The Double Standard Tomato

Green tomatoes, unripe tomatoes

What is a “double standard tomato?” In Kinds of Tomatoes: What’s Best for You we defined a standard tomato as one which breeds true from seed, generation to generation (“open pollinated” would be a synonym), but there is another kind of “standard” in tomato nomenclature. This “standard tomato” refers to the kind of fruit a given variety produces.  In this second use of “standard” we mean a tomato has the normal structure inside its fruit.

standard crosscut tomato, simple locules, four locules in a tomato
This is what a “standard fruited” tomato looks when cross cut.

One can describe inside of a tomato roughly by saying that it has “walls,” “locules” and pulp. The locules are the cavities which store the seed filled pulp.  The walls hold the tomato together and separate the locules from one another and from the outer skin. A classic standard fruited tomato has four locules, such as pictured above. Cherry tomatoes generally have two or three locules. A beefsteak tomato has a convoluted system of MANY locules. There are varying styles of beefsteak tomatoes.

beefsteak tomato, beefsteak locule structure
Black, offered by Sandhill Preservation Center, shows a classic beefsteak interior.
beefsteak structure, beefsteak tomato, multiple locules
Baker Family Heirloom shows a different beefsteak structure.

Advantages of the Standard Fruit Structure

Though there are exceptions, standard structure often comes hand in hand with being more dependable. Standard structured tomatoes often set fruit better in hot, dry conditions  than do beefsteaks. They are also larger, and easier to pick and process than are cherry tomatoes, but they rarely reach sufficient size to evoke “Oohs” and “Ahs.”

Advantages of the Beefsteak Fruit Structure

Beefsteaks are often really large and impressive. I’ve had some which, when sliced, would overlap the edges of a sandwich on all sides! People like large! However, with some exceptions, beefsteaks often struggle to set fruit in hot weather, and, in many cases, the overall pounds of harvest per plant is much lower than standard varieties.

Personally, I trust standards, more than beefsteaks, to produce abundantly.

Again, there are exceptions. Baker Family Heirloom is a beefsteak, albeit, not a supersize beefsteak. It produces reliably in our heat. The one summer I grew Black (from Sandhill Preservation Center), it did wonderfully in our climate. Yet, if trying for a really reliable, high producing tomato, I usually think “standard.”

So What’s a “Double Standard” Tomato?

I just coined the term, but by it I mean a non-hybrid variety (standard) which produces fruit of standard type structure. This combination isn’t a guarantee of high performance or excellent flavor, yet in my opinion it shows probability that a tomato which will serve well my kitchen. 

  • There is a huge selection of such standard varieties available, certainly many more than there are available hybrids.
  • They may be overlooked because they aren’t supersized or extraordinary in appearance.
  • These standard varieties are reproducible, meaning, once one gets seed, it’s not hard to save and replant from year to year.
  • They tend to be more economical (price of seed, seedlings, etc.).
  • Some have outstanding flavor. Remember “good flavor” is a subjective, personal matter. What do you like?

Some of my favorite “double standard” varieties are:

Do you have a favorite? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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