Hurray for those tomatoes

A few weeks ago, I asked readers to tell me about their tomato year. First, thank you for all your responses. They came mostly from the Rogue Valley, but one found its way all the way from Maryland.

My first observation is that nearly everyone grows cherry tomatoes. Sungolds were the favorite in this category, although Bernie told me about one that interests me. Rosada, grown from seed ordered from Thompson and Morgan, produced small, pear-shaped, thin-skinned tomatoes that his wife ate like popcorn or M&M's. And she claims to not even like tomatoes, he says.

Ronnie tried Orange Paruche, which he said had less cracking and was "easier to control" than Sungold.

Two Japanese tomatoes, Odoriko and Momotaro, were well-liked, "never disappointing," as that reader phrased it.

As for paste tomatoes, Greg canned 25 quarts from four Roma II plants, but San Marzano was the favorite mentioned most often.

There were several praiseworthy, regular-sized tomatoes: Rutgers was mentioned several times, not only for its attractive fruit but for its sweet/tart flavor and high production. Mortgage Lifter, Celebrity and Early Girl also drew lots of praise, as did Fourth of July, German Johnson, Brandywine, Legend, Old German and Better Boy.

The Medford seemed to be kind of the "workhorse" of tomatoes — dependable, good production and good flavor.

In the "just OK" category readers put Big Beef and Indigo Rose, the new OSU variety I described in an earlier column. However, I found it ironic that the reader from Maryland said Indigo Rose was his greatest success this year.

Oregon Spring got a thumbs down, to which I would add my downward-facing digit. Although early, it was well-described as too watery and weak-flavored.

The main scourge mentioned was gophers, and some readers struggled with proper watering. Also mentioned was death from bacterial canker, with seedlings coming from the same source as my unfortunate Pineapple.

Some of you are looking into grafted tomatoes — it may be a thing of the future for many of us.

Meanwhile, you can turn green, along with me, when you hear of John's ability to harvest tomatoes year-around in his heated greenhouse. He uses the method of planting his tomatoes directly in bags of potting soil.

It was impressive to read how many tomato plants some people grew — nine or 10 different varieties, in some cases.

So, although it was not a stellar tomato year weather-wise, I'd summarize by saying we had fun, interesting experiences and learned a thing or two. No one said they were giving up on tomatoes. Hurray for us!

Coming up: Remember to sign up for the all-day Winter Dreams, Summer Gardens Symposium being held on Saturday, Nov. 3, sponsored by the Jackson County Master Gardeners Association.

Choose four classes from the 40 offered, which cover all aspects of gardening. Held at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in Medford, the symposium costs $40, including lunch ($20 for students). Call 541-776-7371 for details.

Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at

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