Years ago, I belonged to a horticultural group that had a tomato-tasting event every September. It was the best fun, and also taught us a lot about tomato shapes, colours and flavours. Nowadays, I have taste competitions with tomatoes from my garden, inviting neighbours to be the judges. This year’s theme was small tomatoes, and the winner was the Mighty Sweet grape tomato, a tomato with robust flavour, crisp fleshy walls and no cracks, even after all the rain we had in July.
the Mighty Sweet grape tomato is a determinate type, which means it stops growing at a genetically determined height of 60 inches (1.5 m). My single plant still has a little way to go, continuing to put on height and produce flowers and fruit, arranged in clusters of 10. It’s one of the newly developed, nutrient-rich vegetables and fruit bred by Burpee Home Gardens, part of Ball Horticultural. Part of the Burpee BOOST High Antioxidant Collection of food plants, Mighty Sweet has 40% more lycopene than most tomatoes, and is high in flavonoids, vitamin C, beta-carotene and other phyto-nutrients, according to Ball. It’s also resistant to leaf mould, fusarium wilt race 1, tomato mosaic virus, nematodes and grey leaf spot.
The BOOST group includes several tomatoes, a pepper (Sweet Heat), a cucumber (Gold Standard) and a salad greens mix (Healing Hands Salad Mix), which Ball says has 20% more lutein, 30% more beta-carotene, 30% more total carotenoids and 70% more anthocyanins than comparable salad mixes. Those are big numbers for nutritional enhancement, and should be an incentive for more gardeners to grow food at home.
My job as a grower-taster is to be objective, and let me be clear that Mighty Sweet isn’t really all that sweet, especially when compared to ‘Sweet Million’ or ‘Sungold’, two cherry tomatoes high on the Brix sugar scale. But Mighty Sweet has rich tomato flavour for a small-fruited hybrid, with a pleasant acid-sugar balance. The fruits hold well on the plant, turning red without falling off. And I particularly like their texture — thick, crisp walls and not too much internal water. Best of all, flavour and consistency were unaffected by all the rain last month, and not one Mighty Sweet tomato cracked.
I’ve been growing tomatoes in containers for several years to avoid problems with the resident groundhog, and my experience is that container growing increases environmental stress on plants. I’m conscientious about fertilizing and watering regularly, but I suspect the increased soil temperature in containers is hard on tomatoes. No doubt growing tomatoes in the ground gives them a cooler root run. I put a two-inch (5-cm) thick mulch of shredded bark over the container soil around the tomato’s main stem to help reduce evaporation, but I don’t think it does much to prevent the soil from absorbing heat through the sides of the containers. Tomatoes under heat stress tend to have thick skin, something I don’t like in a salad tomato. Of the four tomato varieties I grew this summer, Mighty Sweet was the least affected by heat stress, and that’s another strong point in its favour.
Next summer I’m going to grow another BOOST tomato, and perhaps the salad mix. Can’t beat those numbers.