New Tomatoes for 2020

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The backyard Tomato, ready to serve to angels—this one is ‘Bush Champion II’

For the backyard garden, nothing attracts customers like a good Tomato collection. “They come in for the Tomato; they leave with the garden,” is the saying, and it is so true. We consider the Tomato a minivan category, and we see it on our own production reports. We ship more Tomatoes than any other type of vegetable. Some years they even enter the Top Ten list for all plants—flower, foliage or otherwise.

As a result, we put a lot of effort into the varieties we add. Some are improvements on favorites; others are brand new. They run the gamut from unusual cherries, better sauce varieties, and very pretty globes to important heirlooms. Let’s take a tour of the new cultivars we will be releasing this spring, starting with the cherry and working our way through to the beefsteak selections.

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Green and red stripes of Tomato ‘Chocolate Sprinkles’

‘Chocolate Sprinkles’ (cherry)

A low-acid variety with a sweet flavor, these dark cherry Tomatoes hang in thick trusses. If you experiment with ornamental Tomatoes in the front garden, this one is a candidate—the skin is actually dark red with stripes of green. ‘Chocolate Sprinkles’ is a good salad addition, known for a firm pop when you bite into it. Fruit appears early in the season and resists cracking. Mix some in if you make Caprese salads.

  • 1 to 2 ounce fruit
  • Ripens in 55 days
  • Grows 5 to 7 feet high
  • Indeterminate

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‘La Roma III’ split and ready for roasting—notice how dry the pulp is

 ‘La Roma III’ (sauce)

‘La Roma’ is our go-to Tomato for making paste or sun-dried Tomatoes. Cut one open and the reason is clear: very low water content. Only two chambers appear with very little gel inside, so these fruits reduce down quickly. ‘La Roma III’ is the ‘San Marzano’ Tomato, tweaked for the growing conditions of North America. Version III adds even more disease resistance and bumps the productivity of the plant even higher.

  • 5 to 8 ounce fruit
  • Ripens in 75 days
  • Grows 3 to 4 feet high
  • Determinate

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‘Pink-A-Licious’ (canning)

This is a small beefsteak variety that opts for flavor over size. Thick slices have a nice Tomato tang with a rich flavor to back it up, too. It’s full of sugary juice, firm solids, and lots of Tomato gel that we believe adds both flavor and character. When you cut one open you’ll find yourself saying, “This is a very juicy Tomato.”

‘Pink-A-Licious’ is a classic canning Tomato, especially if you measure the harvest in mason jars. As a determinate, it sets a high volume of fruit at once. Even better, the plant was bred to handle variable weather—something that actually makes a difference. In places like Cincinnati, summers can be mild or hot or both (pick your week). Reliable production in the face of uncertain summers is a good local choice.

  • 5 to 8 ounce fruit
  • 73 days to maturity
  • Grows 3 to 4 feet in height
  • Determinate

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‘Bush Champion II’ in the kitchen just after harvesting

‘Bush Champion II’ (slicing)

For those with big ambitions but a small garden plot, this is the Tomato for you. ‘Bush Champion II’ was specifically bred as a patio/deck/container/small garden variety, taking up much less space than the usual Tomato. It also likes to bush out rather than vine out, so support is still suggested but it doesn’t need to be nearly as tall or as strong.

If you are familiar with the very popular ‘Champion’, this is the same Tomato and it competes with ‘Early Girl’ for ripening speed. Version II resists more Tomato problems and bumps the flower production for more fruit.

  • 9 to 12 ounce fruit
  • Ripens in 65 days
  • Grows 2 to 3 feet high
  • Determinate

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Very pretty ‘Orange Wellington’ set out on a patio table

‘Orange Wellington’ (eating)

A beautiful orange globe that resists marring, ‘Orange Wellington’ has meaty, low-acid fruit for folk who prefer their Tomatoes on the sweet side. A beefy tomato, it chops very well into salsas and slices up nicely for sandwiches. ‘Orange Wellington’ also makes a golden low-acid Tomato sauce.

  • 12 ounce fruit
  • 75 days to maturity
  • 3 to 4 feet in height
  • Indeterminate

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Big ‘German Johnson’ Tomatoes sliced open to show their meat and juice

 ‘German Johnson’ (beefsteak)

Folks who aim for size should go with ‘German Johnson’, an heirloom beefsteak. Fruit can vary between 12 ounces and 24 ounces, but plants can produce Tomatoes that push past 1-1/2 pounds. Collected out of West Virginia over a century ago, ‘German Johnson’ has a big fan base among heirloom aficionados as a key parent to the equally important ‘Mortgage Lifter’.

This is an enthusiast’s Tomato. A thin skin coupled with a creamy texture keeps it out of the commercial channels, so you can only get this historic flavor from the backyard. Equipped with a very traditional, deeply acidic Tomato tang, ‘German Johnson’ is a prized eating Tomato. It’s noted as a great match-up for grilled burgers.

  • One pound fruit on average, but varies
  • 75 days to ripen
  • 4 to 6 feet high
  • Indeterminate

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A spray of ‘Chocolate Sprinkles’

Tips for Gardeners

Good air circulation is important for all Tomatoes to keep problems at bay. We generally recommend rows to be spaced about 48 inches apart, or better, with about 36 inches between each plant. Small plants like ‘Bush Champion II’ and ‘Orange Wellington’ can squeeze in tighter, but open and airy is considered better.

We also like to prune the lower leaves off our Tomatoes so that none touch the ground. We actually go a little higher so that splashes from rainwater don’t hit the leaves, either.

When it comes to fertilizer, compost or well-rotted manure is the best. Lacking that option, go for slow-release fertilizer. Liquid fertilizer feeds the plants early, generating large amounts of leaves with very few blossoms. Slow and steady keeps a constant flow of energy ready when the plant decides to flower and fruit.

Note that determinate Tomatoes are the ones that ripen in waves, all at once for quick harvesting and canning. Indeterminate varieties bloom and ripen constantly throughout the season.

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Intensely flavored ‘La Roma III’—roasted and ready to pack into olive oil