Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blue Beauty Tomato Report

It's blue! And it's a beauty!

One of the most unique crops in last year’s garden was the Blue Beauty tomato. I knew as soon as I saw it in the Baker Creek catalog that I had to try it; after all, it’s a blue tomato! However, as I mentioned in a previous post I had grown black krims one year that turned out to be more like red, tasteless krims, so I was skeptical.

Would these tomatoes really be blue? Would they produce in a container? Would they taste good?

Luckily, the answer to all three questions was a resounding YES!
Bunches of tomatoes!
First, let’s talk germination. I planted extra seeds thinking that these tomatoes were so unique and so cool that obviously the seeds would be tough to germinate. Not true at all! In fact, I ended up with pretty much every seed germinating, and these were also among the earliest tomato seeds to do so. They were also the earliest tomatoes to produce a ripe fruit last summer.

Now onto the question of containers. In short, as large beefsteak type tomatoes these are not supposed to grow in containers. For that matter, most of what I grow in the garden is not supposed to work. Sikkim cucumbers in containers? Everyone online said they would probably not work well. But I like to push the limits (and as a renter with an upstairs porch I really don’t have much choice other than to use containers). This is why I encourage people to just try new things in gardening. Many varieties are easier to grow in containers than others, but if you use a big enough container you can grow pretty much anything. I just watched a YouTube video of a guy planting a large pomegranate tree (with fruit on it) in a 30 gallon half barrel. So where there is a will, there is a way.

Next year I am going back to tomato cages!
But therein lies the key. You need a large container. I used a 12 gallon container for these Blue Beauty plants. I planted two plants in the 12 gallon pot, and used Miracle Gro potting mix for the soil, amended with some extra perlite and regular applications of Tomato Tone. Regular watering is probably the most important aspect of container gardening, because once these plants get big (and the Blue Beauty tomato plant gets BIG) they require a great deal of water, and the only water available to them is what is in the soil. This is why container size matters. The more soil, the more water and nutrients it can hold. It also reduces the need for constant watering. As it was, I watered these about every 2-3 days once they were full grown. You want to give them just enough water to thrive, but no more. Extra water seems to result in more watery, less sweet tomatoes!
Blue Beauty plant early in the season
As you can see, the plants were huge, healthy, and very productive. In fact, these were probably the most productive tomatoes in the garden last year. We harvested at least 100 from the two plants. In fact, I ended up skinning and freezing them (along with the Roma tomatoes) and we are still using them in sauces and curries in January!

Beautiful late-season harvest!
What about taste/texture? I would rate these as very good. They are fairly firm inside, with good structure and just the right amount of juiciness and sweetness. They are also very consistent, with very few cracks or spots. They turn very dark blue wherever the sun hits them, resulting in beautiful tomatoes with dark blue tops and deep red bottoms (where the sun does not directly hit them). This is how you know when they are ripe. Look for a deep crimson color underneath the blue tops. 

Blue Beauty sliced in half
These tomatoes are absolutely fantastic for slicing, fresh eating, and make great sauce as well, since they are not overly juicy. I would definitely say that they are my favorite tomato to grow so far. The flavor is not quite as good as a Brandywine, but it is close, and these plants will be absolutely loaded with tomatoes, whereas Brandywines seem to be less productive (in containers anyway).

In the coming weeks I will be posting similar write-ups on the cucumbers and peppers from last season, so check back often!

Until next time, happy gardening!