Tasting the Tomato Test Patch

August 23rd, 2009

As a part of this year’s garden, I planted a tomato test patch.  I brought home several varieties of the tomato plants that we sell at the Garden Center where I work so that I could discover their differences and also so that next Spring, I might be able to actually answer a few tomato questions when a customer asks me one.  





Unfortunately, I also grew a stand of tomatoes from seed, and I am sorry to tell you that my baby tomato seedlings became the children of my heart and I nurtured and tended them with a great amount of care, while my tomato test patch, which I came to refer as my ‘tomato step children’, were not given the love that they deserved because they came into my life half grown and I never did bond with them the way I should have.  Yet even with my neglect, the plants produced a nice harvest of tomatoes.  The one on the far left end is one of my seed tomatoes.  It is a Burpee Big Boy Hybird.  Right next to it is a Burpee Big Boy from a Garden Center plant. Going down the line you can see two Better Boys, an Heirloom German Johnson, a Beefmaster and a Jetstar.  






On Saturday, I invited a few friends over for a tomato canning lesson from my friend Sarah.  






But before Sarah could get started,everyone had to sample the tomatoes from my test patch.  




Because who can resist a food sampling?  









Just like I do with my family, I forced them to write down their impressions of each tomato they tasted.  I will say that these girls were much more agreeable than my children when it came to writing down their thoughts on the various tomatoes.  I did not have to threaten them with taking away their computer time, or ground them from the Wii, or send them to their rooms or anything!     






Here are Angie and Nancy discussing the subtle differences between a Jetstar and a Burpee Big Boy.






Here is Melissa with a Beefmaster (I think).  





And here is what everyone thought about the various tomatoes…







Angie – Tastes like a tomato… full flavor, a little mushy.

Nancy  - Traditional flavor, texture is mushy.

Jenny  - Rich meaty flavor

Rechelle – Full bodied, rich, yummy.




Burpee Big Boy…

Nancy – Not full flavored

Melissa – More seeds, less sweet

Rechelle – More acid, more water

Angie – Flat

Jenny – Tough, chewy, plain

Sarah – Not very flavorful




Heirloom German Johnson…

Angie – Less flavor

Melissa – Less flavor, ends blandly

Nancy – Tastes like it’s fermented

Jenny – Nasty, off flavor

Sarah – Less sweet

Rechelle – Weird finish, fleshy


Better Boy…

Angie – More bite to it

Melissa – A little bland, not sweet.

Nancy – Tangy (of sorts) less flavor

Jenny – Deep flavor



Burpee Big Boy Hybrid…

Nancy – Firm texture

Melissa – Sweet (my favorite)

Rechelle – Sweet

Jenny – Sweet, rich, deep, my favorite

Angie – Sweet

Sarah – Balanced and delicious, my favorite


Nancy – My favorite (so far)

Melissa – Very sweet, not as firm, great flavor

Angie – Good flavor

Rechelle – Watery, bland

Jenny – Chewy, bland

Sarah – I don’t taste much here.



The Burpee Big Boy Hybrid was a favorite among almost everyone, but I really like the Beefmaster the best.  The German Johnson Heirloom was a very strange tomato.  It’s fruits were more pinkish than red and it was also far less resistant to bugs and disease.  You can really see the advances made in tomatoes right here in this little tomato test.  The heirloom variety would probably do just fine if it had a little more care than I gave it, but it performed very poorly in my tomato test patch compared to the the Burpee Hybrid which not only produced beautiful tomatoes under severe neglect, it also tasted great.  So much for the quaint heirlooms!  




On Monday, I hope to have a tomato canning story up.

As you can see, canning those tomatoes was a brutal task and we didn’t have any fun at all!


  • Thanks for doing this taste test. You did all the work now I just have to find some Burpee Big Boy Hybrid seeds for next year.

  • joann in TX:

    sounds like the burpee big boy hybrid was the all time winner!

    do they sell these in the grocery store? ;)

  • Axelle the french reader:

    A very good idea, this test !

  • CAROL S.:

    Who knew? You learn something new every day. I grew cherry tomatoes the last two years, then none this year. I MISS THEM!

  • For eating, Cherokee Purple is by far my favorite so far. And, well… they have a funky purplish color!

  • Well, heck, I’m sorry no one had fun!! :)

    Good for you, Rechelle, gardening and canning!

  • I can relate. I’ve grown from seed, seedlings, and plants. I’ve grown hybrid and heirloom. My preference is hybrid seelings.

    This year I grew Ace, Early Boy and Better Boy. Ace was the winner. My canning finished up a few weekends back. Prior to that I was canning each weekend. Today, I still had enough tomatoes producing to make salsa. Taco nigh tonight!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Kathy from NJ:

    Personally I like a good old fashioned beefsteak tomato – one thick slice between rye bread with oregano & mayo – delish! If your garden center ever carries Purple Prudence in the heirloom section, try them next year. They are funky looking but taste great.

    I love the way you got your friends to do the canning for you. We used to do a tremendous amount of canning, in October we would go to a Cranberry Festival and buy 75 lbs of cranberries! Then turn them into 150 pints of sauce. Now I’m out of the canning business, last year I gave away 25 cases of empty jars.

  • I’ve been searching for the perfect tomato. I get them every now and again at the grocery store. They’re the only ones that taste half decent in the winter time when most of the grocery store tomatoes taste like nothing and are as hard as baseballs!
    I’m going to a tomato testing on Wednesday at our local extension office…I really hope I can find out the name of this tomato!
    I’ve got a post to make about canning my tomato juice cocktail, hopefully tomorrow.

  • Where’s the wine?

    And how about some crostini to put those tomatoes on, with a little fresh mozzarella and a basil leaf or two?

    I don’t think I could taste that many tomatoes without some wine to cleanse the pallette.

    But you didn’t invite me, so I’ll have to have my own…

    Looks like you had fun anyway.

  • Dee from Tennessee:

    Oh forget about the tomatoes….please tell me about those cute little bowls!! It’s all about the dishes with me…..I love those bowls!

    (In our little part of Tennessee, we live next to a “world famous” county that produces the best tomatoes….so we sometimes trek down there to buy a case/box just for my hubby to munch on. I don’t have a freezer except for above the fridge, but I am going to try to freeze a bag or two like your commenters said to do. ) Back to the bowls….LOVE them!

    • Rechelle:

      Dee – I get those bowls at Anthropologie. They are called latte bowls and they cost around 4 bucks each. I love them too.

  • Theresa from Alberta:

    Friends, food, conversation,,,,nah, nobody looks like they had a fun time ;-)

  • Hey! That is great that your sweet seedling was the fave!
    I hate mushy tomatoes. They make me sad.
    You see I love my tomatoes sliced with salt. Mushy is bad.

    I wish I lived closer…I would have loved to be at the tasting!

  • p.j.:

    I grew a Beefmaster here in St. Louis for the first time this year, after years of Better Boys and completely unsuccessful heirlooms (which die on me).
    What humongeous tomatoes! And delicious. I will grow a couple next year, for sure. I would prefer a smaller tomato, but the flavor has me sold on these. I don’t find them to be “mushy,” although I think they are not on the “firm” side.
    My one negative comment may be due to the cool weather we had in July and August: after setting fruit nicely in June, I don’t think any fruits have set in weeks-few blossoms. Hmm.

    My Sweet 100′s and Sungolds are doing well, but I am tired of the Sungolds splitting so frequently.
    A tasting party: what a fine idea! Glad you got together with some supportive and fun friends.

  • Great idea for a taste testing! Heirlooms are funny things. I once grew a Garden Peach tomato. It truly was fuzzy on the outside. Very bizarre, indeed! Anybody’s guess as to why I would actually want a fuzzy tomato, but January and FEDCO seed catalogs and cabin fever do cause one to make some strange buying decisions!

  • This was great! I think I’ll have to plant some Burpee Big Boy hybrids & Beefmasters next year! I think I really like the name “Beefmaster” too, as in “all other inferior tomatoes will bow down to the Beefmaster!”

  • Cindy in Tennessee:

    Try a “Goliath” tomato next year. They are really good, or so we think.

  • Nanc in Ashland:

    No Lemon Boys in your garden? You must try some next year! We never produce enough to can–they get eaten as soon as they are ripe.

  • One of these days I’m going to crash one of your tasting parties.

    I have the following book on my reading list:

    The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden by William Alexander

    It might be right up your alley.

  • Dee from Tennessee:

    Thanks for the heads up on the bowls. I checked online and the colors for the set of bowls now are a wee bit “off” for me right now. I read the reviews –wonderful/they’ve got a following — have I got a good eye or what I’m telling ya !—– hopefully, they’ll rotate the colors. I’ll get to go to Nashville in Oct and/or Dec. (I hope) , and I can check there. Thanks again for taking the time! (course, I need more bowls like I need another pair of flip-flops….but that’s okay)