Next up on the January Hit Parade will be our Sonoran Flair beefsteak tomato, a medium-sized sandwich slicer, smaller than some beefsteaks, maybe tennis-ball-sized. This variety is selected from F8 Solar Flair seeds(nowadays spelled “Flare” instead of “Flair”), which were selected and provided by grower and originator Brad Gates at Wild Boar Farms. We will be selecting for flavor, size and for drought and heat resistance. In the near future, we plan to select for cold hardiness as well, at high altitude gardens in Northern Arizona. At the same time, we will be carefully preserving any unusually colorful or otherwise noteworthy mutations for further investigation.
Visually, the primary distinguishing feature of these tomatoes is the presence of metallic gold stripes over a deep red appearance. The overall effect is most appetizing. Those who act on the impulse to bite into one will be rewarded with warm yet sweet flavor, a high degree of juiciness and a savory complexity that goes just as well on a bacon cheeseburger as it does with avocado and bell peppers in your salad.
Use ground cover such as melon or squash to cool the ground and preserve moisture through the hottest part of the summer. Then you can cut the ground vines away as fall approaches, and the mature plants will produce heavily until frost.
The selection criteria for Sonoran Flair are:
- Heat resistance. We are looking to sell a tomato seed that will set fruit well above 100 degrees. These plants have survived 120-degree summers in Southern Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, and set fruit in spite of spending weeks at or above 110-115 degrees.
- Currently being adapted for short seasons and cooler summers in our Painted Desert location at 6700 feet on top of a mesa in Pine and Juniper forest
- Drought tolerance. A scarcity of water goes with the territory when the temperatures are well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the late afternoon.
- Size. This doesn’t mean we select for the biggest monsters we can produce. We seek to select a variety that serves as the RIGHT SIZE rather than the largest size. We’re looking for the perfect burger and sandwich slicers here.
- As always, even if all the above criteria are met, taste is the deal-breaker. These tomatoes must taste GREAT or they just don’t make the team, simple as that.
- Unusual colors, cherry sizes or noteworthy mutations will of course be preserved for exploration as fixed phenotypes, going into the future.
The pictures show these beauties nearing ripeness in our January gardens. Over the next couple of weeks, these large berries will change color, with the lighter color deepening into red, and the dark colored stripes richening to a deep gold color.
These are very hardy plants, having survived a brutal 2016 summer in Phoenix, and several freezes in December and January this winter. Hardy and beautiful in a single fruit. Drought tolerance is great with this variety, too. A permanent addition to our catalog.