[Market-farming] Indterminate vs determinate tomatoes

Andrew Leed arl6 at cornell.edu
Tue May 13 22:43:18 EDT 2003


Rob makes an interesting point. Certainly photosynthates are the source of 
sugars, acids, etc. If flavor were determined mainly by the leaf to fruit 
ratio, fruit thinning could be used to attain the same results on 
indeterminate plants. But there are also dozens of other organic chemicals 
in tomato fruits, some of which have very strong flavor responses. The 
relative concentrations of these flavor compounds can be quite different 
from one variety to another. More photosynthate means a less insipid 
tomato, but the other flavors are also important.

I think Stokes published some limited flavor studies six or seven years ago 
which showed that while some varieties achieved the "best" flavor even if 
picked at or before the breaker stage, other varieties were preferred if 
allowed to ripen further on the vine.

I agree with Rob that folks tend to like what they're used to (or grew up 
with) - many people like margarine better than butter.

Andy Leed
Starflower Farm
Candor NY



>     I've been reading the responses to Jay's question, and I think some 
> might find it useful if I share our experience at Johnny's.
>
>     Each year we have an extensive tomato trial of many dozens of 
> varieties, both plant types.  Invariably the indeterminates taste 
> better.  Chalk it up to a higher leaf to fruit ratio, so that there are 
> more photosynthates partitioned to each fruit than with determinates, 
> which, generalizing, have less leaves relative to the fruits.
>
>     You can notice this same determinate : indeterminate taste difference 
> in pole beans and vining squash, both of which generally have better 
> taste than "bush" versions.  You can only ask so much of 
> photosynthesis!  Taste does not come out of thin air.
>
>     I read Bill Shoemaker's comment with interest:  "That's one question 
> you'll never get agreement on. People just don't agree on taste in 
> tomatoes."  It reminds me of research published in Hort Science a few 
> years ago where consumers preferred the taste of tomatoes that had been 
> picked green and then allowed to ripen to tomatoes picked ripe.  It goes 
> to show you how the mass market produce industry trains people, 
> inadvertently of course, about "normal" taste in produce.  Of course, 
> since many of you have the opportunity to look your customer in the eye, 
> you can train them properly.
>
>  Rob Johnston
>  Johnny's Selected Seeds
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