December 1, 2008
Florida small farm growers and producers are interested in strategies that can differentiate their operation and products from the competition and heirloom tomato (Solanum lycoperscium L.) varieties have potential for adoption by small farm producers in Florida. Marketable yield, chemical compositions [vitamin C, pH, total soluble solid (TSS), titratable acidity (TTA)], and eating quality (semi-trained panelist, n = 38) of six tomato cultivars ( ‘Arkansas Traveler’, ‘Brown Berry’, ‘Cream Sausage’, ‘Jaune Flamme’, ‘Nyagous’, ‘Mortgage Lifter’) of field and shade-grown heirloom tomatoes were evaluated during Spring 2007 at the North Florida Research and Education Center–Suwannee Valley (NFREC-SV), in Live Oak, FL. Marketable yield of cultivars ranged from 0.9 to 4.57 kg/plant. The tomato cultivar with the highest vitamin C content was ‘Brown Berry’ (26.18 mg/100g) and the lowest vitamin C content was in ‘Nyagous’ (13.40 mg/100g). The sensory evaluation was conducted only on varieties with high marketable yield from Live Oak (‘Brown Berry’, ‘Cream Sausage’, and ‘Jaune Flamme’). Age and gender of the taste panel did not affect the rating score of the sample (P > 0.05) but samples were significantly different (P < 0.0008). There was no specific trend that indicated a flavor preference for shade-grown tomato compared to field-grown tomato. A similar trial was completed during Fall 2007 at NFREC-SV and Winter 2007–08 at the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, FL. Those studies evaluated yield and fruit quality of six cultivars considered “red slicers” produced hydroponically in open shade houses. Several heirloom cultivars tested in this trial were suitable for direct market, but none would be suitable for large-scale commercial production.