There is a lot of time and expense involved in breeding the next unique tomato variety that will excite us with its beauty, flavor and hardiness. A lot of breeding of new plant varieties is carried out in secret by seed companies like Monsanto and Seminis who have very deep pockets indeed.
In the Bay Area we are so lucky to have two local tomato breeders nearby. These guys are mavericks—they’re independent, use traditional methods of breeding, and do it with love. They sell tomatoes to restaurants and seeds to seed distributors to support their work. You will find some of their masterpieces on the vegetable shelves this spring. Three of their varieties are included in the top 8 favorite varieties from last year’s tomato tasting.
Consider supporting a local breeder’s work by planting some of their varieties in your garden this year!
Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms
Brad has bred many of our current favorites including Pink Berkeley Tie Dye, Dark Galaxy, and Blue Beauty. A few years ago he started including Indigo Rose, one with the anthocyanin gene in the skin (same as eggplant) into his breeding program. Now, along with his beautifully striped selections, there are some with the dark pigment as well, like Dark Galaxy. His varieties are beautiful, delicious and every year there are more to choose from.
He is certified organic.
More info at: wildboarfarms.com
Fred Hemple of Artisan Seeds
Fred’s Blush oblong cherry tomato was developed in 2009 and remains an open pollinated flavor challenger to Sun Gold as well as being a thing of beauty. Recently he has been developing small varieties with beautiful stripes that stay firm for longer. This characteristic helps the fruit last longer after harvest and reduces splitting. While he offers many sweet varieties, he also specializes in sweet/tart offerings that have a more complex flavor. He farms in Sunol at Baia Nicchia Farm.
More info at: growartisan.com
Tomato Tasting Results
Late last summer we had a tomato tasting event for the public. Over 35 different varieties were sampled and the results are in. Bear in mind that flavor is subjective, that what ripens and when is variable, and that growers may not have all of these available for 2018. We encourage you to try something new. Here are the top eight:
- Dr. Carolyn (cherry)
- Dark Galaxy
- Juliet (cherry)
- Blush (cherry)
- Sasha’s Altai
- Sweet Orange II (cherry)
- Berkeley Tie-Dye
- Sungold (cherry)