I was so excited this year when I saw that Burpee was finally offering a determinate grape tomato – Mighty Sweet Hybrid. I love grape tomatoes. Their size is great for salads and snacking and the tomatoes last a long time. The only downside is that up until this point, all of the grape tomato varieties were indeterminate.
In tomatoes, determinate varieties have much smaller vines because after a certain point in time, the growing tips of the vine “terminate” growth and produce an inflorescence. The vines usually stop growing at about 3-4′. Once the plants stop growing, they put all of their energy into ripening the fruit that has set.
The growing tips of indeterminate tomatoes never transform into an inflorescence; the vines just keep growing and growing and growing! For year’s I’ve been growing the grape tomato variety Juliet and by the time the late blight and other diseases have decimated the plants, they’re well over 10′ tall. To keep them under control you have to do a lot of pruning, staking and tying – it’s a lot of work.
I gave up growing standard tomatoes that were indeterminate years ago; it wasn’t worth the time and effort. I only grew the indeterminate grape tomatoes because I liked the fruit. When I saw that Burpee now offered a determinate grape tomato, I thought I could finally stop the hassle of caring for 10′ tomato vines.
Mighty Sweet Hybrid grew well during the season and the inflorescences were made up of 15 or more flowers. I was impressed with how well the plants grew. When I started to harvest ripe fruit I noticed that the tomatoes weren’t as meaty as the Juliet variety and the flavor wasn’t anything special. But if that was the trade-off for having determinate grape tomatoes, I could live with that.
As as the season has gone on, I’ve experienced two problems with Mighty Sweet that are deal breakers for me.
The first is that once the fruit is ripe, the tomatoes separate from the pedicle (the small branch that attaches the fruit to the plant) with barely a touch. When you reach into the vines to harvest the tomatoes of Mighty Sweet, any ripe fruit that are shaken at all will separate and fall to the ground. While we haven’t had one, I imagine that a wind or rain storm would send a shower of tomatoes onto the ground.
But the biggest problem for me is that Mighty Sweet cracks like crazy – and not small cracks but wide open crevasses in the fruit. If a tomato isn’t crack-resistant, fluctuations in the amount of water in the soil can cause the skin of the tomato to crack which opens the tomato to fungus and insects. This is especially a problem after a heavy rain. We haven’t had a heavy rain but the Mighty Sweets are cracking – I’m throwing out about 1/2 of what I’m picking because of the cracks.
The breeders got it right in developing a determinate grape tomato. But what can I say? I want more! I want fruit that stays attached to the plant and I want crack-resistance. While I loved the determinate vines of Mighty Sweet, I won’t be growing it again. I’m going back to Juliet. The vines might be 10′ in length but at least the fruit stays attached to the plant and the tomatoes don’t crack. Plus, they taste better.
I guess I’m still going to be staking tomatoes for a while longer.