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Old September 12, 2017   #1
Fred Hempel
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Default No Stake Gourmet Tomatoes for growers

A farm I collaborate with wants to move from completely trellised tomatoes to all determinate "no-stake" growing.

I would like to get feedback from other growers on which indeterminate tomatoes combine good fruit characteristics (flavor, looks and good shelf-life) with good plant characteristics (Enough leaf area to shade fruits, good vigor and disease resistance).

Please suggest varieties that do not have any glaring weak points, when it comes to the traits listed above.

Please also indicate if you have grown the variety in a "field" situation. The goal is to have a thread that is useful to farmers, as opposed to a thread dominated by varieties with great flavor that are of limited use to farmers, because of mediocre shelf-life and/or production characteristics.
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Old September 13, 2017   #2
bower
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This is such an interesting question that I had to bump it even if I don't have the answer.
I don't think the perfect tomato exists which is at its best in every climate and condition. But there are people everywhere thinking about the same question.

Some of the issues are in common though, so you have traits that play significantly into the question of market qualities including firmness, tendency to split (thin skins), how well they hold on the plant and in storage, how easily they bruise and how quickly they fall apart when they reach a ripe stage, which farmers everywhere are concerned about.

Shape genetics which play a part in attractive appearance also affect the tendency to catface or have ugly blossom end scars. In fact badly shaped beefs are a beef for me, also, because they are more prone to molds getting in the stem end. The beef type fruit with some pointy genetics is less prone to bad blossom ends even when it is only slightly expressed, according to one of the papers I was reading this spring. I think I've noticed that. So that's a trait I'll be looking for in the ideal market tomato.

I've been thinking about yield vs size as well, from a market perspective I think the size is somewhere between a cherry and a whopper. Cherries are great but pick time is high and they really only pay their way when sold by volume instead of weight. Giant fruit are tricky to market. In pounds per plant, a really productive large fruit (Mazarini comes to mind) will outyield all the others. But the unit is too large for most people in a single sitting, so not that easy to market. Also the risk invested in each large fruit is daunting if a flaw can make it unmarketable, you lose a lot per damaged fruit. So to my mind the optimal size for the perfect fruit is maybe 4 or 6 to a pound.
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Old September 13, 2017   #3
Fred Hempel
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There is a typo in my first post. I am interested in DETERMINATE varieties, not indeterminate varieties (paragraph 2).
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Old September 13, 2017   #4
Nan_PA_6b
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Fred, is that determinate as in bush-like, or determinate as in single-crop, or both?

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Old September 13, 2017   #5
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Not that I dont care I just cant come up with a total no stake tomato in your perimeters.
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Old September 13, 2017   #6
Fred Hempel
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Bush-like.
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Old September 13, 2017   #7
bower
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Cole has trialed quite a few determinates so he may have some top picks.
You won't find many that are not red. But that's what breeding is for, eh.
If I was in your climate I'd try some of the Italian material - Sicilianu had some varieties listed at SSE as I recall for dry cultivation. I haven't grown many Italians but favorably impressed with foliage health as well as fruit qualities in that end of the gene pool. Determinates too.
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Old September 13, 2017   #8
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You might want to contact Glenn as Sand Hill Preservation Center. There was a post by Carolyn I read awhile back about his interest in determinate varieties and he has preserved many old commercial varieties. He might have a good answer to some varieties that fit your criteria.
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Old September 14, 2017   #9
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There are many commercial Russian OP determinate varieties, probably suited to selling, like Moskvich, Praleska (both pretty good tasting too). The problem is that I personally never had any tomato except miniwarfs that need no support. If you don't live in a reasonably dry climate and can't afford to let them fall on the ground, there's not really any options. When the fruits get big they will fall to the ground.
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Old September 14, 2017   #10
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I agree, beyond a certain size of fruit they will bow down. And 'self pruning' is a bit of a misnomer in my opinion. Definitely when working with determinate/indeterminate crosses, there is a whole continuum of growth habits, and how much support they require. Our conditions in the field here don't promote an excess of growth, we used plastic mulch for a field trial and those silly little cages which are never big enough, and yes they did sprawl on the ground from the weight of fruit, in spite of the cages.
With regards to the really small determinates which handily fit in those cages, all the ones I've grown were pretty fatally flawed. Cold Set and Siletz split just about every fruit and were extremely prone to foliage disease once they had fruit on them. Beaverlodge Plum was not especially healthy either, and the fruit were bland.
Our best tasting determinate in the field trial was Alaska, a small round red. Other performance measures were not notable ie I guess there was no obvious flaw. I would grow them again for the taste, if I wasn't burnt out on red tomatoes.
A larger red which I personally liked was Altajskij Urozajnij, but I didn't field trial it and Cole wasn't impressed when he grew it. I grew it outdoors one (cold) year and only got a few, fantastically sweet and rich exceptional fruit. Then I grew it in the greenhouse and got a huge load of fruit which were still sweet but... not so exceptional. Cole has commented that sweetness is often sacrificed to fruit load.
I've been working to develop early and determinate non-red fruit for our climate here... I have several black determinate lines going forward but it would be premature to say they are missing any obvious flaws, at least for my purposes. In fact the best selections for overall traits have been the indeterminate siblings, or the larger semi-determinates. Not growing huge numbers of plants, but the compact determinates that have cropped up in my best lines have mostly been rejected for their fatal flaws. The more compact growth habit has either been associated with fruit quality defects or susceptibility to foliage disease, most of the time.
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Old September 14, 2017   #11
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I haven't found a bush crop of any kind of tomato that doesn't need a stake. determinate or indeterminate. I have no use to be picking tomatoes off the ground. I am trying to sell them. any crop that is not staked falls over at some point and becomes literally compost material. slugs, pill bugs and cutworm capital.
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Old September 14, 2017   #12
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I would have to say that Taos Trail would be the only one to come close to what you described. I had it caged but would probably be ok to spraw if plastic mulched. Medium size with good flavor and no cracking. I grow all my tomatoes in ground.

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Old September 14, 2017   #13
Worth1
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You are going to need a stake no mater what.
I suggest some of the smaller dwarfs and new big dwarf plus lime green salad.
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Old September 14, 2017   #14
carolyn137
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You might want to contact Glenn as Sand Hill Preservation Center. There was a post by Carolyn I read awhile back about his interest in determinate varieties and he has preserved many old commercial varieties. He might have a good answer to some varieties that fit your criteria.

$$$$$$$$

Fred, when I get a chance I'll take a look at Glenn's current offerings and get back to you here.

Does it make a difference to you if a variety is an heirloom,which takes it back to about pre 1940,or otherwise.

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Old September 14, 2017   #15
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Fred probably is planning to cross them in any case.
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