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tomato taste test: ‘juliet’ plum, farm-market find

Juliet small paste tomatoesI CAME UP ONE BATCH SHORT OF HOMEGROWN PASTE TOMATOES this year, thanks to super-dry weather, eccentric bouts of pollination-thwarting heat, and a posse of marauding chipmunks. Not bad, really, but not quite enough to fill the freezer—I needed maybe 10 more pounds. Farmer’s market to the rescue yesterday with a big bag of ‘Juliet,’ an F1 hybrid small plum that grows in grape-like clusters—a tomato I have never grown, or tasted. Ever tried it?

The fruits of ‘Juliet’ are somewhere between a plum and a grape or cherry type of tomato— just 2 inches long or so—and borne in clusters of 12 to 18. They’re small enough that I simply halved them (above) for the skins-and-all quick tomato sauce that I freeze 40 containers of each year. I am fascinated with this rich-tasting little plum, now bubbling happily on the stove. Johnny’s Selected Seed rated indeterminate ‘Juliet’ as their most disease-resistant variety in trials (no small honor), I learned today.

I have Roberto Flores, the self-proclaimed Dirtmeister at Good Dogs Farm in Ashley Falls, Massachusetts, to thank for growing the brimming bag of ‘Juliet,’ and my crafty neighbor Susan Schneider of Shandell’s, who scooped them up for me yesterday, knowing I’d been complaining about being a bag or two short. And I have the Millerton, New York, farmers’ market to thank, too—appreciation all around, friends.

Have you grown ‘Juliet’ (packet of seed for next year, anyone?) or even more to the point: Have you discovered some new favorite varieties of fruit, vegetable, or herb at your farmers’ market?

  1. Melinda says:

    Juliets are not *the* best-tasting tomato in the world, but they’re perfectly fine, and my God, so prolific and so BIG for a so-called grape tomato! A good mid-to-late season plant, *and* resistant to late blight! What’s not to like? I’m just starting to reap them in quantity.

  2. Kit Duffield says:

    The Juliet tomatoes are super reistant to late blight. They will keep their green leaves about them when tthe tomatoes one row over blacken and die.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Melinda. Wonder how I slept through the news of this variety. :) Glad to find out — better late than never! Thanks for your further details; the sauce turned out really rich and was quick to thicken.

      Welcome, Kit. This sounds like a very good thing. :) I think I’ll try a few plants next year, as I grow almost entirely paste types, so this will mix it up a bit. See you soon!

  3. Margaret Fusco says:

    Juliet was the first tomato I grew when I began 7 years ago as a small market gardener. I grow many different heirlooms now but continue to grow Juliet because she is just so darn reliable. I also sell tomato plants early in the season and when someone tells me they’ve never grown tomatoes I recommend Juliet. She is so forgiving of amateurs and never fails to produce.
    Thanks for the skins and all sauce recipe!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Margaret (nice name!). As I have said, I don’t know how I slept through ‘Juliet’ class, but I did. Yikes, I can be so oblivious. You know how it goes: there are so many hundreds of tomatoes. You are welcome, too, for the recipe — so easy, and I am SO lazy (and also like all the fiber and nutrients I can get from every crop). :) See you soon!

  4. David says:

    We began growing these great paste tomatoes last year. They are quite large compared to Roma tomatoes, and have a pointed bottom. They were called Scicilian tomatoes. They can nicely and make great paste and sauce.

    I am very grateful to my friends who introduced me to these….

  5. Ereuyi says:

    I picked up a Juliet seedling at the garden center this spring to grow in a pot on my deck, and aside from not setting fruit before the heat got here (my other variety didn’t, either), I’ve been very happy with it. It’s setting quite a bit now that we’re cooling off some, and it certainly seems to be a robust thing (though I’ve noticed that the hornworms seem to like it better than the Roma I’m growing, maybe because it’s healthier?)

  6. Jayne says:

    Juliet – will look for a source for seed. I had great luck with ‘Ladybug’ cherry tomatoes this year. They are still growing in my garden. They will burst their skins if you wait too long to pick – but of course….they are just too full with the most delicious juiciness! Made a great shrimp dish with them last night, but this isnt the week for recipes.
    WOUld you mix Roma & Juliet, all you tomato mavens? I am sure someone has thought of it!

  7. Melanie says:

    My sister and dad have been growing them for years. I dried a bunch in my dehydrator last month. LOVE them. They remind me of mini Roma tomatoes. I am definitely growing my own plants next year.

    1. Margaret says:

      @LO: Riesentraube is distinctive from cherries in that it has a nipple-like point at the blossom end. Otherwise like a large cherry. Juliet is more oval and longer.

  8. Jenny says:

    Thanks for the shout-out to the Millerton Farmers Market – we are honored to have you as a customer…maybe you can come do a talk there in October, or next year?

  9. Brian G. says:

    As a matter of fact, I did grow Juliet this year (my first year growing my own) and she is still chugging along. It certainly did produce prolifically but the size is a bit awkward. Too big for a cherry, too small for a paste. A good size for salads with good flavor. Not too sweet or complex, but ok. The very best I grew for flavor was Moskvich which I also bought from Johnny’s. It didn’t produce well (owing to the heat and lack of moisture, I am guessing) and the fruit is on the small size but what a great, complex flavor.

  10. Roberto says:

    I made a sauce with the Juliet’s. I put a ton of them in a huge pot (ok 6 pounds, there abouts, it looked like a ton) threw in a basil branch from outside, threw in salt, olive oil. I cooked it down to a sauce. I put the sauce in one of those hand crank machines that miraculously takes out all the seeds and skin. I tasted it. …I looked around to see if anybody was watching…An ingenious accident!…OMG!! I couldn’t believe what I created!! It tasted amazing!! WOW! I was left with this tasty, multi-layered complexly flavored sauce. Now I have to figure out how to do it again.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome Roberto. Thanks for the great tomatoes, and more to come I understand. :) I left the skins and seeds in (lazy girl that I am and it is delicious even with them. I am so happy to be in touch and hope that the whole Good Dogs family is thriving. See you soon!

  11. Carol says:

    I am one of the organizers of a small farmers’ market in Central Illinois. One of our vendors sells Juliets and I have learned to love them. I cut them in half and slow roast them (200°-250° oven for 2 – 3 hours) with a little garlic flavored olive oil and s and p. Our vendor says that if you parboil them they squirt right out of their skins for canning. Next year.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Carol. I just got another 5 pounds yesterday and haven’t decided yet what to make: more sauce, or (as you suggest) roasted! What will it be? Thanks for your visit, and hope we see you again soon.

  12. WakingDream says:

    I grew Juliets several summers back. I loved them in the dehydrator, cut in half lengthwise and not cored. I paired them with a smallish round cracker and a generous swipe of home made chive-cream-cheese. One must place the entire production into one’s mouth to get the maximum flavor explosion. It’s hard to beat as an appetizer. (Principe Borghese tomatoes also work nicely for this appetizer project.)

    The skins on the Juliets were just a bit too tough to be a lip-smacking raw tomato snack, but plants did bear well into the cooler fall months. They were reliable for a big harvest here in southeastern Pennsylvania. I have been missing them and hope to try them again in 2011.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Waking Dream. Next year I’ll grow some plants and dry them as you say. They seem ideal for that. Sounds like 2011 will be our shared Year of the Juliet. :)

  13. Breanne says:

    We grew 22 types of tomatoes in our garden, and canned a roasted sauce with each. We have spent the winter trying each type of tomato sauce, and the best, by far – family and friends votes included, was the Juliet tomato sauce, beating out even heirloom varieties. I can’t believe this hybrid is so incredibly tasty. Since we are so into tomato sauce, this year we are only planing 11 varieties, and half the tomatoes will be Juliet. It is pretty difficult to find, and the tastiest one is the grape, not the plum, Juliet. The only seed company offering it (that I could find) is Sheeper’s.

    1. Margaret says:

      So glad you reminded me, Breanne, and welcome! I am going to call the farmer’s market grower near me who grows them and see if he will sell me some plants this spring. If not for you, I would have let it slide…and Johnny’s (where I had intended to get it) is out of stock. Good thing I have my readers to keep me on track here! Glad to meet you, and see you soon again, I hope.

  14. Lorene says:

    Every year I try different varieties of tomatoes, but Juliets, Sungolds and Green Zebras are constants. I dehydrate the Juliets, use them in salads, and, of course, eat them right off the vine. They are a favorite. I will be sure to try them for sauce this year. One of my favorites for sauce has been Big Mamas, but I was unable to purchase the seeds this year — the seed companies only offered plants. What a disappointment. By the way, I tried the Texas Tomato Cages at your suggestions. They are GREAT!!!. I am ordering more.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Lorene. So glad the cages were a help — love them. Also share your affection for ‘Juliet’ and ‘Sungold’. :) See you soon!

  15. Terry says:

    Julliet has been my hands-down ‘favorite for years now. I freeze them whole on a tray in the freezer, then throw them in a zip lock. When I need a handful of fresh tomatoes for a recipe, I take some out of the bag and throw them in. They hold their shape surprisingly well.
    They are the tomato I dehydrate, and make fresh, skins and all sauce and roast them in the oven.
    Couldn’t ask for better!
    Totally Tomatoes, Johnny’s and a few other big names all offered Juliett this year.

  16. DonnaLee Lane says:

    I’ve been growing Juliet tomatoes for about 5 years. It has become one of my staples. I don’t like cherry tomatoes because of their cracking habit, Juliet is about the same size as a large cherry, and it does not crack. It is wonderful eaten out of hand, in salads and for sauce. Someone said it wasn’t the best tasting tomato, but in my opinion it is an excellent tasting variety with good sugar and acid ratio. I start Juliet from seed and always plant a few extras for friends. who now ask for the variety by name. Glad you have discovered Juliet’s virtues!

  17. gayle says:

    Hello – I grew red currant tomatoes this year for the first time and I love them!! They are the size of a marble and the flavor is outstanding – what a little burst of goodness from each one. And the size just makes them so cute!! Their skin is very thin so they are ones to pick and eat – they don’t store well.

    1. margaret says:

      Interesting, Gayle; I haven’t grown them lately, but you are the second person to mention them this summer/fall. Might have to try again…

  18. JoAnn says:

    I have grown Juliets for two years and will have them every year! There are great for salads, roasted with garlic – yum and make great oven-dried tomatoes which I can store. Great producers and great taste! The Groundhogs even agree with me .

  19. DonnaLee Lane says:

    I’ve been growing Juliet for a number of years. They have become one of my top 3 favorites for eating out-of-hand, in salads, and for adding sweetness to canned tomatoes when I make spaghetti sauce in winter. The year I didn’t grow my tomato plants from seed, no one (friends or garden centers) had Juliet and I was really bummed out. To my mind, nothing compares with them. Unlike cherry tomatoes, my Juliets have never cracked. They didn’t grow as large this year, but they were still nice and sweet. I now have a master gardener friend and a garden club friend growing them from seed in case time doesn’t allow me to. Friends I’ve shared my seedlings with now ask for Juliet by name.

  20. kat otto says:

    I have grown Juliets for several years, but this year, my one plant grew 7feet tall and 8 feet wide(I measured, and I’m not kidding). It has produced so many tomatoes, that I have been “sun-drying” them in my food dehydrater. I was going to rehydrate them in olive oil when I’m ready for them. (pizza topping) Despite the drought, I guess I must have keep them well watered.

  21. Terry says:

    It’s the end of the season now, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have had the BEST tomato production year EVER! Late blight has finished off the plants before frost got them, but I am secretly grateful. I just couldn’t process one more tomato. My 2 freezers are full, My canning shelves are full, my dehydrator worked overtime- and we ate so many BLT’s that I’m sure our cholesterol is going to be cause for alarm! LOL..
    And the Juliets-oh my! Like one of your other writers, my Juliets went bananas! The plants were so large, no, make that humongous, and productive that I’ll have tomatoes far into next summer. Thank you Juliets!

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