This spring, more than 42 million households will grow a vegetable garden, according to a 2014 study by the National Gardening Association. And nearly 9 out of 10 of them will feature tomatoes, far and away America’s favorite vegetable for home growing. With hundreds of tomato varieties on the market today, which are most attractive to the home gardener?
“We’re seeing three trends in tomato gardening,” reports Sue Amatangelo, Director of Seed Horticulture at Park Seed, one of the country’s oldest and most popular mail-order gardening companies. “First, people want the rich flavor and history of heirloom varieties, but with bigger yields and better-looking fruit than most of these older types can produce.”
The solution is a new series called Heirloom Marriages, in which two classic varieties are crossed to create a new tomato with the advantages of both. Varieties such as Genuwine — a cross of the heirlooms Brandywine and Costoluto Genovese — offer the deep, tangy tomato flavor and aroma lacking in so many modern varieties, combined with improved plant vigor, crop size, and appearance. Tomato Big Brandy is another Heirloom Marriage, this one pairing Brandywine with a vintage variety called Big Dwarf to create a large pink-toned beefsteak tomato, knobby and gnarled like an heirloom but blemish-free and quicker to finish than either of its parent varieties.
Another trend Amatangelo sees is the need for compact tomato varieties that can be grown in flowerpots or hanging baskets on the patio. Nearly half of all home gardeners in 2014 grew one or more vegetables in containers, reflecting today’s smaller gardens and the push for urban households to grow food at home. New varieties such as Fantastico Hybrid, a trailing cherry tomato, fit neatly into a hanging basket yet bear 12 pounds of fruit over the course of the season.
And the final trend Amatangelo sees? “Well, it’s nothing new,” she admits. “Vegetable gardeners have always valued high yields and trouble-free, easy-to-grow plants. If you can combine that with really great flavor, you’ve got a winner.” Two new tomatoes for 2015 seem to fit this bill: Big Yummy, a nearly seedless variety offering 8- to 10-ounce fruit, has earned raves in taste tests; and Corleone, a plum or saladette variety, offers enormous yields thanks to superior disease resistance. Amatangelo expects both varieties to top the list of Park Seed Company’s sales for spring 2015.
“It’s not about trying to grow the earliest tomato on the block anymore,” observes Amatangelo. “Today’s home gardeners are serious food producers, demanding maximum flavor and yields with a minimum of effort. And that’s just what you see in the best new tomatoes.” New gardeners who successfully harvest their first crop of tomatoes in 2015 are very likely to become lifetime food producers at home. And that means even more exciting — and delicious! — new tomato varieties in years to come.
For more information on tomato growing trends, visit parkseed.com or contact us directly by calling our public relations department at 1-864-941-4521.