Better Boy, One of the Best Tomatoes

a better boy tomato on the vine

Ahhh. Just the mere mention of a succulent, sweet, juicy, humongous Better Boy tomato will have 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. There are even backyard “tomato gardeners” that will grow nothing but the Better Boy tomato, their whole garden being a tribute to this one vegetable; this tomato is THAT good!

The Better Boy tomato is a hybrid indeterminate variety, which 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, 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, both of which are still available and popular in their own right, but the Better Boy has surpassed both of them when it comes to popularity with both commercial and individual producers.

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 and has an exceptional flavor when compared to many 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 remarkably 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 of their all time favorites.

So, now that you know where it came from, let’s look at the Better Boy’s qualities. First and foremost, Better Boy is resistant to Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt and nematodes, 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 3 or less, with some having no special resistance at all; VFN are the most prolific diseases that you would like your tomatoes to be resistant to, but you can find more information about The 10 Most Common Tomato Plant Problems here.

Being an indeterminate variety, the Better Boy tomato plant will produce tomatoes all season long. In fact, the green tomatoes can be picked when the first frost is expected and allowed to ripen in a cool place in a brown paper bag. You really don’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, and 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.

One or two plants will produce more than enough tomatoes for a family of 4, maybe allowing you to give away a few too. Plan accordingly. One of the biggest mistakes someone growing tomatoes for the first time will be planting way too many plants, which means some going to waste (which is a shame), the creation of more and more creative ways to use tomatoes, your first efforts at home canning, or really happy neighbors and coworkers who receive the extra tomatoes your family is tired of seeing by now. The other by-product of over planting is frustration.

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 and 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 to 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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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Becca
    July 2, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Hi there! Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed the article! And, you taught me a good bit about the BB. 🙂 I have been planting them because they do so well here in NW Florida, and now I know why! We have deadly nematodes around here.

  • Reply
    jstutzman
    July 5, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it, thanks again for the great photo! Happy gardening.

  • Reply
    Maria (BearMountainBooks)
    March 6, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    What is the difference between the Better Boy and the Best Boy? I think they are both hybrids and boy Burpee developed. I grew the Best Boy last year, but can’t find any this year so sub’d in a Better Boy. I have my fingers crossed and my watering can ready!

    • Reply
      jstutzman
      March 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      The are very close in characteristics. Best Boy has 8oz fruits while Better Boy has 10oz. You will not be disappointed with Better Boy!

  • Reply
    Pam Clabo
    May 1, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    We’ve had an unusually warmish winter and so I planted better boys in mid April in E. TN (knoxville) I have many blooms on 2 plants in a container about 24″ round but I’ve noticed that when the blooms are spent, there isn’t a little green tomato growing within – what am i doing wrong?

    • Reply
      jstutzman
      May 7, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Pam, how many blooms (per plant) have you had where there is no little tomato growing?

  • Reply
    jeff
    May 4, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    I really enjoyed your article. I planted quite a few BB this year, and they are doing very well. My grandfather always swore by them!

  • Reply
    David
    August 30, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    You called tomatoes vegetable but they are fruits.

    • Reply
      jstutzman
      September 1, 2014 at 10:35 am

      You are technically correct David, tomatoes are fruits.

      However in 1893 the Supreme Court classified them as vegetables.

      Here is there ruling: “Botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people, whether sellers or consumers of provisions, all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, whether eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert.”

      Hope this helps. Joe

  • Reply
    ehansen
    July 1, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Oh my goodness, we planted Better Boys (10 plants) this year and we have just been flooded with huge, red, juicy, succulent tomatoes. Of course, this was a good year for growing a garden; we had a lot of rain in the spring, and now, at the end of June, we are still getting about one inch a week.

    This is perfect weather for growing; not too hot and plenty of natural moisture. It is practically unheard-of in the SW part of the USA!

    I have put up about 30 quarts and given them away to everybody I can think of. They are wonderful!

    • Reply
      jstutzman
      July 1, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      ehansen: Glad to here about your wonderful growing conditions! Enjoy all those tomatoes. GHS

  • Reply
    Geneticist
    May 3, 2020 at 2:08 am

    There is a genetics error in this article. F1 hybrid does not mean the plant is resistant to Fusarium. F1 hybrid denotes the hybrid generation of the plant. F1 is the first generation after a cross between parents of different types. As mentioned in the article, the parents (P-generation) of Better Boy are Big Boy and Lemon Boy (both of which are hybrids themselves). The first generation cross of these two yields an F1 generation offspring, known as Better Boy. If a Better Boy is crossed with itself, the result is an F2 generation hybrid (not advisable, as the F2 generation of most of these hybrids are not particularly healthy). If Better Boy is used as a parent with a different hybrid, another F1 generation plant will result.

    • Reply
      GrowJoy Plants
      September 15, 2020 at 3:20 pm

      Geneticist, thank you so much for pointing this out. We’ll amend the article and leave your very informative comment up for others to learn from!

  • Reply
    Renata
    May 22, 2020 at 8:44 am

    Can I plant the Better Boy tomatoes in a container/planter? Or do they have to be planted in the ground?

    • Reply
      GrowJoy Plants
      September 7, 2020 at 5:47 pm

      Renata, any tomato can be grown in a container or planter as long as it holds at least 5 gallons of soil. The trick is to keep it well watered, most summer days that’s twice a day and fertilize at least twice per week as all the water they are giving it will flush it away. Hope you got a great crop this year!

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