Winning tomatoes add vibrant color, flavor to Gardens and Meals
Editor’s note: The AAS tomato winners were just announced. Melinda Myers wrote this column so people could start planning their garden, ordering their seeds from catalogs (seed catalogs are being mailed to people now) and even start the seeds indoors before spring.
Impress your guests with a garden, container and dinner table filled with tasty and colorful winning tomato varieties. Small-fruited varieties are perfect for salads and snacking and those with larger fruit ideal for slicing, canning and sauces.
These winning tomatoes were tested nationally by All-America Selections (AAS), a non-profit plant trialing organization (all-americaselections.org). Volunteer judges evaluated the plants for flavor, improved performance, growth habit, productivity, or pest resistance in the garden. Only superior, new, non-GMO varieties receive the AAS winner’s title.
Include a few Firefly plants when looking for the perfect snacking and salad tomato. It’s smaller than a cherry and larger than a currant tomato; just the right size to pop in your mouth without embarrassment. The extremely sweet pale white to pale yellow fruit will stand out in the garden, on the relish tray or in a salad.
Join the foodie trend by growing the slightly larger striped Red Torch tomato. The one-and-a-half-inch oblong fruit are red with thin yellow stripes. Enjoy an early harvest and eat Red Torch tomatoes fresh from the garden or cooked into a sweet and sour cherry tomato sauce to serve on bread or over chicken and other vegetables.
Boost your early harvest season with Valentine grape tomatoes. You’ll enjoy the vivid deep red color and sweet flavor. Plus, this productive plant provides plenty of tomatoes for snacking, salads and to share with friends.
Add some purple to the mix with Midnight Snack. This cherry tomato ripens to red with a blush of glossy black-purple. Judges declared Midnight Snack a big improvement in the flavor of purple tomatoes.
Pot up one or more Patio Choice tomatoes for your patio, deck or tabletop. Each compact 18-inch plant produces up to 100 yellow cherry tomatoes. Just one fruit-covered plant in a decorative pot creates as colorful a centerpiece as a bouquet of yellow flowers.
Don’t forget to add Red Racer cocktail tomatoes to the mix. The fruit are about the size of ping pong balls and perfect for stuffing, flavorful enough for salads and hearty enough for soups and stews.
Dress up your salads, sauces and sandwiches with colorful tomato slices. The six Chef’s Choice tomato varieties provide a rainbow of colors for the relish tray. Guests will have trouble deciding between the red, orange, pink, yellow, green and now black-fruited varieties. These beefsteak tomatoes have the right balance between sugar and acid; perfect for eating fresh and cooking.
Consider mixing any of these winning tomato varieties in with your ornamental plants. A few tomatoes tucked into mixed borders or at the back of a flowerbed can add color, texture and interest to any landscape. Just be sure there’s easy access for harvesting and use decorative obelisks and towers to support taller varieties in style.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” gardening DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site is www.melindamyers.com.