Readers responded to the search for great tomatoes. Several recommended waiting for the fall crop. Here's what folks had to say:
In the fall about 4-5 years ago, my neighbor, who knows that I love tomatoes, told me that Boone Hall Farms was growing really tasty tomatoes. I checked them out, and in fact they were great! For the rest of the fall season, I made a trip out there at least once a week and picked off the vine to my heart's content. I was happy to know there was finally a local source for great tomatoes. ... Since that time, the tomatoes at Boone Hall Farms are good but not great (last summer heirlooms at BH Farms were pretty darn good; this summer their heirlooms are not much better than their conventional tomatoes).
We moved to S.C. from Ohio eight years ago for retirement. My husband looked forward to growing tomatoes here and he has been so very disappointed. Up in Ohio the only things we had to take into consideration were: enough sunshine, put up a fence to keep the deer out, snails, and tomato worms. Just go to the local nursery and pick up some tomato plants, stick them in the soil after Memorial Day, watch for the aforementioned problems and eat and eat and eat yummy tomatoes starting in late July and until frost in October.
Down here shopping for to- mato plants you have to be an expert on tomato viruses, fungus and diseases that do not occur up North. Then you have to go shopping for the plants that are labeled as resistant to all those problems. Once the plants have been "altered" to be disease resistant, it's no wonder you can't find a really good tomato here.
Formerly of Ohio
This summer we are finally in a spot where we can raise our own tomatoes and were happy to find out that it is possible to raise really good-tasting tomatoes here in Charleston. You probably know that the little ones are easier to grow and taste better, but my Sweet 100s were off the charts. I had pounds of them and they were great in terms of flavor. I am now known as the Tomato Lady to some of the people I shared them with (and I had so many to share). The other variety that was really good was Cele- brity. Most of the early Celebrities had blossom-end rot, but the ones that escaped and ones I could at least partially salvage were excellent (as I remember tomatoes in N.Y. to have tasted). To my surprise and pleasure, the Celebrity plant is still bearing and there is no more blossom-end rot. I have 5 or 6 nice big ones.
You were mere yards away from fabulous tomatoes. The 69 cents per pound u-pick tomatoes at Boone Hall this summer have been the best summer tomatoes we've had in years. Their fall crop is usually spectacular, but this year, the summer crop is great. We canned over 20 quarts, and enjoy tomato sandwiches and sliced tomatoes almost daily. I think that part of the secret is the u-pick. When you are doing the picking, you get to choose only the ones that are perfectly ripe.
The tomatoes have been great this year. You are just about three weeks too late to get them. Joseph Fields Farm has had amazing heirlooms, but they are all gone now, but a few stragglers. Look for them again in September. Karen Kennerty always has wonderful tomatoes, but hers have also burned out by now. I did get a few good heirlooms from Robert Fields this past Saturday. Owl's Nest usually has more variety because he gets his from lots of places. The best tomatoes right now are coming from Tennessee and the N.C. Mountains.
Art Institute of Charleston
When I moved from Syra- cuse to West Virginia, I thought it must be my imagination that the tomatoes didn't taste as good, no matter what variety I tried growing. When I moved to Summerville a year and a half ago, I was fairly convinced that the tomatoes I grew here were not as tasty as the ones in West Virginia. Some of the taste is lost when they're bred for disease resistance, and also you're taking a risk letting them ripen on the vine instead of in the kitchen.
But last summer I visited my sister in Minneapolis and bit into one of her home-grown tomatoes (not an heirloom). I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It tasted much better than the heirloom tomato I'm growing this summer. Climate has to be a factor.
But our peaches more than make up for it. You have to live in or visit the South to taste a perfect peach.
Could not agree with you more re: tomato taste. My wife and I have been disappointed that they no longer taste like they did when we were growing up. If anyone lets you know where to buy good ones, I'd like to know.