Update on My Tasmanian Chocolate Tomato Crop
Back in February I wrote about Tasmanian Chocolate, a new-to-me variety of heirloom tomato. I had received a free sample pack of seed from Renee’s Garden, one of my favorite seed purveyors. With my new indoor seed-starting room all set to go, I decided to start tomato seeds indoors under lights for my very first time using Tasmanian Chocolate. Let me update you on my experience.
Growing from Seed
Due to travel obligations I decided to hold off indoor sowing until April 23. I’m happy to say growing Tasmanian Chocolate from seed was the easiest thing in the world. Granted, I had a sweet indoor set-up—16-hr. lights set up on a timer, a method for watering from the bottom and so on. The seedlings and older transplants grew healthy and sturdy and stocky stems with healthy mid-green foliage. By the time I planted them outside (about six or seven weeks later) they were about 8 in. tall with plentiful foliage. At 8 in., they weren’t leggy, which often is what happens to seedlings inside.
Outdoor Growth and Habit
That stocky habit continued in the garden. Tasmanian Chocolates don’t grow too tall, so I expected this stature. What I didn’t expect was that the leaves would grow so densely on shortened internodes in the center of the plant (short internodes are what keep the plant under 3 ft. tall). The densely packed leaves needed to be removed on a regular basis. Being away for vacation and then business trips meant trimming was happening, and I cam back to mildewing leaves caused by a lack of air flow through the plant. This is why we pinch and thin the tomato plants!!
The fruiting branches were also crammed into the center of the plant for the most part. Many of those developing tomatoes were stuffed into small spaces between the main branches and confined in their growth.
The seed packet said Tasmanian Chocolate produces lots of fruit for a small plant. True! While it took a while for the flowers to become fruits (end of July, but I did plant them later), there were plenty of tomatoes to harvest. Here’s a warning: Just because these plants are only 3 ft. tall doesn’t mean they don’t need staking or some sort of support. I did not support them—at first. With all of the fruit on the plants they become top-heavy and started to tip over. I staked them at that point. I should have done it earlier.
The flavor was the most disappointing aspect of Tasmanian Chocolate. The pinching, trimming and staking were all issues that I could control; i.e. the issues of dense leaves and crammed fruit could have been remedied with more attention. But these tomatoes had very little flavor. I had given my mother two plants to grow and she found them to be tasteless as well. While a gorgeous, striped mahogany color, they were disappointing in a salad or sliced on their own. Pretty tomatoes should also taste good so they can be visually highlighted in a dish. Both my mom and I felt they were best used in sauce, stewed or slathered with mayo in a tomato sandwich. They couldn’t stand on their own.