Last year I grew an assortment of heirloom tomatoes and a few hybrids in my polytunnel and it was a mixed success. The heirlooms I got to market were early and good, people raved about them and I sold a lot. The problem was that I composted at least 2-3 pounds of tomatoes for every tomato that made it to market. Either they rotted on the vine, cracked and split or even split in the few hours between picking and market. What I did learn was that while people say that they want a delicious heirloom tomato, what they really want is a tomato that looks great. Week after week I had customers picked through the heirlooms to find the few tomatoes that looked perfect, even though I warned them that they didn’t taste as good as the others.
This year I’m primarily going with “greenhouse” tomatoes that are bred for multiple disease resistance which they need in the hot humid environment (not often we say that in the PNW…). The seeds are expensive but I won’t need that many and if they do even slightly better they’ll be well worth the difference in price.
Here’s what I’ve settled on for this year. From Johnny’s, Pozzano, Pink Wonder, Verona, Sunrise Bumble Bee and Olivade. From Fedco I’m trying Jet Star which they say does well in hoophouses. One real standout last year was Juliet, a “salad” or small roma tomato. It would keep on the vine for a couple of weeks, heck it could fall on the ground and not rot for a week, but it still had pretty good taste and had enough solid matter to be good in salads or such while still juicy enough for good flavor. Olivade is supposed to be a supposed to be a bigger version of Juliet so going with it this year, at least for a few plants. Another winner was Tigerella, an heirloom red/yellow striped tomato, hence the name. Another “salad” type tomato, mostly about an inch to two inches max, but great producer and very good flavor. Much juicier than Juliet and better flavor but much more tender, although still one of the best heirlooms in the greenhouse.
I sold quite a few tomato starts last year so I picked up some hybrids that people were asking for, New Girl and Big Beef from Johnny’s, Yellow Pear and SuperSweet 100 from Fedco. I’m also starting a lot of heirlooms from last year from my own seed. These are what people were asking for last year and I’m working on growing what people are looking for, always a problem for me in business.
I got most of them in a few days ago using heat pads to keep them warm and I’ve got almost 100 percent germination and they’re starting to put on a little size. Last year I put transplants in the greenhouse on March 27 but I don’t think I will lose anything by being a week or two later as they didn’t start to ripen until well into June.