I grew 3 tomato varieties this season one hybrid and two open pollinated heirloom varieties. This summer was very hot and dry in my area of middle Tennessee, and was not particularly good for tomatoes, but the stressful weather does tend to highlight the hardiness (or lack) of the varieties that one grows.
Celebrity Hybrid Tomato – determinate 72 days
Resists Drought and Disease
I didn’t actually grow this variety this year, but I will next year. The Celebrity vines that my father in law grew in his garden have born excellent fruit all season long starting early (72 days) and are still (Oct. 19) bearing ripe fruit despite the very hot dry weather. The flavor is not as good as the excellent heirloom varieties that I have grown, but still very good. And it certainly appears that the effort to reward ratio is outstanding.
Update August 2008 – I am growing celebrity in my garden this year, and as you can see in the picture (by my lovely wife Shirley) they yield gorgeous medium fruits. So far, other than side dressing with compost and a balanced organic fertilizer mix and picking off a couple of horn worms these beautiful healthy plants have been maintenance free.
Update October 2008 – My Celebrity vines were real troopers all season long – I just picked the last of them during the third week of October. These are some of the most trouble free and productive tomatoes I’ve ever grown.
Brandywine Heirloom Tomato – indeterminate 90 days
This is one of the tastiest tomato varieties I have ever grown. The large pink-red fruits born on indeterminate vines are really outstanding in every way that matters on the table – color, texture, and flavor are all excellent. Unfortunately, this year the yield was small and the vines quickly succumbed to the hot dry weather coupled with the usual insect and disease problems that tend to plague sweet heirloom varieties.
Mr. Stripey Heirloom Tomato – indeterminate 80 days
These yellow and pink medium sized tomatoes are almost as tasty as the Brandywine variety. They are a little bit funny looking with somewhat inconsistent coloring, and some fruits being striped and many having discoloration. If you are painting a still life you might want another, but for eating Mr. Stripey is tops. Again though this indeterminate heirloom variety did not stand up well to the extended hot dry summer that we had this year, however the yield was probably about twice as large as I got from my Brandywine vines.
Juliet Hybrid Tomato – indeterminate 70 days
Resists Drought and Disease
This tomato is kind of an awkward size being too big to add directly to salads without cutting up, but being way too small for a slicer. However, my one Juliet tomato plant started bearing early and still has bunches of green fruit on it right now in the middle of October – if the warm weather holds out maybe some of it will vine ripen yet. The vine has remained healthy and very resistant to pests and drought all season long. It did stop setting fruit during a very long, very hot August- September, but as soon as the temperatures moderated began bearing again. The tastiest fruit was that which ripened during the hottest weather while the earlier fruit was not as sweet and was almost like a Roma (which the smaller Juliet tomatoes resemble). While many cherry tomatoes tend to split before fully ripening Juliet does not. Also, the ripe fruits hold on the vine for a long time, usually still being sound and perfect when they finally fall off.
My summary: For gourmet quality flavor grow Brandywine or Mr. Stripey. For high yields, and a long season with disease and pest resistance grow Celebrity. Better yet, grow both.