Each year Bogash does the tomato trials he compiles a report that takes into account results from the previous years' tastings and lists favorites.
o Grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes are good for salads.
If you're looking for a red cherry or grape tomato, there's little doubt that Favorita is the best, Bogash said. The variety won the Penn State Cooperative Extension cherry-tomato tasting so often, that it was dropped from the trials for a a couple of years to give other varieties a chance, Bogash said.
Favorita is slightly grape-shaped and has a classic-tomato flavor not often found in a small fruit.
Favorita can be found in seed catalogs and specialty garden centers. Easier to find, especially as baby plants ready to transplant, are Sweet 100s. Pitted against Favorita in trials, Sweet 100s didn't even place, but the plants are easy to find and have a good flavor.
To learn about more varieties, go online to www.herald-mail.com. Also, go to Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center at www.hgic.umd.edu and click on "online publications." Check out "Recommended Vegetable Cultivars for Maryland Home Gardens."
o Plum tomatoes are best for sauces, because they are meatier, with more flesh and less juice. Plus, they are bred to produce a lot of fruit that ripens at the same time, so you have plenty of tomatoes to pick for making sauce.
Bogash has grown different varieties of plum tomatoes over the years. While they might look different, they all produced a lot of fruit and were thick and meaty with little juice. A common plum tomato that is easy to find and does well in home gardens is Roma VF.
o Large round tomatoes are great for slicing for a sandwich.
The No. 1 favorite for years has been Brandy Boy, a hybrid available through Burpee. Brandy Boy is "truly a superior tomato in flavor and everything else," Bogash said.
According to Burpee.com, the hybrid corrects many of the problems with the original heirloom variety Brandywine. Brandy Boy produces many, large, pink fruits up to 5 1/2 inches across and ripen evenly.
The heirloom variety Arkansas Traveler produces a high yield of smaller, 4- to 6-ounce tomatoes that have a great, classic-tomato taste and are a good size for canning, Bogash said. Many heirloom varieties have little disease resistance and low fruit yield, but Arkansas Traveler does not have those problems.
Mortgage Lifter is another heirloom that has done well in tomato tastings. It has a high fruit yield and awesome flavor and is a fabulous slicer. With the fruit occasionally reaching 1 pound, one slice can cover a bun, Bogash said.
While Brandy Boy is available only through Burpee, Mortgage Lifter, aka Radiator Charlie, is available in almost every seed catalog and some garden centers. Arkansas Traveler can often be found in seed catalogs, but is less commonly found in garden centers.
It's too late to start tomato plants from seed, but small plants can be transplanted once the last frost date has passed (see below).
For a family of four, Bogash confirmed that about nine tomato plants can provide plenty for summertime eating. Plant three cherry tomato plants, three sandwich tomato plants and three plum tomato plants. To can or preserve for winter eating, plant extra plants.
Tomatoes are part of the Solanaceous or nightshade family, which also includes peppers, eggplant and potatoes. This means they should be rotated so no nightshade family member is planted in the same soil the next year.
Rotate nightshade family members with squashes, cucumbers, beans, cantaloupe, onions, shallots, and garlic.
Tomato growing problems
Some common problems with growing tomatoes include blossom-end rot, cracking and scarring at the top of the tomatoes, and summer diseases such as septoria leaf spot and early blight, Bogash said.