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 @, November 2009