August 1, 2013

Consumer Q’s

Submitted by the Georgia Department of Agriculture

Question: What kind of tomato does the commercial grower plant?

Answer: There isn’t one specific variety that commercial growers plant. It depends on whether the tomatoes are being produced for the fresh market or for processing, what type tomato (cherry, Roma, large, yellow, red, late-season, early-season, etc.) is desired and whether the tomatoes will be grown inside a greenhouse or in the field. Growers will also make selections based on disease resistance and avoid varieties that may be susceptible to pathogens that have been a problem in the past. They will also select varieties that are known to perform best in the soil and climate where they are to be grown. Commercial growers may plant some varieties that are familiar to home gardeners. They may also grow varieties developed for commercial growers and with less-than-catchy names such as ‘BHN 444,’ ‘Florida 47 R’ and ‘BHN 410.’

The University of Georgia has a publication that may be helpful to you. “Commercial Tomato Production Handbook” may be found online at or at your county Cooperative Extension Service office. Another good publication is “Commercial Production of Staked Tomatoes in the Southeast.” It is the combined efforts of horticulturists and plant scientists from North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi and is available online at

Q: Can I put some of my ‘Black Russian’ and ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomatoes along with my red tomatoes when I am cooking tomato soup? I like the flavor and juiciness of these dark tomatoes. Will they change the color of the soup? I don’t know if my family will accept a soup that is not the traditional red.

A: Most of the ‘Black Russian’ and ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomatoes we grow end up sliced on sandwiches or are eaten fresh with sweet corn, cucumbers, cantaloupes and other summer vegetables. However, we have added up to about 10 percent of these darker varieties with the more common standard red varieties when cooking soup and have not noticed any difference in the soup’s color. We have not tried a higher percentage because we didn’t have enough to use more.

Also, one caveat about using a large percentage of very juicy tomatoes such as ‘Black Russian’ and ‘Cherokee Purple’ in soups and especially in sauces is the increased cooking time to achieve the thickness you desire. The end color being a little darker or not as bright may be minor compared to extra time in the kitchen and a higher utility bill for cooking the soup and cooling the house.

If you have plenty of the darker varieties, or yellow or orange varieties for that matter, you may want to experiment using only them to make soup. It may be different than the standard red, and it may look a little unusual at first, but it will probably taste just as good as what you had with your standard red ones. Your family may love it.

Let us know how your soup turns out.

If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, visit our website at,write us at 19 MLK Jr. Drive, Room 128, Atlanta, GA 30334 or email us at