In a recent post, we put 16 of our 18 tomato varieties through a thoroughly unscientific taste test. At the time, the remaining two varieties – Moneymaker and Pera d’Abruzzo – were not at all ripe. Today, though, we picked two good examples to complete the taste test.
Moneymaker is an old favourite of many gardeners; the seeds are readily available and plants can still be found in garden centres. My grandmother used to grow good examples under the modest protection of a run of sloping glass, supported by some old iron work, which formed a roof, but was otherwise open. We have also grown this variety on and off for many years, but after a few years with disappointing results, I had just about decided that they were no longer worth bothering with. Somehow, they did not produce the sort of tomatoes that my memory conjured up, and I began to wonder whether some strains were no longer well maintained or had otherwise declined. Nonetheless, with free seeds from a magazine, I grew a couple of plants again this year.
Compared with recent experience, the results this year were a little surprising. The plants are vigorous and bearing a very heavy crop – perhaps the heaviest of all this year’s varieties. The fruits are of a good size, comparable to St Pierre, and of good overall quality. They are rather late to ripen, but perhaps some of this is due to the extended period of cold weather at the start to the year. The example we took today was certainly not over ripe, yet the flesh was just a little mealy. The flavour was reasonable, with some of that classic tomato taste that the old favourites seem to have.
If we had not had poor experiences with this variety in previous seasons, I might be tempted to give Moneymaker another chance. It does not, however, fare quite so well when compared with, for example, St Pierre, which excels in both texture and flavour. I would find it hard to recommend for anyone with limited space, but if one can grow a dozen or more plants, perhaps this could find a place amongst them. I remain, then, somewhat torn between growing this for nostalgic reasons or making space for something different.
Pera d’Abruzzo is an entirely different sort. Large fruits, some much larger than the example picked today, are produced on robust and high yielding vines. The shape is oblong with quite blunt ends and just a little ribbing on some. The colour is especially good, being a deep scarlet, not just on the skin but right through the entire flesh. For a large fruit, it has a surprisingly small core. Slicing through this tomato, it is clearly a superior sort for cooking. The flesh is not only deeply coloured, but plump, juicy and with very few seeds. The flavour is rich without much acid; whilst not perhaps my favourite in terms of overall balance, there is every sign that it will make an excellent tomato sauce.
I am quite happy to grow a tomato that is only good for cooking. Many great tomatoes for salad have more seeds and more liquid than is ideal for cooking. However, we were not at all dissatisfied with the texture of Pera d’Abruzzo. Whilst perhaps not as satisfying as Marmande or St Pierre for eating fresh, it fairs reasonably well. The texture is certainly different, being meaty and plump, but at the same time rather succulent. So, although not perhaps my first choice for the salad, it does better than the other culinary sorts that we have grown, such as San Marzano and Principe Borghese. I am certainly keen to grow Pera d’Abruzzo once again next year.