New Flavorful Tomato Cultivars

For The Home Gardener

Due to the coronavirus, shipping of hybrid tomato seeds may be delayed by a week or two. We thank you for your patience in these uncertain times.

Want to get your hands on some seeds? As of today, they are still not commercially available. But we want you to try them out. So here’s the deal. If you will donate $10 to support new variety development, we’ll send you packets with 15 seeds each of Garden Treasure, Garden Gem and our newest variety that we call our "W" hybrid. The W Hybrid has been shown to have a much higher than normal lycopene content.

Please know that all of that money goes back into research. And your donation is even tax deductible.

Click here to make that donation. You can enter the dollar amount in the box labelled "$ other amount". Unfortunately, we cannot send seeds to Australia, New Zealand or Germany due to customs restrictions. Please allow a minimum of 2 weeks for delivery in the continental United States. A week can pass between the time a donation is made and we receive your information.

We would like to sincerely thank all of our donors for your contributions to our Tomato Research Fund. Thank you again for your support!

We really want to know how these varieties perform in your location. We’ll collect your observations and post them at the end of the season. Be sure to let us know. You can also make posts and check out our Garden Gem Tomato page on facebook here

What is an "heirloom" tomato? There is no legal definition of an heirloom cultivar. Anyone can call anything an heirloom if they want to. However, we loosely define an heirloom as "old" and open pollinated (i.e., seeds from the fruit breed true). Everyone loves the taste of their favorite "heirloom" tomato. But let's be honest here. Heirlooms are really cultivars that have been superseded by something better. Hobbyists and a passionate few individuals hang onto some cultivars because they have something that these individuals hold in high regard. They are willing to put up with plants that have low yield or are susceptible to every disease that comes along because the fruit have fabulous taste or are particularly visually appealing.

We've taken a step back to exploit the natural diversity in heirloom tomatoes to understand the chemistry of a really great tasting tomato. We've grown hundreds of them – some going back to the 19th Century. Kind people have sent us seeds of ones they think are particularly noteworthy. Others we've purchased from various sources. In our large-scale consumer trials, many do not do well. Some don't give us enough fruit to run our 100 person panels. Others turn to mush within 24 hours of picking. Others leave us wondering why someone bothered to save them at all. They must do better in some microclimate than they do in ours. But a few cultivars just shine. They make you realize what a tomato should taste like. Inevitably, the plants just aren't that easy to grow. So we asked ourselves whether we could capture the best flavor and move it into something that is easier to grow. The answer to that question is an emphatic yes.

In principle what we've done is to take the best of both worlds and combine them into a single package. We screened hundreds of heirlooms to identify the ones with the best taste. We identified modern lines that have high productivity and shelf life but just don't excite our taste buds. We produced and extensively tested hybrids for performance and flavor. Many combinations fell by the wayside. But a few have been remarkable. The taste panels told us that they were just as good or better than the heirlooms. Yields far exceed those of the heirlooms in our North Florida fields. While yields are not good enough for large scale commercial producers to adopt them (that's another story altogether), they are ideally suited for home gardeners. Heirloom taste without the heirloom challenges. We think they epitomize what breeders call hybrid vigor; the best of both worlds. They're not true "heirlooms". And yes, you will need to buy new seeds each year. We hope that you'll think it's worth it.

Current status:

The University of Florida has released our first two hybrids. We are in discussions with seed companies about licensing.

Garden Gem

This cultivar produces massive numbers of delicious oval fruits that average 2-2.5 ounces. Taste panels rated it statistically identical to its heirloom parent with twice the yield. It is an early producer, giving ripe fruits about 60-65 days after transplanting. Its size makes it perfect for salads or just popping in your mouth. And it really shines in marinara. The personal chef for the University of Florida, Dean Cacciatore, produced a sauce that blew away high-end $9 a jar commercial sauces in a consumer preference panel. This is truly a versatile tomato.

Garden Treasure

This cultivar is the result of a cross between a very large, great tasting Brandywine-type tomato with soft, extremely short shelf life fruits and very poor yields. Garden Treasure produces a large (about 8-9 ounces), round fruit with vastly better yields, increased firmness and great taste. The increased firmness actually improves consumer liking because the heirloom is very soft. Garden Treasure was rated at the top of our large-fruited cultivars. It is indeterminate, meaning it will produce the first ripe fruit at about 70-75 days after transplant and provide an extended harvest period as long as weather permits.

W Hybrid

"W" Hybrid

W Hybrid Internal

This hybrid is determinate and produces a large number of large round deep red 6 ounce fruits. The fruits have a higher lycopene content than normal tomatoes. The first fruits ripen about 70-75 days after transplanting. These plants are resistant to gray leaf spot, PhytophthoraRace 3 and Fusarium wilt Races 0, 1 and 2.

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