Well, it's time to (finally!) begin the "Central Coast Tomato Taste Test 2010" series! It's been a recording-breaking cold summer and the tomatoes are showing the effects of low temperatures. Less fruit has set on the plants and the tomatoes stay green on the vine for what seems like an eternity. I have a hunch that the flavors of the tomatoes for this year will be biased towards bland. So, any variety that tastes good this year will probably be a real winner in a normal year.
A bright shining star of my tomato garden has been Japanese Black Trifele.
Seed Catalog Description:
Russian origin. In Russia the Trifele varieties of tomatoes (of which there are several colors) are highly prized and command high prices. This short potato leaf plant yields prolific quantities of 6 oz. fruit that looks like a beautiful mahogany-colored Bartlett pear with greenish shoulders. Very tasty flesh with a meaty core that produces luscious fruit all summer long. A work of art sliced out on a plate and a wonderful flavor that possesses an extraordinary rich and complex flavors. The Black Trifele is one of the blackest varieties available and is resistant to cracking.
Production and Earliness:
This variety is currently the 3rd highest for pounds of fruit produced. However, when I look at the plants and see all of the large green fruit, I'm very sure that by the end of the season, it will be the heaviest producer. I didn't grow Lahman Pink this year, which was a heavy producer last year, so I can't compare the two in terms of production. In terms of earliness, the first fruit was picked on 8/29, which is not bad considering the cool temperatures. I can classify it as a mid-season variety.
Fruit Size, Color, and Shape:
The fruit size is typically between 2-6 ounces. The color is a "light black", meaning that it is mostly red with some greenish shoulders sometimes. The shape would probably be somewhere between a large egg and a pear. In my garden a lot of the fruit have been "doubles". I haven't noticed any cracking and very little cat-facing.
Plant Growth Habit:
The seed catalog description says that it is a "short" plant, but mine is not really short. It's not 9 feet high like some of my plants, but it's definitely taller than a determinant variety. I'm really glad that I let several early suckers grow because they are producing lots of fruit.
Mmmm...it's silky. Nice thin skin.
Quite nice. I would say it's a mild black flavor. It's not as complex as, say, Paul Robeson. But it's sweet with very little acidity. Salt definitely punches up the flavor. Without salt, it's a little bland.
Cooking and Serving option:
It's pretty juicy, so probably best used as a slicer. Might make a nice fresh pasta sauce, but probably not worth it to try to can the sauce.
Is it a winner?
Right now, I'm seeing this variety as a "insurance policy". That is, insurance against a tomato-less summer. It is producing (relatively) large, nicely-flavored fruits in abundance. And for that I am grateful. I'll definitely grow this variety again next year.