How can I grow a sweeter tomato?

I live in Macon, Georgia and grow Rutgers, Better Boy, and Whopper tomatoes, with good production. However I would like to know how to get a much sweeter taste in my tomatoes. Is there any product available or what else can I do?

Tomato Dirt responds...

Tomato flavor is a balance between acid and sugars in the fruit, the environment, and your taste buds.

When it comes to acid and sugars in the fruit, much of the flavor comes down to a variety's genetics and the environment in which it's grown. For instance, the same tomato type grown in Macon, Georgia will taste different if it is grown in Medford, Oregon.

Having said that, a tomato's flavor rests in its balance of acid to sugar. Tomatoes with more acid than sugar taste acidic. Those with higher amounts of sugar are sweeter. Fruit that has low amounts of both acid and sugar are considered to be "bland." And tomatoes with high amounts of both acid and sugar are identified as "complex" or "rich" in flavor.

You can take several steps to maximize your tomatoes' flavors:

  • Add plenty of organic matter to the soil. This will allow nutrients (especially sulfur ans potassium) to flow to your plant and its fruit, allowing flavors to develop.
  • Allow your plant to experience dry spells in between watering. Dry soil concentrates compounds that produce flavor. Keep an eye on rainfall amounts and once your plants are established, don't overwater.
  • Choose sweeter varieties. In general, small tomatoes (like cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes) produce sweeter fruit than larger types of tomaotes.
  • Choose varieties with more foliage. Heirloom tomatoes and potato leaf tomatoes produce a higher percentage of foliage per plant than hybrid tomatoes, which may explain why heirlooms have a reputation for deeper flavors.
  • Consider the color of fruit. Red tomatoes contain a higher percentage of acid to sugar than yellow, pink, or orange tomatoes.
  • Light matters. Longer periods of sun means more active photosynthesis in plants, yielding higher amounts of carbohydrates ... translating into acid and sugar production. Plant your tomatoes where they can get at least 8 hours of sunlight a day.

Happy Gardening!
Your friends at Tomato Dirt

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