What’s new in Tomatoes?

Are there any new tomato varieties worth trying in 2021? That is a question we aim to investigate each season. In 2020, CKD Master Gardeners trialed several varieties of tomatoes. Varieties were that rated good locally by our volunteers included: Ultrasonic, Purple Boy, Pink Beef, Damsel, Hybeef, and Plum Regal. The varieties Celebrity and Jet Star were used as check plants and also produced well.

Tom Fowler with the University of Missouri Extension Service also trials tomatoes. Tom tests a number of other varieties in addition to those in our Kansas triasl.  The results below are from Tom Fowler’s study. The top 10 slicers by yield (lbs) and by average fruit size (oz) are listed below.

It is still early enough to order seed for any tomatoes you may have an interest in below.

Anna Russian21Open-pollinated
Cherokee Purple17.6Open-pollinated
German Johnson17.2Open-pollinated
Beef Master16.7Hybrid
Early Girl16.5Hybrid
Big Boy16.1Hybrid
Brandywine Black16.1Open-pollinated
Jet Star15.3Hybrid
Big Beef15Hybrid
Amana Orange12.11Open-pollinated
Beef Master11.62Hybrid
Brimmer Pink11.20Open-pollinated
Brandy Boy10.34Hybrid
German Pink10.24Open-pollinated
Green Giant9.78Open-pollinated
Mortgage Lifter9.60Open-pollinated
Black Krim8.83Open-pollinated
Box Car Willie8.62Open-pollinated
German Johnson8.60Open-pollinated

What is surprising about these results is how well the open-pollinated varieties produced. Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated.  Open-pollinated varieties will come true from seed but hybrids will not.  Usually hybrid varieties will out-yield open-pollinated varieties but our top three varieties by yield were open pollinated in 2020.  Also, open-pollinated varieties are often considered more flavorful than hybrids.  So why aren’t more commercial growers using open-pollinated varieties?  There are actually several reasons for this including:

  • hybrids often have much better disease resistance
  • open-pollinated fruit are often tender-skinned and do not ship well
  • open-pollinated fruit are often fluted with a recessed stem attachment that consumers may not like
  • hybrids often have smaller vines so that more tomatoes can be planted per acre resulting in higher per acre yields            

We would suggest you continue to grow varieties that have done well for you in the past but consider including one or more of these on a trial basis to see if they perform well in your garden.