Tomato Review: Red Siberian

Posted on 7/24/2020

I think there's a disappointing lack of honest tomato reviews on the internet. During peak garden-shopping season, your local Home Depot probably has 25 or 30 different varieties of tomatoes, and it can be hard to make an informed decision. Online seed suppliers inundate you with hundreds of choices. Website descriptions and tags on plants seem to use a random combination of the same 10 superlatives to describe their tomatoes: "meaty", "high-yield", "unbelievably sweet", "unbeatable flavor". Unfortunately, if Burpee Seeds describes 10 of their tomatoes as having "unbeatable flavor", it's hard to know which ones are legit, and if you're going to put so much time into growing something, you want to make sure it's the best. I'm not any sort of professional critic, but I'd like to share my opinion on the tomatoes I grow, and hopefully be a little helpful for others like myself who are a little overwhelmed when choosing what to grow.

This summer I've been growing tomatoes particularly enthusiastically. I have 18 plants and 8 varieties. I'm planning on writing a post about the whole garden, but there are a few features I want to build into the blog first. For now, I'm just going to write a review of one of the first tomatoes to come out of the garden this summer: the Red Siberian.

Just as the COVID-19 cracks were beginning to show in New Mexico in March, I stopped at a Sprouts to stock up on some last-minute groceries. Anticipating the degree to which society might fall apart, I grabbed three tomato seed packets from the front of the store, because 1. I love fresh tomatoes from the garden, 2. I thought it would be nice to be able to supply some food for myself without needing to take the risk of going to a grocery store, and 3. I thought it was entirely possible that nurseries would be closed in a month or two, when I usually buy plants.

One of the seed packets I got was for Red Siberian tomatoes, a variety I had never heard of. There wasn't really any branding on the package, but a quick google search led me to Botanical Interests. I started eight seeds indoors in paper cups in the corner of my apartment, and incredibly all eight of them sprouted. I gave four away and kept four to myself.

This season, I had planned to plant only indeterminate varieties, and grow a single vertical stem. The Red Siberian tomato is a bush variety, but I decided to roll with it. The plants in my raised bed are currently sprawled out across the ground, crowding my other tomatoes but also perfectly healthy despite their leaves making so much contact with the ground

The growing experience has been painless. All eight seeds survived to maturity and are producing tomatoes. They required no extra pruning, no extra nutrients in the soil, and essentially no corrections in care from seed to fruit. Indeterminates and heirlooms can result in a big payoff, but also come with the risk of early-season heartbreak. For something more reliable, choose a determinate hybrid like this Red Siberian.

The plant is living up to its expectations as a bush tomato. Each branch is weighed down by about five-to-ten perfectly round tomatoes about the size of a golf ball or a tad larger. They're all at approximately the same stage of maturity, and I expect to harvest handfuls of them over the next few weeks, until the frequency of ripe tomatoes slows like the end of a bag of microwave popcorn.

Inside, the tomato is a brilliant red--exactly the color that gets me excited about tomato season when I think about the pale, mealy tomatoes I've been eating for the past nine months. The flavor is great, but a little unorthodox. It hits hard in terms of both sweetness and acidity on the initial bite, but when that fades it doesn't give way to a very strong tomato-y flavor; rather it's very subtle. It makes the flavor more like that of traditional, simpler-tasting fruit than the complex flavor of a tomato. It's like someone took a really good red slicer from the garden, and then removed 10% of the flavor and replaced it with a little bit of strawberry.

I have no legitimate complaints about this tomato. It germinated easily, was a breeze to grow, and it's now beginning to produce dozens of tasty fruit. I'm happy that I found it on the seed rack when I did. However, because of the determinate form factor and because there are just too many other tomatoes to try, I probably won't grow this again. It's a great tomato, but it's hard to justify repeating a round, red tomato that is merely "great" when there are so many wilder, more interesting varieties to explore. If you want a solid, reliable tomato that you can easily find and grow from seed, though, you might consider giving this a try. You won't be disappointed.