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Reston Dirt - The Quest for the Perfect Tomato

Home grown tomatoes are one of the best things about summer. Which variety is the tastiest?

I have an opinion (and recommendation) about which tomato variety is best to grow if you want big, messy, juicy summertime  tomato sandwiches, but I’m willing to hear from you and perhaps change my mind.

I have grown a variety of heirloom tomatoes over the years, searching for the perfect blend of bold tomato sweetness, rich texture and dribble-down-your chin-juiciness.  I stuck to heirloom varieties because I am a gardener and want to propagate the perfect tomato in successive seasons through seed saving. Hybrid plants will not breed true if you use their seeds, so I tend to avoid them. If you only grow tomatoes from purchased baby plants, you don’t have to limit yourself to heirlooms and a far wider range of options open up.

Of all the varieties I’ve grown in my garden, I have found the Cherokee Purple to be the most perfectly tomato-delicious. Like the name suggests, the large beautiful fruits are more purple than red, often shaded with green on the underside.  The skin is thin, the insides meaty and delicately laced. A  thick slice of Cherokee Purple, lightly salted, on top of a piece of farmer’s market sourdough toast? Will make me cry with happiness every.single.time. 

If there’s a tomato variety you could not imagine not having in your garden, I would love to know how you discovered it and where you tend to get your plants. Have a favored recipe that highlights summer-sweet tomatoes? I’ve got 20 plants in the ground and am expecting at least 50 pounds of tomatoes– I’d appreciate the advice with what the heck to do with them.

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ljsalim May 18, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Mail them to New Jersey?
Ahfi Bebli May 19, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Karen, would love some of that purple tomato? Any chance?
Laurie Dodd May 19, 2012 at 06:16 PM
You sold me. I just bought a Cherokee Purple seedling from the Reston Farmer's Market, to grow alongside my Paisano, Early Girl, Martha Washington, Sungold, and others (which I raised from seed under indoor lights). I will have 20+ plants, like you. Here's to a good growing season!
Molly O'Boyle June 12, 2012 at 03:09 PM
I have loved Cherokee Purple for many years. The fruit are big initially but tend to get smaller as the season goes on. I asked the grower at DiBaggio's Nursery last year what his favorite variety is out of their 120 they grow ~ he said that Cherokee Purple is the winner for him! Sungold was a top variety last year, so I have one this year also. I always like Big Boy or Better Boy, Lemon Boy, yellow pear, roma. This year I have all of those plus a red pear, another purple, a zebra (i think) and about 4 volunteers! I also have about 24 plants. Hope to have enough to can again this year ~ if I can protect them from the varmits!
Molly O'Boyle June 12, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Laurie, I decided two years ago to stop growing Early Girl. They definitely come ripe sooner and have a great little size. But, I just decided they did not have the flavor I was looking for.

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