When I receive the test plot trial tomatoes to evaluate for Kansas State University I never know what to expect. We receive 6 plants each of 10 different varieties for a total of 60 tomato plants.  Half of these are grown in the Giving Garden in Newton and the other half are grown by a Harvey County Master Gardener.  We take data on these tomatoes as they are growing and send this information to KSU for their research records.  Our trial at the Giving Garden gives us the opportunity to test different varieties of tomatoes at the Harvey County Fair in what we call “Tomato Tasting Table”.

 

Attendees of the fair taste 5 different tomato varieties from the trial and rank them 1 – 5 as best to worst in their own opinion. This is strictly at tomato taste preference.  At the end of the “Tomato Tasting Table” time I tally up the votes and calculate a “most preferred” variety.  The winning tomato variety was “MT 5012”.  Unfortunately, this variety is such an experimental one there is no real information on this except that it is a round, red standard tomato looking variety that tastes pretty good! 

So with all of that said, I will write about the second-most preferred tomato this year (it was also my own most preferred variety in the trial), Chef’s Choice Orange. 

 

Chef’s Choice Orange is an orange colored indeterminate tomato variety.  The winner of a 2014 All-America Selection award, Chef's Choice Orange is a stunning and delicious update of the old heirloom favorite Amana Orange.  Amana was renowned for its bright tangerine tones and rich tomato tang, but it produced at the end of the season, taking a long time to finish. Chef's Choice updates that with a quick finish, but keeps all the rich flavor of the heirloom variety!

These beefsteaks weigh in at anywhere from 9 to 16 ounces, and reach 6 inches in diameter. Slightly flattened, they seem made for slicing onto sandwiches and into salads. But chefs will love them because they keep every bit of their bright color when cooked! Hence the name -- Chef's Choice is the tomato that won't look muddy when it's sautéed, baked, broiled, or steamed!

And Chef's Choice Orange is a heavy producer. Expect nearly 2 dozen fruits from every plant. This is a vigorous, tall, well-branched vining plant, prepared to keep the fruit coming all season and in need of good support for its huge tomatoes! Easily 5 feet high before the season is over, it offers great foliage protection for the fruit against the punishing effects of the summer sun.

Part of the reason for the productivity of this tomato is its superior disease resistance. Chef's Choice Orange stands up to tobacco mosaic virus, resists cracking, and is not troubled by anthracnose. Healthier plants mean better growth and bigger crops, not to mention more lush foliage!

Start seeds indoors 5 to 6 weeks before the last frost date. Plant outdoors when danger of frost is past and night temperatures consistently remain above 55 degrees F. If the forecast calls for an unexpected late frost, protect young plants with plastic sheeting or other cover. Set plants 2 to 2½ feet apart.

— Scott Eckert is a Kansas State Research and Extension Agent for Harvey County. Horticulture is his specialty. The Harvey County Extension Office can be contacted at 284-6930