Help me identify these particularly delicious tomatoes
September 1, 2015 5:15 AM   Subscribe

A farmstand near my house sells the best-tasting tomatoes I've ever had. The farmstand is in a suburban neighborhood, and the tomatoes are grown right on the property. The owners are old, and I fear that developers will buy-up the land and the farm will close.

I'd like to determine the variety of tomatoes that they sell, so I can grow them myself.

I've uploaded two photos here:

The tomatoes vary in size, but they tend to be larger than the average-sized tomato. About half of them have big, scary-looking black blemishes on them. The tomatoes themselves are often (but not always) misshapen and deformed. In other words, they're ugly.

Another distinguishing characteristic is the stem. If you look at the bottom photo, you'll see that the green part of the stem extends down into the flesh of the tomato. This photo is actually not the best example of it. Sometimes, the stem is even more distinct and visible than in the photo.

I absolutely love these tomatoes. They taste better than anything I've ever grown in my garden.
posted by akk2014 to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Stupid question maybe, but can you ask the owners what variety they are growing?
posted by cecic at 5:21 AM on September 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Cecic: I asked the owner's son once, when I bumped into him as he was re-stocking the stand. He said that they were Jet Star, but I don't think that's the case. They don't look like Jet Star tomatoes. I thought that maybe he doesn't want to reveal the true variety.
posted by akk2014 at 5:25 AM on September 1, 2015

The blemishes look like they could be blossom end rot, which if so would be a nutrient deficiency and wouldn't really be a distinguishing characteristic of any particular variety of tomato.

I don't know that much about tomatoes (other than growing them before and getting the aforementioned ugly black blemishes!) but I feel like the stem growing down into the tomato has been pretty common in my experience too.

Respectfully, I'm not sure why if he told you what variety they are, you would doubt him. Maybe you could ask him to double-check, ask him to write it down for you (in case you're hearing it or he's saying it wrong), ask whether they have seed packets, or ask where they get their seeds or plants from? Could you try saving tomatoes you buy from them for seed since it sounds like you have experience growing your own? Could you butter them up with compliments about their delicious tomatoes and ask about their care methods, since "mine never taste this good!"?
posted by spelunkingplato at 5:31 AM on September 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Probably not blossom end rot, since it's not on the blossom end, but definitely the result of some disease, nutrient deficiency or insect damage, not a characteristic of the variety. There's not much to go on here.

He said that they were Jet Star, but I don't think that's the case.

Looks about right to me.
posted by jon1270 at 5:37 AM on September 1, 2015

Best answer: The same variety of tomato grown in different conditions will produce wildly varied results. It is entirely possible that they are Jet Stars and whatever nutrient/lack thereof/water stress/fertilizer/TLC they provide is what makes those tomatoes special.

Bring them some brownies and ask how they grow them.
posted by lydhre at 5:43 AM on September 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Jon1270: The Google images don't look like the tomatoes in question. The ones at the farm stand usually have green lines and "cracks" at the blossom end. And a good fraction of them have weird, odd shapes (not round, like most of the Jet Star tomatoes in the photos).
posted by akk2014 at 5:43 AM on September 1, 2015

Best answer: I hear you, but as noted a lot of the visible features are likely the result of growing conditions and not inherent to the variety. Besides, there are just so many tomato varieties out there that the word of the vendor is by far your best shot.
posted by jon1270 at 5:49 AM on September 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is it possible the varietal is less important than the growing method? I will be back in CA in a week and plan on making a bee line from the airport to the farmers market and picking myself up about 10 lbs of dry farmed tomatoes which are (in the markets where ive gotten them in the past) not marketed based on the genetics/varietal but based on the way they are cultivated.

i believe that the actual seeds used (at least from the places ive gotten the dry farmed ones) were early girls, but im not sure. read up on the technique and try a few different varietals next year?

damnit, now im hungry and only have access to gross NYC tomatoes (or the 6.99 a lb, not really all that good ones from whole foods).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 5:55 AM on September 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

The shapes and blemishes are most likely the result of how the are grown, not the type. Like wine grapes tomatoes take on the flavor of the soil they are grown in. Stressing a tomato plant will also change the taste and they look like they came from a stressed vine. I know a gardener that would under water her tomatoes on purpose claiming it made tastier fruit that way.
posted by wwax at 6:14 AM on September 1, 2015

If the farmers are lying to you, you're out of luck because there's no way you're going to identify the variety from pictures of that fruit. The farmers are very unlikely to be lying to you though!

You could also save some of the seed from the fruits you have?
posted by zennie at 6:16 AM on September 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

If they are, in fact, Jet Star, you won't be able to grow them from seed, because Jet Star is a hybrid and won't breed true. Which actually, to me, is an argument in favor of it being Jet Star, because they farmer must be planting them every year from seed, so he can't be forgetting what kind they are, and Jet Star a super common type of tomato, so if he was going to lie so that you couldn't buy them elsewhere he would do better to say something much more obscure or made up.

Basically, I'm another vote for growing conditions over variety.
posted by mskyle at 6:28 AM on September 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Do you know if they grow organically? This alone could account for the better taste.
posted by canoehead at 7:47 AM on September 1, 2015

Best answer: He's almost certainly telling you the truth. I grow Early Girl tomatoes at home (super common, vigorous hybrid variety), but I don't apply pesticides, water uniformly, fertilize regularly, or in any way work to ensure the uniformity of the fruit. Therefore, the tomatoes we harvest are all different shapes and sizes, some misshapen, some with a bit of rot, and all much more sweet, firm, and flavorful than commercially grown tomatoes would be (oddly enough, a stressed plant produces more delicious fruit).

Why not ask what they fertilize with, or what their watering schedule is? What do they add for calcium? How do they stake their plants? When do they start them, when do they plant them out? That might give you a better shot at replicating their results at home. If you wanted to get super creepy, you could take a sample of the soil at their farm and have it analyzed!
posted by Wavelet at 7:54 AM on September 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

We volunteer at a damn-near-organic farm in town, and our tomatoes are gnarly looking but delicious. Last night I picked one that had a beak, just like Danny DeVito as the Penguin in Batman. Many of ours have a little "bubble" at the end, like a balloon animal made by a clown. But they taste fantastic.

The cracks you see are from uneven watering, I believe, and the skin blemishes are ugly but, if closed/dry, just cosmetic.

So Old Farmer may well be honest, and your tomatoes simply don't look like the Google Image examples because the weather was weird this year, and/or his soil chemistry might be a little different. *shrug*
posted by wenestvedt at 1:39 PM on September 1, 2015

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