The mere mention of a succulent, sweet, juicy, humongous Better Boy tomato has gardeners licking their lips with anticipation and preparing their garden bed or containers for the day when they can finally begin the growing season and start producing this most popular of all tomato varieties. When it comes to the all-time best gardening tomatoes, there is no question that this is one of them. There are even backyard “tomato gardeners” that will grow nothing but the Better Boy tomato. Their whole garden is a tribute to this one vegetable; this tomato is that good!
Better Boy, One of the Best Gardening Tomatoes
The Better Boy tomato is a hybrid indeterminate variety. This is a fancy name that means it is a cross between two other tomato plants, and that it will produce tomatoes all season long. Hybrids are bred for qualities in the parent plants that are desirable. Things such as better disease resistance, color, meatiness, size and ease of growth. The Better Boy’s parents are the Big Boy and the Lemon Boy. They are still available and popular in their own right, but the Better Boy has surpassed both in popularity with commercial and individual producers. It truly is one of the best gardening tomatoes.
The Lemon Boy tomato is often advertised as an heirloom because of its unusual lemony color, but is actually an F-1 hybrid itself. It is a particularly meaty tomato with few seeds. It also has an exceptional flavor when compared to many of the bland tasting yellow varieties. Yellows also tend to be less acidic, which heart-burn and acid-reflux sufferers appreciate. Big Boy’s parentage, on the other hand, is a trade secret, as it has been for over 50 years. An Israeli vegetable breeder joined Burpee’s staff and produced a number of successful hybrid vegetables; his most significant being the Big Boy tomato in 1949. With a sweet, full flavor, this smooth, red-skinned fruit is also fragrant and can often weigh in at a pound or more. Being blessed with good disease resistance, it also has a bushy growth habit and is a strong grower. In fact, tomato connoisseurs often list it amongst the top five best gardening tomatoes.
Superior Disease Resistance
So, now that you know where it came from, let’s look at Better Boy’s qualities. First and foremost, Better Boy is resistant to Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt and nematodes. This is often annotated with the initials VFN either before or after the variety name. When it comes to tomatoes, it’s a good idea to know what the initials mean: V = Verticillium wilt, F = Fusarium wilt (F1, race 1; F2, race 2), N = nematode, T = tobacco mosaic virus, A = Alternaria alternata (crown wilt disease) and L = Septoria leafspot. Obviously, the more initials the better, but most will have three or less. Some have no special resistance at all. VFN is the standard resistance you should look for. Learn more about The 10 Most Common Tomato Plant Problems here.
Determinate vs Indeterminate
Being an indeterminate variety, the Better Boy tomato plant will produce tomatoes all season long. In fact, you can pick the green tomatoes before the first frost. Allow them to ripen in a cool place in a brown paper bag. You won’t want to let a single one of these juicy fruits go to waste! Determinate varieties, on the other hand, will form blossoms and then fruit, all at one time, then quit producing. These varieties are most popular with people wanting to make tomato pastes, sauces, salsas, stewed tomatoes, etc. for canning. You can pretty much determine when the crop will be ready to harvest and process. Most serious gardeners will plant both the determinate and indeterminate varieties.
How Many Do I Plant?
One or two plants will produce more than enough tomatoes for a family of four, allowing you to give away a few too. One of the biggest mistakes first time growers make is planting way too many plants. This means some going to waste (which is a shame). Or it can lend to the creation of more and more creative ways to use tomatoes, your first efforts at home canning, or happy neighbors and coworkers who receive the extra tomatoes!
Better Boys are meaty and have a superb flavor. They are large enough to make great sandwich slices and their smooth, red skin is a joy to see hanging from the branches. Most Better Boy tomatoes weigh in at around 8 to 12 ounces, sometimes more. They tend to have fewer problems when it comes to cracking and splitting.
You can grow Better Boys just as you would any other tomato plant, but definitely be sure to provide supports for this precious plant. You don’t want these tomatoes hanging on the ground to be easy prey for critters or insects; their size and weight make that a real possibility.
We are quite sure that you will be just as enamored of the Better Boy tomato as are most tomato lovers! Enjoy!
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By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners® ColorChoice®
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners® ColorChoice®
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