- Author: Kathy Low
A few weeks ago I was browsing through the nursery at a farm in Vallejo and saw a tomato plant that was just labeled with a “J” on the pot. I questioned farmer Rita about it and she told me it was a Japanese tomato plant she grew from a packet of seeds she found at a market. Never having heard of a Japanese tomato before, I couldn’t resist the urge to buy it and plant it in my garden just out of curiosity.
After planting it, I started researching my new Japanese tomato plant. I should have known there would be countless varieties of Japanese tomato plants. But three plants appear to be popular among California gardeners.
The Momotaro tomato, both the heirloom and the hybrid varieties, seems to be the most popular Japanese tomato grown in the state. Extremely popular in Japan, this indeterminate plant grows five feet tall and produces thick skinned rose pink meaty tomatoes. The average tomato weight is six to seven ounces. There is also a yellow Momotaro variety. Named after a Japanese folk hero, the taste of this low acid tomato is frequently described as both sweet and tangy.
Another indeterminate tomato plant that also produces low acid pink fleshed tomatoes is the Odoriko. The heirloom Odoriko is listed as one of the top ten best tasting heirloom tomatoes in issue #88 of Fine Gardening magazine, while the hybrid Odoriko is listed in an article on the Sunset website on their favorite slicing tomatoes. Some gardeners also report the tomatoes are slightly larger in size than the Momotaro.
Producing orange-yellow tomatoes, the indeterminate Mandarin tomato plant is another heirloom Japanese tomato. The average tomato weights six to ten ounces. Mandarin tomatoes add a nice color variety to garnishes and salsa recipes.
Although the three plants just mentioned produce pink or orange-yellow flesh tomatoes, there are a number of popular red fleshed tomatoes like the Katana tomato. But little information is available as to whether or not this red tomato grows well in California.
An additional frequently grown tomato plant often referred to as a Japanese tomato is the Japanese Black Trifele, aka the Japanese Black Truffle. Known as one of the darkest colored black tomatoes, it is actually of Russian origin, not Japanese.
Although I have no idea if my Japanese tomato plant is one of the three popular ones often grown in California, I can’t wait until the tomatoes ripen on the plant. It will be fun determining what variety the tomato is, and tasting a tomato I’ve never tried before!