Have you ever bought tomatoes that were all juice and no flavour? Tired of soggy sandwiches and watery sauces? Homegrown tomatoes are the answer for many Australian gardeners – and beefsteak tomatoes are the ones to choose if you’re hoping for meaty tomatoes with a mild tang that’s nevertheless distinctively “tomato”. This article is your guide to growing Beefsteak Tomatoes. With helpful tips on how to grow your own Beefsteak Tomatoes and why you should grow Beefsteak Tomatoes. We hope you enjoy and learn something new or are inspired to grow Beefsteak Tomatoes in your veggie patch this Spring.
So, What’s a Beefsteak Tomato?
It’s clearly not a cross between a cow and a tomato, so what on earth makes a tomato “beefsteak?” There are a few ways to recognize these beauties. First of all, they’re usually way bigger than ordinary tomatoes. It’s not all that unusual for a single fruit to weigh as much as 450 grams or even more.
The shape isn’t perfectly round or oval. Instead, there’s a ribbed appearance, almost as if the tomato had decided to grow bigger than its skin would allow. That’s typical of the ancient, pre-Columbian tomatoes that people have been enjoying for centuries.
Slice into the tomato and you’ll notice that the seed compartments (locules) are quite small, though numerous. This allows beefsteaks to be juicy without ever being soggy. It’s the number one reason to choose them as a sandwich filling.
Of course, all that fleshiness means that beefsteak tomatoes are great for processing. One of the annoying things about making sauces has been cooking off surplus liquid. With less water to cook away, beefsteaks cut down on the time (and amount of tomato) that’s needed to make a tasty sauce or relish.
Why You Don’t See Beefsteak Tomatoes Often
With so much going for them, you’d expect beefsteaks to be popular with commercial growers. They aren’t. Here’s why.
First up, there’s the sheer size of the things. Processed tomato products are made using automated processes. Beefsteaks are simply way too big for the standard tomato processing production line. With that market out of the way, there’s still the market for fresh tomatoes. But once again, it’s the sheer size of beefsteak tomatoes that gets in the way.
With fruits so large, it’s no surprise that beefsteaks take a little longer to develop. Then there’s the matter of packaging. Most of us are used to nearly half a kilo of tomatoes consisting of several fruits, not one ginormous tomato. It could just be a bit of a hard sell, especially when the tomato in question has a shape that most people won’t be familiar with.
As for home gardens, heirloom seeds were pretty rare until recent years. With beefsteaks gaining ground, we can expect to see them with increasing frequency, though not in regular produce markets.
What are Beefsteak Tomatoes Good For?
We’ve already discussed sandwiches and sauces a little, but beefsteaks are perfectly good for any other tomato-related recipe. You may need to slice them up a little differently for salads. And that round of sandwiches may need to be followed by a meal with tomato as an ingredient to use up the remainder of those massive fruits. Other than that, beefsteaks are just like ordinary tomatoes and can be used in the same way.
Want a bonus tasty tip for your guide to growing Beefsteak Tomatoes? Roasted, stuffed beefsteak tomatoes are a treat! Alternatively, simply halve them and roast them as they are with a topping of cheese and a sprinkle of paprika. Thanks to their mild flavour, you won’t have to do as much to counteract acidity.
How to Grow Beefsteak Tomatoes
Another element (arguably the most important one) in your guide to growing Beefsteak Tomatoes is how to grow them. The first thing to remember is that most beefsteak varieties are indeterminate. That means that they just keep growing and are more like vines than bushes. To keep them in check and promote branching, a little pruning is needed to get the best out of them.
Apart from that, you will need to use supports so that the vines don’t sprawl on the ground. Some people grow them in wire cages, but regular stakes will do. Or you can try growing them next to a wire fence that can be used for support.
Sow them relatively early in the season, as soon as the frosts are over and expect vigorous growth once they get settled in. Try red Santorini beefsteak tomatoes for lower maintenance or go for the unusual Black Beauty tomato with it’s shiny purple-black skin and dark flesh. We also have the most “ordinary” of the extraordinary beefsteak varieties for you to try.
As a general tip for tomato growing (beefsteak or not) ensure that you choose a spot with rich, friable soil where you haven’t grown tomatoes for the last three years or so. This break in tomato production allows us to grow a legume and a leaf crop or root crop in the soil. Giving it time to recover depleted nutrients, and it also starves out any tomato-targeting pathogens that could give you headaches.
Despite all this, a little extra feeding won’t go amiss. Especially since you do want your plants to produce those enormous fruits that will get your social media followers wondering whether you resorted to photoshop!
Storing Beefsteak Tomatoes
Shelf life is one of the things that modern tomatoes are bred (and sometimes genetically altered) to achieve. As heritage varieties, beefsteaks don’t store quite as well fresh. The good news, there are ways to get around that. Tasty relishes that you can store in the freezer and add to cooking are just one solution. Simply cook the tomatoes, possibly with a little onion, and freeze.
If you don’t really have time to skin your tomatoes, simply halve them, roast them, and freeze them like that. It’s easy to remove the skins after adding your frozen tomato halves to cooking. You can see how long your beefsteak tomatoes will last fresh, but they should ideally not be stored in the fridge. Keep them at room temperature and try to extend their lifespan by excluding direct light.
You can put them in the fridge at a pinch, but they’re known to lose some of their flavour there, so it’s not ideal. It’s also worth remembering that they won’t ripen any further in the fridge. So if they aren’t fully ripe when you pick them, it isn’t yet time for refrigeration.
Go for Variety
Each tomato cultivar has its own special properties. Though it would be impractical to try growing them all, you should certainly go for a little variety. After all, cherry tomatoes are a joy, and nothing can quite mimic the effect you get when you pop one into your mouth and bite down for a taste explosion. If you have a little space to spare, some medium-sized tomatoes can fill the gap while you wait for your beefsteaks to be ready for harvest.
You can also play around a little with colour and flavours, discovering the tomato varieties that best suit your palate. However, every keen gardener with ample space should try growing beefsteak tomatoes, even if it’s just once.
There you have it, your guide to growing Beefsteak Tomatoes. Tag us in social media when your prizewinning giants are ready. We’d love to see the results. Tomato challenge this summer? First prize is bragging rights! Who will take us up on that?