By the numbers: slicing tomatoes

Young tomato plants
Young tomato plants

It is still technically tomato season here, but I have pulled mine out due to late blight.  So, the finally tally is in.  I planted 1 Gold Medal, 1 Brandywine, 2 Cherokee Purple and 4 of a variety I am developing.  All of these are heirloom slicing tomatoes which grow on indeterminate vines.  First, some definitions:

  • Heirloom – An old, open pollinated variety
  • Slicing tomato – A type of tomato typically grown for fresh eating for sandwiches, burgers, etc.  They contain more liquid than a paste tomato.
  • Indeterminate – Vines which continue to grow and produce until they perish and potentially can become quite large.

I did not keep track of individual varieties, but the Cherokee Purple yielded very little compared to the others.  This is normal for Cherokee Purple, but they taste so divine I plant them anyway.  My total yield was 127 pounds, or about 16 pounds per plant, using a total garden space of 78 square feet.  This is a pretty normal average yield for tomatoes of this type.  You can increase your yield of tomatoes by succession planting, if your season is long enough.  I did not run a second batch of tomatoes this year mostly because I just didn’t have room.

According to the September 20, 2013 USDA National Fruit and Vegetable Retail Report, so-called “vine ripened” heirloom tomatoes had an average retail price of $2.99 last week for conventional and $4.27 for organic.

So in summary:

Retail value
Yield Lb. Sq. Ft Lbs./ft. Conv. Org
127 78 1.63 $  379.73 $  542.29

That’s a lot of cash.  Did I eat that many tomatoes?  No, well over half of them were donated and many others given away to friends and family.  Although paste tomatoes are superior for processing, these could have been canned or dehydrated instead, but home canning of tomatoes is really not cost effective, particularly if you are short on time or live in an area with high energy costs.  With approximately 3 pounds of tomatoes in a quart of crushed tomatoes (not sauce or paste), a 99 cent can of tomatoes from the store wins in the frugality department.

For fresh eating, tomatoes definitely provide a good value in the home garden.


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