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!