Tomato Tasting: ‘Dr. Wyche’s Yellow’

Tomato 'Dr. Wyche's Yellow'
Tomato ‘Dr. Wyche’s Yellow’

Earlier in the year, when I was first doing my grand list of tomatoes to grow (which eventually grew to some 33 different varieties with varying success over the course of the summer), this one popped out at me. Generally, I stay away from the yellow/orange tomatoes. Let’s face it, sometimes they can be really hit or miss. More often they’re miss. I have had one yellow that’s been a mainstay in my garden over the past few years, and that would be ‘Yellow Pear’ (which is the only cherry as well by the way). But the flavour and the story of ‘Dr. Wyche’s Yellow’ really suckered me in. It varies a bit depending on where you’re reading the information from, but here’s what it said on my seed packet, and seems to be the most common story told (bought from the wonderful Cottage Gardener website):

There was an actual Dr. Wyche, who owned Cole Brothers’ Circus and fertilized his gardens with elephant manure. He apparently had the most luscious gardens anyone had ever seen. He developed this particular cultivar & donated the seeds to the Seed Saver’s Exchange.

Dr. Wyche was apparently one of the earliest members of the SSE, and when is carnival overwintered that’s when he gardened. How could I say no to a tomato that sprang out of the carnival?

Growth Notes

Aug 2 - Tomato 'Dr. Wyche's Yellow' This is one of the tomatoes that got burnt back a moderate amount, took a few weeks to recover, but near the end of the season it was really going strong. Unfortunately with the burning back and the weeks added onto its growth, there were a LOT of green tomatoes that didn’t get harvested. This summer it took about 90 days to mature, rather then the 80 it’s supposed to take. But even with all that, I got a great harvest. The plant produced about 3.5-4lbs for me. And that’s not including all the green ones that ended up in the compost.

The plant topped out at about 4.5-5ft, although I’ve heard they can get much taller (in the 6ft range) so I know the burning did stunt this ones growth a bit. It’s a sprawler, branches were everywhere, this one likes a lot of room to grow.

The Look

The fruit ranged in size from about 225 gr (8oz) to 450 gr (1lb). They’re flattish and extremely non uniform in shape, which always endears a tomato to me. With a few exceptions, what’s the point of growing something that looks like you can pick it up at a grocery store?

Although it’s called a “yellow” tomato it’s really much more of an orange in colour. The inside is beautiful, much different then the standard cavities you see in tomatoes. This one looks almost more like a pomegranate inside, with random holes scattered all about the place.

The Taste

Now, I’m an acidic tomato person. I love the way an acidic tomato bites into your tongue. This, is not one of those. They have very little acidity, and usually that would turn me off a tomato, but I absolutely adored this tomato. When I took my first bite, my eyes lit up in shock. This is a sweet tomato, but it is not mild by any sense of the word. This tomato has a really complex, fruity like flavour, but still with a good amount of that tomatoeyness that we all love. All the hype about the taste of this tomato totally lived up to its flavour in reality. Sweet, tomatoey, rich, and complex. Absolutely delicious.

I can’t think of a better use for this tomato then eating it fresh. One slice and you can cover a whole piece of bread. We just chopped them up as they were ripening and ate them just like that. No salt, no nothing. When you taste a tomato like this, all you can do is think back on George Costanza’s pontificating as to why the tomato never made it as a hand fruit.

The Verdict

This is one of the surprises of the season for me. I would have liked a little better growth – a taller plant, fruit ripening a little earlier in the season. However, I know this season was hard and I’m willing to bet the shortness of this plant, coupled with the need for a long(er) growing season was due to the initially burning. The taste is what really floored me, and it was good enough to me to keep me coming back. Just writing about it now, after all of my Dr. Wyche’s have gone, my mouth is starting to water thinking of that flavour. Only about 10 more months to go until I can eat them again…

Originally posted @ Populuxe.ca, October, 2009

Tomato Tasting: ‘Tlacolula Ribbed’

Aug 29 - Tomato 'Tlacolula Ribbed'

Tomato ‘Tlacolula Ribbed’

When I went to school I studied archaeology, specifically of the Pre-Classic and Classic Maya, and even more specifically, the trade routes and agriculture of those areas. So what does this have to do with my tomatoes you ask? A lot actually. Every season I grow quite a few different heirloom plants that hail from parts of Mexico and Central America because of my interest in the agricultural plant life of the region. ‘Tlacolula Ribbed’ was my latest tomato addition.

Tlacolula de Matamoros is likely where the name of this tomato came from, and is a city situated in the state of Oaxaca. Tlacolula, as one might expect, is a Nauhatl word. The exact translation doesn’t seem to be too clear, but it is usually attributed to meaning “place of many sticks” or “twisted thing”. The latter could very well apply to this tomato.

While this tomato isn’t literally twisted, it is of a characteristic heavily ribbed/pleated shape that quite a few tomatoes possess that come from in and around this region of Mexico. When I see a heavily pleated tomato, I must have it. I’m a sucker for the pleats. And when I learn a tomato is traced back to these areas of Central America? That’s the clincher.

Growth Notes

Aug 2 - Tomato 'Tlacolula Ribbed' I actually planted two of these this year. Unfortunately, neither of them produced like gang busters for me, but I think I know the cause of this. The first plant was placed in the second back yard garden. This spot at the very peak of summer only receives 6 hours of sun a day, and more commonly, 4-5 hours. I planted this here more as an experiment then anything. Why would I place a tomato that hails from a hot and sunny location in a garden spot that only gets a few hours of sun a day? No idea, I thought it’d be an interesting experiement.

The second plant I put out much later, in June, but in the brightest and hottest of the three veggie beds I have. So, I planted it late, but gave it ideal conditions (I suspected, based on where its from).

The plant in the back, as you might expect, didn’t suffer any burning because of its sheltered location. So that was a bonus. The second one I planted had been outside hardening off for the past month, so when it finally got planted in June, it didn’t get burnt either. The tomato in the back grew slowly, but it grew. This variety seems to be at least somewhat tolerant of shade, although I didn’t get many fruit from it. The one in the front, because I planted it out later, of course matured much later, and I also didn’t get many fruit from that one. However, when most plants were suffering at the height of water rationing and hot summer heat, this one was thriving. The plant in the front took off under these conditions, growing about 12-18″ in one week. Seriously. I actually measured.

Of course, one would expect that a tomato like this would grow well under these conditions. However, the fact that the one in the back yard produced leads me to believe that if you had an extended growing season (I’m thinking in the realm of 120-130 days), but no sunny spots, you could plant this tomato in a shadier location and still get a good harvest from it.

The Look

As previously mentioned, this is one of those lovely awe-inspiring heavily pleated/ruffled tomatoes. My mom characterizes these as “looking like peppers”. This one reminded me quite a bit of ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’, except it was more red then pink. Fruit was smaller then the Zapotec tomato as well, getting about 3-4″ in diameter and weighing in at about 8-10oz each (as opposed to Zapotec’s 4-6″ in diameter and 1-1.5lb weights). They are another hollow tomato, but once again, not quite as hollow I found as Zapotec Pink Pleated.

The Taste

So how did it taste? You know, I wasn’t too impressed much to my dismay. It was alright. Mild would be the term that I use. There was a little bit of your good old regular tomatoey flavour, but it was mild. Nothing really stood out at me too much. One can’t help but compare this one to ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’ and when it comes to flavour, Zapotec definitely wins out over this one.

This is a good fresh eating tomato. Despite its red flavour, it’s low in acidity, so it’s good for people with stomach problems who don’t want to limit themselves to whites, yellows, and orange tomatoes. It’s great for stuffing and then baking, although because of it’s mild flavour after it’s baked you don’t get a ton of tomatoeyness to go with whatever you’re cooking.

The Verdict

Unfortunately, depsite how lovely this tomato looks, I probably won’t grow it again. I was a little let down with the lack of flavour, and in terms of the ‘Tlacolula Ribbed’ vs ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’, I’ll have to go with the Zapotec. Tlacolula’s mild flavour just wasn’t enough bang for my buck. Zapotec grows better in my region, has more flavour, and is bigger. Tlacolula was an interesting grow for me, but unfortunately, it looks like it’ll be the last year for it in my garden.

Originally posted @ Populuxe.ca, November 2009

Tomato Tasting: ‘Moskvich’

Aug 29 - Tomato 'Moskvich'

Tomato ‘Moskvich’

This is one of the rare occasions when I didn’t start my plant from seed. I actually saw this for sale at a local store, but had never heard of it before. It was sitting in a rack with a bunch of plants I knew to be OP or heritage varieties so I inferred from that that ‘Moskvich’ must fit into either or both of those categories too.

Fortunately I was right this time (I have been bitten in the ass by that assumption before). ‘Moskvich’ is a variety from Russia (the Russian translation is actually “one who lives in Moscow”), bred in the 1970’s by the Vavilov Institute located in Moscow, Russia. Those Russians sure know how to breed tomatoes.

On the tag when I bought it, the maximum height described was 4ft and determinte. Neither of these were the case. I compared how mine was growing to growth notes and pictures with others who had grown Moskvich and realized that this variety was indeed labelled correctly, but the growth notes were all wrong. More on that below.

Growth Notes

Aug 2 - Tomato 'Moskvich' This tomato did amazingly for me. From the second I planted it it took off, and quickly overshot that “4ft” label it came with. With the harsh season, it grew to about 5ft and was definitely a sprawler (many large branches that come off the main stem close to the ground). I have a feeling with a less harsh summer it would definitely grow higher then six feet. I waited all summer for this one to stop producing (not that I wanted it to mind you) based on the fact that it was labelled a determinate. It did no such thing, it produced right up until the frost finally killed it off. This is a very hardy plant, massive production, I got about 6lbs from one plant. It didn’t seem to mind the heat or water restrictions too much. This variety was ready to harvest in about 70-75 days. Despite irregular watering (from me and in the form of flash storms all summer) there was absolutely no cracking or splitting. I got no catfacing or other growth distortions. This tomato just kept chugging along forming perfect fruit no matter what came its way.

The Look

This is your classic looking red beefsteak tomato. Brilliant red, no green shouldering at all, round, and very uniform in shape. These fruit were BIG. Much bigger then most early tomatoes are, about 3-4″ in diameter, meaty, and they weighed in at about 280g (10 oz) – 510g (18 oz). While this may not be the wackiest looking tomato I grew all season, it certainly held its own in growth and flavour.

The Taste

This was your classic home-grown-just-picked-from-grandma’s-garden kind of tomato flavour. Acidic, a little sweet, meaty, and all around a great tomato. Sure, it might not win the best or most unusual flavour prize, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either.

What is great about this tomato is that it’s good for pretty much anything you want to use it for. One slice covers a piece of bread, making it great for sandwiches. Its meat makes it good for canning and preservation, as well as sauces. What this tomato doesn’t have in wild and wacky flavour, it has in good all purpose workhorse value. A little bit of salt, and its flavour really comes alive. So if you’re a fan of eating a tomato fresh off the vine just as is, this is a good one to grow.

The Verdict

The sheer production, resistance to really wicked weather changes, resistance to heat, and workhorse-esque uses of this tomato makes it a must grow for me from now on. This is a really diverse tomato, and for somebody who’s as indecisive as me when it comes to what to use all my tomatoes for, that’s a big bonus. There are lots of really delicious tomatoes, but they’re either too juicy for a sauce, or maybe they’re too dry to eat fresh and have to be processed. This tomato will do it all, and produce wicked amounts of blemish free tomatoes for you. And in an area like mine that’s really hot, plagued with water restrictions, and shorter season, that’s a big bonus for me.

Originally posted @ Populuxe.ca, November 2009

Tomato Tasting: ‘Fantome Du Laos’

Tomato 'Fantome Du Laos'

Tomato ‘Fantome Du Laos’ AKA ‘Ghost of Laos’

Ah, ‘Fantome Du Laos’, how quickly you captured my heart when I first happened upon your picture online!

Joking aside, I really did fall head over heals for this tomato when I first read about it. What got me to try to seek out a seed source for this variety (which wasn’t easy by the way – the only two sources I found commercially were American and wouldn’t ship to Canada) was actually the story that was associated with it, I hadn’t even seen a picture of it until after I had finally got my source (the wonderful Dan & Val). This once again illustrates that when it comes to history and story of a tomato, quite often that will be the deciding factor for me.

You see, I like ghosts (hold on, this is leading to something…). I don’t actually believe in ghosts, but I love ghost stories, ghost movies, and even those really crappy ghost hunter type shows (mostly because I love to see panicky people wandering around in the dark screaming at nothing, I know, I’m kind of a sadist).

What does this have to do with this tomato? Well this tomato got the name ‘Fantome Du Laos’ for a reason. The story is, this old Laotian heirloom will glow in the dark when ghosts are near. Seriously, that’s the story! So I had to get it. Come on, a ghost sensing tomato? Tell me that’s not hilarious. So the name literally means ‘Ghost of Laos’. See, all those French classes went to some good use.

Growth Notes

I’m starting to feel like a broken record here, but with the hard season we had, this plant was pretty diminutive this year. Now that’s not to say production was small (the plant was actually loaded with fruit), but the actual plant only got to 4ft. Maybe it’s only supposed to get to 4ft? I don’t know, there’s not much growth info available on the net, so I’m just going to assume that it didn’t grow large because of the weather. This is a regular leaf, indeterminate plant, and kept going right up until frost. Production was still really good for me, and the plant when put outside actually didn’t burn too badly, and bounced back very quickly, all within the span of about 1.5 weeks. Production was also good, getting about 4-4.5lbs on my one plant. The first three fruit of the season were big, about 4″ in diameter and weighing in at about 1lb each. Subsequent fruit was smaller, about 2-3″ in diameter, and about 170g (6 oz) to 283g (10oz) each. This tomato seemed quite resistant to heat, and water rationing. None of these fruit cracked, split, or had any sort of growth issues on the fruit at all. I had a whole batch of perfectly formed white fruit. It took about 85 days from transplant to harvest.

The Look

There’s no doubt about it, this is a beautiful tomato, and because of its colouring, quite unusual as well. Fruit is creamy white/very pale yellow, with white flesh, and darkens to slightly more off-white/pale yellow as it ripens. It definitely stands out in the tomato patch. Fruit ranges in shape from the more uniform oblate beefsteak tomato shape, to an irregular curved shape (like the photo illustrates at the top). There was absolutely no green shouldering, and colouring was quite uniform over the whole fruit.

The Taste

Alright, so we’ve had great growth, and a great look. So how did it taste? Well, it’s a white tomato. Are you familiar with other white tomatoes? Ya, that’s pretty much how it tasted. There’s not a lot of flavour in this one. Add some salt and you get a bit more bang, and it does enhance the flavour a bit. The downfall of those beautiful white tomatoes is that they’re actually quite bland. If I ever find a white tomato that isn’t bland, I might just die of shock. Damn you ‘Fantome Du Laos’, I wanted you to taste as good as you looked! Why do you taunt me so?

Because of its lack of flavour, but its juicy content, this is really a fresh eating tomato. Don’t bother preserving it (or at least I didn’t). The great thing about these tomatoes is that they’re long keepers, which is really their main selling point. I had another grower tell me they successfully kept theirs in a cold area of the house until February! Mine didn’t quite make it that long, we ate the last one a month after it was picked, but it was still nice and fresh tasting. Now, no matter how bland a garden tomato is, it’s still better then those pieces-of-crap “tomatoes” you buy at the grocery store that actually taste like cardboard. So, even though it’s not full of flavour, it’s better then the alternative during those winter months when you can’t just run outside and pick fresh tomatoes.

The Verdict

The fact that this tomato grows so well, is quite hardy in my area, and is such a long keeper, makes this one worth growing again for me. I know, it doesn’t taste super awesome, but you know what? That’s okay. There are other benefits to this tomato. If it wasn’t a long keeper, I probably wouldn’t grow it again, but the fact that it does keep clinched it for me. I might try actually growing this one in a pot next year, I don’t know if I want to devote in-ground garden space to it, but we’ll see come next season.

Also, to tell you a truth, I’m still a sucker for the tomato that can detect ghosts. Move over EMF detectors, this tomato is the new wave in ghost hunting!

Originally posted @ Populuxe.ca in November, 2009

Tomato Tasting ‘Orange Strawberry’


Tomato ‘Orange Strawberry’

This tomato was the absolute super star of the garden this year. Big, showy, screaming “look at me!” with ever fibre of its being all summer. The seeds were sent to me by fellow tomato nut-job and enthusiast Sheena, from Ontario. This ended up being one of those “on a whim” tomatoes I started and eventually planted. Most of the yellows I grow, with the exception of ‘Yellow Pear’ and ‘Dr. Wyche’s Yellow’ are usually whim tomatoes. See, yellow tomatoes are really hit and miss. A lot more misses I find. They’re usually really bland and overly sweet, and for a girl that likes an earthy acidic tomato, they usually end up falling into the “waste of space” category for me. But, the sheer size and good things I had read about this tomato convinced me to give it a go.

I’ve previously written about this one in the blog, but here I’m going to distill and summarize everything I saw and learnt about this plant over this season.

Growth Notes

Excuse my french, but holy shit! Okay, so I had read “needs heavy staking”. Ya, I’m a pretty good staker, I stake all my tomatoes, so I pulled out a 2×4 to stake this one. The 2×4 ended up breaking under the immense weight of this tomato over the season. No, I’m not kidding. The weight of this plant, actually broke a damned 2×4″! So first thing’s first, and I’ve discussed this at length already about our hot, dry summer that went from 10C to 30C literally over night, causing most of my plants to burn to crisps. This tomato? It didn’t burn. At all. Maybe one or two lower leaves got a little crispy, maybe. Over the course of the summer, this plant routinely grew 8-18″ per week, but on average it was about 10″ per week. The second it got REALLY hot, the thing shot up like a weed. I couldn’t believe it. Torrential downpoars, crazy wind, really hot dry weather, then really hot humid weather. Whatever nature threw at this plant, ‘Orange Strawberry’ took with grace and dignity. Nothing could phase it. It eventually got to about 7ft before the 2×4 broke, caused the plant to topple over, and snap off its top. I have no doubt it could have gotten up to 9ft if it hadn’t broken the 2×4. The strange thing is, I’ve talked to other people who have grown this tomato, ranging in area from Toronto, to Vancouver and all across the country. Nobody else has said theirs ever got over 6ft. So I don’t know what it is about my particular area (which is a really strange and specific microclimate), but this tomato loves it. And no, I didn’t use some crazy voodoo or fertilizer. It got the same treatment the rest of my tomatoes get – mushroom manure, and fishbone meal. That’s it. There was no cracking, no catfacing, no weird growth of any kind, just huge production (especially for the fruits’ size) of perfectly formed oxheart tomatoes. This is a later maturing variety, it took about 85 days to get to my first harvest.

The Look

This tomato is true to it’s name. It’s orange, and it’s strawberry (or oxheart if you prefer) shaped. The fruit are huge, the smallest one I had I believe was 8oz, the biggest was 20oz, and on average, they were about 16oz. Beautiful fruit, perfect grower, by about midseason I knew this one was a winner and I said to myself “if this one tastes as good as it grows, it’s going to be a regular for me”. The inside is absolutely solid, very few seeds or juice.

The Taste

I first tasted this tomato with trepidation. Knowing how the majority of orange/yellows tasted, I didn’t want my love of this tomato to be shattered by crappy taste. So gingerly I cut it up, and took my first bite. Oh, I was so relieved! I’m generally not a huge lover of yellows because they’re so sweet. I like a tomato with good acidity to it. While ‘Orange Strawberry’ is sweet, it has a lovely complex flavour with a fruity undertone. It wasn’t bland, it wasn’t boring, it was delicious. I wolfed down the rest of the 1lb fruit immediately.

Because it’s so solid its great for making a sauce, but it definitely can’t be spiced like a normal tomato sauce because of its low acidity. Me? I just ate them as they came, I had a ton of other tomatoes for making sauce, this one I reserved just for fresh eating. Don’t even bother with the salt. Pick, eat like an apple, enjoy.

The Verdit

It’s really, really hard to find a tomato that will go gangbusters on me in this climate. There’s a handful that do really well, but ‘Orange Strawberry’ outpaces them all in sheer size and force of will. Definitely this is a regrower for me. Next year I know to use at least three stakes (I might do a florida weave on just this one, but I haven’t quite figured out that one yet), and give it a lot more room because I didn’t know how crazy it grew so it was a little crammed up against the corn and other tomatoes. Delicious, good grower, big showy plant. Love it, it’s my new super star.

Originally posted @ Populuxe.ca, November 2009