatoes from Eastern Europe have a general
reputation of being early and cold-resistant, and Zhelty Delikates is in the
same league as Apelsin and Dikaja Rosa. Whereas Dikaja Rosa was very tasty,
though, and Apelsin at least had a distinctive taste to its seed gel, this
tomato's taste was "ho hum". It has grown in the coldest and least sunny
conditions of all three (outside in a plastic greenhouse, the green tomatoes
were taken inside to ripen) so, cold-resistant as it may be, it clearly needs
more warmth to develop some real taste.
One of my many talents is the mislabelling of plants. Another is killing
them. Having tried to overwinter a batch of tomato seedlings, I was left with
two. Never mind what the labels said: they were obviously something else. One of
them sported an embryonic beefsteak smaller than a raisin: the other produced a
few red plums as delicious as Bloody Butcher. I consulted my list of last year's
sowing and concluded that this, being plum-tomatoe'd and potato-leaved, could be
none other than Truffaut Précoce, where "précoce" means "early",
and according to the seller, this really is an extremely early tomato. For me,
"early" tomatoes stand the best chance of fruiting at all, which is why I
ordered this one; I hadn't expected it to have such a fine taste. A lucky find.
This tomato is also said to develop a thick skin during hot weather (against
cracking?) but where I live, summer heat is obviously nothing to worry about.
Still not having managed to grow one of these to full ripeness (and an unripe
Green Zebra tastes like any unripe tomato) I fished one out of a multicoloured
mix of cherry toms that, if I'd bought some at an Albert Heyn supermarket, would
have been labelled "wild tomatoes" (yeah, right). I was unsure of the identity
of any tomatoes in the mix, but round, green, yellow stripes, size between
pingpong and tangerine - that's fairly sure to be Green Zebra. And as greens are
reputed to have, it had, to use that euphemism, a "strong tomato taste", that is
to say, unsweet, not quite as bitter as a green pepper, but with a bland
freshness that spells "vegetable" rather than "fruit". As such, I would sooner
boil or bake it than eat it raw. It is in the same class as aubergine, and would
do well in ratatouille.
The indeterminate vines of the famous Russian tomato Black Prince (a commercial variety called "Chorny Prins", which is just the same name in Russian, is grown for the production of "tomato oil") are said to reach two metres and higher. In a ten-litre box of soil on the windowsill, it will grow. And grow. And grow. And sprout a few blossoms which will then wither as the vine puts more energy into growing. When a shoot with blossoms is snapped off, rooted in a bottle of water, and planted in another (smaller) container, the plant reverses its priorities and tries manfully to develop those blossoms into fruit.
Due to a hot dry summer and frequent absence, the rooted shoot was not
watered as well as it should be, and where Black Prince, being a black tomato,
is expected to have an earthy taste anyway, the first tomato looked and tasted
not just earthy, but ashy. The second one was warm and earthy in taste, as its
colour promised. Due to its size, however, this is a plant for a large warm
greenhouse, where it might offer a decent crop.
In a year of increasing illness (2010) I sowed lots of tomatoes anyway in a gesture of defiance, and also in order to force myself to keep on my feet. Illness prevailed, the seedlings, uncared for, were left to wither and when one of them finally made a small fruit before dying in the planter it was getting root-bound in, I wasn't sure whether the stunted thing was a Black Trifele or a Black Krim. It was a mini-beefsteak rather than a mini-pear, and instead of tasteless like the last Black Trifele, it was sour like preserves. Maybe the famous salty taste of Black Krim would have developed if it had been better cared for. Still, it had a walloping amount of taste for such a little fruit.
Black Krim is said to be a sturdy and disease-resistant tomato. I can't say that myself, or maybe it only applies when the plants are grown outside in full sun with lots of fresh air, because it really doesn't like windowsills. There are also said to be several strains, and apparently the Russian strain is superior. Maybe the seeds I grew out were non-Russian. I've bought what is hopefully the Russian strain from another seed seller, so this tomato will get another chance in the future.
Addendum: I read in the Black Krim entry of Tatiana's Tomato Base that there are two strains,
the much sought after smokey-sweet strain and a more salty, tart strain which is
what people who buy or trade for Black Krim usually get. I think "sour like
preserves" indicates that the ailing little plant was the latter.
To introduce some sense of timeline, all entries below are of tomatoes sown
and grown in 2012.
Since I've bought and sown new seed, this header was put in as a placeholder
for when the seeds hopefully produce bearing plants.