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"Beefsteak" Tomatoes/"Field" Tomatoes.

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About a week ago, I bought a basket of tomatoes from a Niagara on the Lake vendor that were labelled "Beefsteak Tomatoes". I gave them a few days to fully ripen but was very disappointed once I tried them. They had very little taste, were far from sweet, had little juice and rather coarse, chewy flesh. In other words, I could see no difference between them and the "Field" tomatoes for sale in most supermarkets.

So is no distinction now made between "Beefsteak" and "Field" tomatoes? I do, however, have a memory from some years back of "Beefsteak" tomatoes that were so good that you could quite properly serve them as a first course for dinner - something I'd never do with these Niagara on the Lake "Beefsteak" tomatoes.

So have this type of beefsteak tomato just disappeared? Or is my aging memory just playing tricks with me?

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  1. Always grim to find tasteless tomatoes in Winter never mind summer. I have decided to look into black tomatoes and found the flavour much better than any of the red ones I've been eating for about 65 years. Black Prince, Paul Robeson and Black Krin seeds are available . And you can buy the black tomatoes even in Costco for a short period of time each summer. I'd get on to them for taste alone and they don't look as bad as it seems--usually black and red inside .

    2 Replies
    1. re: Herne

      I think this summer has been less than ideal for producing delicious, juicy tomatoes. I live in Windsor and I know that the cold temps and wet weather in the spring, coupled with the crazy storms and cooler-than-average temps this summer have been murder on some produce. Whether I'm accurate or not, I like to think that hot sunny days lead to lovely tomatoes and other fruits. I was quite shocked at how anemic the first corn of the season was in Windsor. Windsor typically has sensational peaches and cream corn. The cobs I purchased in late July were small, not sweet and it was tough to distinguish the "peaches" from the "cream".

      1. re: 1sweetpea

        Sorry to hear about your corn down there. The Corn Crib in Cottam was my go to place when I lived down there and when I now visit.

        Last year you had good rain and our crop suffered from near drought. This year's crop is superb.

        On another positive note, last year's orchard crops in Grey/Bruce were a total disaster as you may recall - this year is pointing to a bumper crop.

    2. You had a bad batch. Like sweetpea said...there have been some weather issues this year, like inconsistent heat over the past few weeks.

      But...good ones can still be found. Just spent a week on Pelee Island and on the way home picked up some roadside field tomatoes around Kingsville or Leamington. They aren't the best I've had, but definitely turn into a delicious tomato sandwich or salad. Bright red on the inside, juicy flesh and sweet.

      Try before you buy, I guess.

      1. A lot depends on the sub variety of Beefsteak grown. I have grown good flavored tomatoes this year from a cheap generic Beefsteak seed by Mackenzie, Brandon MA, and from a more costly seed, Whopper Improved, www.parkseed.com but bland results from perfectly formed Earliana.

        Roadside corn and eggs have been good this year. RCSS has had much better corn than the competing markets in my area (Strathroy). The manager of that Loblaw told me he can't get local products; the growers no longer come to him as they did when it was Zehr's.

        1. Maybe try Leamington beeksteaks instead? Niagara fruit is great, but the region isn't really known for its tomatoes, and a few Niagara vendors sell tomatoes grown hydroponically and/or grown elsewhere in ON afaik.
          My homegrown Middlesex County Better Boys have tasted great, although the weather has meant later and fewer tomatoes to date. I'd think good beefsteaks are available commercially, at some farmers' markets and greengrocers. Doris Family Produce at the Covent Garden Market in London usually has great beefsteaks. Haven't bought any in TO.

          1. A Leamington grower I've bought from many a summer told me it was an aesthetic issue. The big, puckery-top tomatoes of yore--the screaming red slightly sweet, acidy flavorful type--get rejected in favor of the smaller, rounder, prettier hot house types. Never mind "heritage" types. She got tired of carting them up to the western GTA markets and not selling them. Hard to find now. Miss 'em.

            1. Sorry but you are a victim of Growers who grow for Yield, Bruise Resistance, Eye Appeal, Shelf Life, Transportability, Disease Resistance, and Profit. Notice the lack of the word Flavour ?

              There are great "beefsteaks" out there, two of our favorites are Brandywine and Cherokee Purple. Ugly, but oh so tasty. Brandywine is available at many farmer markets and some grocers, but grow them yourself next year for best results. All you need is a pot and some water !

              BTW, the relatively cool and dry Ontario summer has produced excellent tomatoes this year. Don't buy any farmers excuse that it is the weather.

              9 Replies
              1. re: PoppiYYZ

                The old time tomato plants are not disease resistant unless grafted onto proven rootstock. Much like vinifera grapevines, grafted here and in Europe since 1880.

                Many local growers have been disappointed with the yield of their garden Brandywine, but not the flavor. Outdoor plants may need to be grafted, but patio pot plants will be successful.

                Grafting is easy on soft vines, although Loblaws charged $10 per Brandywine plant this year. I will be doing my own next March.

                1. re: jayt90

                  My Brandywine yield was so low last summer I didn't plant them this year.

                  1. re: jayt90

                    I do 4-5 pots to get an early supply, usually one is a cherry or plum since they are usually the first to yield.

                    My garden tomatoes are a mix of store bought and seed started. Never have grafted any, but will look into it. Always get some leaf blight (damp humid spring and summers are the worst), but one early application of a copper spray keeps them healthy enough to produce well.

                    This years markets that I've visit have had good tomato variety and quality. The cool dry summer (with occasional good soakings and hot spells) has been good for limiting disease too. Everything is producing well this year.

                    I guess the best advice I can give to those not growing their own tomatoes, is get to know and ask the variety, and ask for a taste ! I always carry a little pocket knife and napkin for just such an emergency !! :-D

                  2. re: PoppiYYZ

                    I have to agree with you on the Cherokee Purple, it's my favourite for flavour. And out of the 20 some odd heritage varieties I grow, it's the one I have never had blight or other fungus problems with. I love it.

                    Also, I agree that this year has been fantastic for growing tomatoes. Other than a few tomato hornworms, my 40 plants are loaded and ripening more and more. Humidity isn't good and neither are high temperatures. If the temperature stays consistently above 28C, the flowers won't set fruit.

                    I'm not into the idea that tomato plants must be grafted (a bit of a cash grab, I think). Yes, not all of the varieties I plant do well every year, but most do. And the next year things will change again, but that's the point of diversity and adaptation of the varieties to different conditions.

                    1. re: earthygoat

                      Earthygoat, What do you recommend for taste with reasonable reliability?
                      Where is your garden?

                      1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                        I'm in Northumberland County :) As to which variety is delicious and reliable.... that is so hard to answer. There are so many factors that play into growing the perfect tomato, every year is a little different, whether it's weather, soil, rain, or one's own personal preferences. Tiny tomatoes grow well in pots, giant beefsteaks need a lot more time and water. If you possible, I'd recommend finding a tomato tasting this fall, pick about 5 varieties you really like and start growing those year after year. Collect the seeds from the varieties that do best for you and get rid of the ones that don't. Add a new variety to replace ones you don't like. If you grow more that just a couple varieties, you'll eventually have ones that are more suited to your preferences. Yes, it takes a few years, but it's worth it.

                        Also, check out the Seed Saver's Exchange website for great descriptions of many, many varieties. If only I could grow what they grow!

                        1. re: earthygoat

                          Are you related to my wife?
                          Name six of your favourites, two each early , and and late.
                          I will pick three from among them.
                          Don't worry. You won't get blamed.
                          Sorry. But I'm married for the duration.

                          1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                            Well, OK :) Here are some that I find I grow more often than others because I enjoy them! In order from small to large and therefore when they might ripen. I have one type of cherry tomato that I lost the name a long time ago, but I grow it yearly, it's orange, yellow and pink. Otherwise:
                            - Orange banana (roma type)
                            - Silvery fir tree (bush type, great for containers)
                            - Green Zebra (green/yellow stripes)
                            - Cherokee Purple (purply brown)
                            - Grightmire's pride (heart shaped pink)
                            - Big Rainbow (yellow with red streaks)

                  3. I think it's always worth asking vendors whether they grow the produce themselves and, in the case of tomatoes, whether they are field tomatoes or hothouse tomatoes.

                    I'm wondering if the tomatoes you purchased may have been grown in a greenhouse.

                    The growing season hasn't been stellar and vendors at my local market have been supplementing their field crop with greenhouse produce. It's worth asking because there's nothing like a juicy tomato fresh off the vine outdoors.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                      Particularly if there is a burger on top of it in the bun.