2020 Tomato Questions

I am growing some Heirlooms for the first time. And they are looking very strange. I picked a big Black Krim tonight and when I cut it open there was barely any ‘tomato’ inside. It seemed that the stem was so thick that it took up most of the tomato. The soft flesh and seeds were minimal, even though the tomato was huge.
Is this normal for a ‘beefsteak’ heirloom?
Some of my Boxcar Willies appear to be the same - huge stem which take over most of the interior.
I should have taken a picture - but I didn’t. This is the Black Krim before I cut into it.

It seems that the tomatoes that set early in the growth of the plants are this way . . . but later ones seem more normal looking. I believe that these are Virginia Sweets. (Below) I haven’t had one ripen yet - but I’m curious to slice one to see what its interior looks like. Same with Boxcar Willy and Stump of the World.

I grew some Early Girl, which I’ve never done before . . . and won’t do again! They are very prolific and pretty - but don’t have much taste.

I had some wilt or blight problems for awhile with the heirlooms, but that seems to have worked itself out. I think I’ll try some again next year. Not sure yet. Hope they taste better than Early Girl!


That’s about what the black Krim that I’ve grown have looked like. :slightly_smiling_face: they’re funky looking, and the earlier ones tend to be weirder shaped, often cat facing for me. I’d be interested to see the inside to have a better idea what you mean about the rest! Looks like you had a good haul there!

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We have not grown either of those varieties, yet we have grown plenty of heirloom tomatoes, many do look ugly compared to the hybrid tomatoes yet to me tomatoes are supposed to look ugly, unless they are grape, plum, pear, or cherry tomatoes, yet those photos and your description do make them sound too skimpy inside. Then again taste is what is most important.

Maybe their skimpiness has something to do with your climate? Or their location?

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Might be several blossoms that fused together to create a big pithy, gnarly fruit. I’ve seen it happen on some of my heirlooms. It also might have something to do with the heat affecting the blossoms, too.

I’ve grown Boxcar Willie, and they tend to be just medium sized round tomatoes, and not usually prone to odd looking or pithy fruit.

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As a generalization, large beefsteak tomatoes tend to have large cores. Here are a few heirloom tomatoes that have relatively small core.

Eva Purple Ball
Burgundy Traveler

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@Katie_didnt_Z4b I should have taken a pic. I’m sure there will be another, soon, that I can use to show what I’m talking about.

These heirlooms are a challenge. But I love trying something different than Better Boy, for a change. I wish I had enough area cultivated, so that I could plant a few of many different varieties. But, my vegetable area is small. Guess I could do a long long row of buckets or fabric pots. ? Somewhere else in my yard. - - - Thinking ‘out loud’.

Do you grow many varieties? Do you have a fave?

Perfect description, Bob. ‘Big. Pithy. Gnarly.’ :smile::smile:

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PG, I grow a lot of tomatoes and have grown a lot of varieties over the years. I don’t have a single favorite, but of the tomatoes I’ve grown, Box Car Willie, Druzba, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Kelloggs Breakfast, and Aunt Ruby’s German Green show up in my garden most years.


What kind of production, size, flavor, etc have you had with KB? I’m growing it for the first time this year. I’ve heard lots of good things about it. Does it tend to have stripes on it, or mostly yellow?

I’ve grown this the last two years and this year again, it’s a very interesting tasting variety. I’ve noticed my AR’s grow very upright compared to the others. Since they’re green toms, what’s the best way to make sure they’re ripe? Kinda orange or red on the bottom?

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NOTE: _I don’t lay awake at night thinking about these things . . . _
but I know it sounds that way!!! :rofl:

Remembering the conversation about what ‘dirt’ makes great tasting tomatoes. Short of driving a dump truck up to the field where I had my rented garden plot, on the outskirts of Louisville - and hauling back enough soil for a ‘Louisville Dirt Raised Bed’ - What can be added to soil to give tomatoes more taste? Or a particular taste?
You want ‘sweeter’ - add a cup of this. Want more acid? - add a cup of that.

All you people who know so much about the chemistry that goes into this mystery will think this ‘silly’, I expect. But every once in awhile it occurs to me that if someone could determine what the magic trace elements are - in whatever soil one is trying to mimic and could make them available . . .
Well, wouldn’t that be an amazing find?

Kellogg’s Breakfast & KBX are close to the ultimate that a tomato can be. They are quite challenging to grow because of sunburn and extreme fragility. Picking a ripe one without damaging it is almost impossible. I arrange my plantings to maximize shade on KB/KBX to prevent sunburn…parts of the fruit so damaged will not ripen properly. If I can’t get the needed shade, I will drape shade cloth to get the shade. Of course I am in zone 9b (tons of heat and sun).

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Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind. We have had intense heat, more so than usual. What kind of flavor do they have?

Is KBX a hybrid of KB? What’s the difference?

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Kellogs Breakfast is your classical heirloom - sweat and meaty. But I like Kentucky Beefsteak better - more productive and with an even nicer taste.

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Flavor? Pretty mild, almost creamy. KBX is the potato-leaf version of KB. They are both open-pollinated. I have grown them side-by-side and the fruits appear identical. I consider them interchangeable. Perhaps others have seen differences.

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KBX showed up in the garden of Martha Hufford about 15 years ago. She liked the flavor quite a bit and sent out seed to quite a few people including me. I’ve grown it just about every year since getting seed from Martha in spring 2008. KBX has the tangerine gene like the Kelloggs Breakfast parent. The only thing we know about the other parent is that it was potato leaf as is KBX. The advantage of KBX is that it does not get crud from growing in lower than optimum temperatures. Crud is a physiological condition that affects Kelloggs Breakfast under the right conditions. KBX also tends to produce more fruit and the fruit tend to be more uniformly large sized than KB. Both KBX and KB are nematode susceptible and septoria susceptible, but then, this is true of almost all heirloom tomatoes. Flavor of both KBX and KB tends to be exceptionally good though to my taste buds, KBX is slightly better. As noted above, both suffer in extreme heat so they have to be planted as early in the spring as possible for southern tier states.

All green when ripe tomatoes turn soft as they ripen. They go from grass green to a slightly paler and more translucent color and some of them then turn a very pale shade of yellow. Don’t rely on color to tell you when one is ripe. Use the squeeze test.

Interesting story: when my son was about 11 years old, he would NOT eat a tomato though he loved pizza and spaghetti and other foods made with tomatoes. One evening, I brought in a perfectly ripe juicy Aunt Ruby’s German Green and sliced it on a plate in the center of the table. When he got to the table, he looked and asked, “what’s that?”. I told him it was a tomato and to try a slice because it was very good. He got the tiniest slice on the plate and carefully cut off the tiniest bit to taste. Then he ate the tiny slice and reached for another slice on the plate. After that, he just grabbed the entire plate and said “MINE!”. From then on, I had to beat him off of the Aunt Ruby’s German Green plants so I could get enough seed to keep growing them.

PG, A good fertile sandy loam soil produces very good flavored tomatoes. I only know of one variety that tastes significantly different if grown in red clay soil. That variety is Piennolo which you can read about if you care to do a search. In Italy, they are grown in the volcanic soils around Mount Vesuvius to produce their unique flavor. I have one small area of red clay soil in my garden which just happened to be where I grew my first Piennolo tomatoes. The flavor was amazing, rich, intense, and just dripping with TOMATO taste. Since then, I make a point of growing Piennolo in similar soil if I possibly can. Other than this, in Israel, tomatoes have been developed with significant salt tolerance. When watered with brackish irrigation water (high salt content), these tomatoes are much sweeter.

To grow the best flavored tomatoes, focus on doing things right. Start with the right genetics. Plant in rich heavily composted soil. Fertilize appropriately. Keep the plants healthy and pest free. These are the conditions that tend to produce tomatoes with “amazing” flavor. All else being equal, the more compost a tomato plant has to grow in the more each plant will produce and the better the fruit will taste.


I’m not sure there is a lot of science on this, but I’ve been watching an interesting discussion on another board (tomatojunction.com) about people testing out various fertilizers for growing in contains, specifically earth boxes. Since their medium is usually a peat based soilless mix like ProMix, there is no significant fertility, minerals, etc. in the medium. Based on that discussion, I’m going to try HyR BRIX tomato fertilizer next year, which is a time release granular fertilizer you put in when you plant, like Oxmocote, etc.
Tomato Fertilizer - HyR BRIX® Healthy Fertilizer

I’ll probably also use a little bit of liquid fertilizer if they get a little tired looking, but I like the idea of just doing it once since I often don’t remember to fertilize regularly and then suddenly realize the plants are slowing down and starting to get a little more disease due to being weaker.

I bought my fertilizer for next year when A. M. Leonard was having a sale, which I’m sure they’ll have again sometime soon.

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Yeah, OKB is our favorite yellow/orange beefsteak, big fruit too. Yellow Brandywine is very good too, but a shy bearer for us. I hope we can get a good sampling of KB this year. We’ve tried Dr Wyche Yellow and Azoychka, but haven’t had enough to mature to try. But we’re trying them again this year.

I’m curious why you are going for the yellow/orange varieties?

Here are a few more that you might want to get. Manyel, Jaune Flammée, Nebraska Wedding, Aunt Gertie’s Gold, Orange Minsk, and particularly Galina’s Yellow Cherry.

When I started my seeds this spring, I had quite a few that didn’t come up, or didn’t survive transplant. So, I guess I had more yellow/orange varieties make it compared with other colors. I am also growing Jaune Flammě.

I still have plenty of red/pink varieties, like Watermelon, pink Brandywine, Omar’s Lebanese, Giant Belgium, pink Oxheart, and Boxcar.

Of the yellow/orange/gold tomatoes, the only ones I’ve really enjoyed are sungold and the large yellow or orange hearts. The yellow beefsteaks have been sweet, with some richness, but I overall miss the tangy flavor of a nice pink or red. But I do find the yellow or orange hearts are very nice, probably since the higher ratio of flesh makes them seem richer and less watery to me. I still haven’t given up and am growing KBX, Azoychka, Brandywine Yellow and Persimmon this year. I’m probably looking forward to Persimmon the most, based on descriptions.

I actually tried KBX last year, but the plant grew weakly and got some disease before really producing enough to try. Others I gave KBX seedlings to praised the flavor and productivity so I decided to give it another try, along with the other yellows, hoping to find one that I find worth growing. But we all have our own flavor preferences, so maybe they’re just not for me. I’m also trialing a bunch of dark tomatoes, which I haven’t found as appealing either.

That’s the fun thing about tomatoes - there are so many varieties you never get tired of trying new ones just to see what might be over the horizon.