choosing tomato varieties

Garden Planning, Tomatoes

All America Selections (AAS) is a great place to start when looking for new tomato varieties to try. It’s is a national, non-profit plant trialing organization that tests new, never-before-sold varieties and selects winners with superior performance. I toured a dozen seed breeders in CA with AAS last summer and they are a fantastic organization.

My wish list has a bunch of AAS Winners that I’d like to try out next year. First, Mountain Rouge, a brand new 2019 AAS Winner. I visited its breeder, Bejo USA, last summer and saw this tomato growing in the field. It’s really beautiful – a big red slicer with great flavor, plus very good resistance to tomato diseases, especially late blight. Here’s a video of Mountain Rouge out in the field and shown by its breeder. (I was visiting Bejo with AAS when this video was made!)

Mountain Rouge DSC01563  Midnight Snack DSC02071c

–Mountain Rouge F1 and Midnight Snack F1

Midnight Snack is also an AAS winner that I saw growing in the field (at PanAmerican Seed). It is a tall, highly productive cherry tomato with a glossy black color that develops in the spots where sun hits the fruits. I love it and look forward to trying it in my garden. I usually only grow Sun Gold cherry, so this addition will give me some interesting variety.

Chef’s Choice Orange is also a fantastic AAS Winner (2014) that I have grown for several years now with great success (bred by Seeds By Design, a really nice family-run organization that I enjoyed visiting last summer). I’m planning to grow this one again next year.

Chefs Choice Orange DSC02469

–Chef’s Choice Orange F1

Next year, I’d also like to try a variety from the Dwarf Tomato Breeding Project. It’s nice that this Project is producing OSSI seeds, which means they are all OP and the seeds can be saved and you’ll get the same plant again next year. You don’t need to keep buying the seed. Rosella Crimson Dwarf looks like a fun one to try growing in a hay bale or pot. Maybe it will nice in my Mom’s small garden. I love the idea of compact, highly productive, and newly breed plants.

I also like the totally random method of looking at lists of heirloom tomatoes and choosing varieties to try. There are more than 3,000 varieties of heirloom tomatoes in active cultivation! Baker Creek and Sand Hill Preservation Center have enormous selections. Dr Lyle was one of my random selections this past year and it was super. A huge and delicious red slicer that was very vigorous and productive. I will definitely grow it again next year.

IMG_1854  IMG_2546

— Dr Lyle (heirloom)

Tomato varieties I grew this year:
Cherokee Purple
True Black Brandywine (large purple slicer) (OP)**
Pink Brandywine
Martha Washington
New Girl
Mortgage Lifter
Dr Lyle (large red slicer) (OP)**
Pink Beauty
Raspberry Large Red
Chef’s Choice Orange (large orange slicer) (F1)**
Orange Blossom
German Old Sterling
Sun Gold (orange cherry)**
Principe Borghese (for sun-dried tomatoes) (OP)**
San Marzano
Opalka (large paste) (OP)**
Polish Linguisa

My wish list of varieties to grow next year:
The six varieties with ** above
Mountain Rouge (large red slicer, high disease resistance) (F1)
Midnight Snack (black cherry) (F1)
Rosella Crimson Dwarf (a large red slicer on a compact plant) (OP)

(OP means open-pollinated, which means I can save seeds and they will produce the same plants again next year. F1 means it’s a hybrid. It will have “hybrid vigor”, but I won’t get the same plant again next year if I save seeds. I’ll have to buy these seeds.)

Maybe I’ll add to my list of varieties in the coming months. I usually end up with a list that’s longer than I meant it to be.

What varieties are you planning to grow next year? Let me know your suggestions!

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