Big Boy and Early Girl are duking it out in my garden. I planted both at the same time, and the plants were about the same size. They both are in the same Earthbox, so they have identical soil and water. So what’s going on with these two tomato plants?
Here are the specs on the two tomato varieties:
- Big Boy: Indeterminate plant with large red beefsteak-ish fruits. The days to fruiting averages 78, making it a mid-season variety.
- Early Girl: Indeterminate plant with medium-sized fruit, typically called a “slicer”. The days to fruiting averages 52, making it a very early season variety.
Based on the above, what would you expect for my tomatoes in their Earthbox garden?
I’d expect that Early Girl would be flowering, maybe even having teeny-tiny tomatoes. I’d expect it to be about the same size as Big Boy, but possibly a little smaller.
My expectations and reality are two different things. While the Big Boy plant is bigger (even a bit bigger than expected), it also has flowers that are open.
And Early Girl? She’s a nice plant, but no flowers are in evidence — although I do see some flower buds.
What’s Going to Happen?
Just because Big Boy flowers first, it doesn’t mean that its fruit will be ripe first. Ripe fruit is at least somewhat dependent on the size of the fruit, and Early Girl has that advantage — the fruit are generally between 4 and 6 ounces. Big Boy is more along the lines of 12 ounces to 16 ounces.
Here’s something to think about as well — early-fruiting varieties tend to have less-flavorful fruits than those that ripen later. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that because the fruit spends less time on the vine, less sugars and other goodies make it into the fruit. There are exceptions — some early tomato varieties like Matina and Stupice that have flavor that rivals the later ‘maters.
So…why grow early tomatoes?
Days to Maturity Versus Growing Season
I’m pretty lucky in that the area in Florida where I live (zone 9B), I can grow pretty much any variety (as long as I don’t try to grow it in the summer). Others aren’t blessed with a long growing season, though, and early varieties may be the only option, for vine-ripened fruits.
Then again, varieties like Matina and Stupice are grown because they taste terrific!
However, a vine-ripened early season tomato will still taste better than one you buy at the grocery store! And sometimes you want tomatoes sooner rather than later. Tomatoes you can eat while waiting for the later-season fruits to ripen.
What Does the Future Hold?
How will the duel between Early Girl and Big Boy play out? Time will tell, certainly. I still do expect that Early Girl will provide me with some ripe fruit before Big Boy does, but the question now is how much earlier? A week? Two weeks? A day?
Stay tuned for updates!