Plan now for the best tomatoes in next year’s crop

A myth among tomato lovers is that home-grown tomatoes taste best. Not true! The best varieties of tomatoes are what taste best, whether they’re grown on a farm or in a backyard.

What about growing conditions? You would think that tomatoes grown on a farm or backyard in a sunny, Mediterranean climate would taste best. Not necessarily so. There are hundreds of tomato varieties and, again, the variety is what’s important for flavor.

Many farms, however, grow varieties selected for commercial qualities. That translates to tough skins able to withstand shipping, bold color for eye appeal, and uniform ripening for efficient harvest. Flavor is secondary.

So we’re back to home-grown tomatoes for the most reliably good flavor — IF you grow the best-flavored varieties. These varieties generally aren’t offered as transplants, or seedlings, so you might have to grow your own from seed. Now is a perfect time to find what tomatoes suit your palate so that you can get your seeds in order for next year.

Taste a lot of different tomatoes from neighbors’ gardens, farm markets, even supermarkets. For any tomato that you like, find out the variety name. Don’t be lulled by appearance; go by taste.

Once you have the name, you can order seeds for next year. Search the web; a number of seed companies specialize in tomato varieties.

If you can’t find the variety name of that tomato you love — it might be lost among a neighbor’s grab bag of seed packets — simply save its seeds yourself.

Generally, seeds come most true (that is, they will grow into plants that bear fruits just like the ones from which you got the seeds) from non-hybrid tomatoes, which constitute many of the finest tasting tomatoes. Hybrid tomatoes generally do not come true, but some “hybrids” are labeled as such only to dissuade seed saving. So all seeds are worth a try.

Save your own tomato seed

Here’s how to save tomato seeds yourself: Cut the fruit in half along its “equator” to give better access to all the seed-containing cavities. Gently squeeze the fruit over a drinking glass, along with some coaxing with a teaspoon, to get out most of the seeds. (You can still eat the fruit after you’ve removed the seeds.)