Tired of tasteless tomatoes? Chances are that every tomato lover will be a bit disappointed in discovering that the tomatoes they grew in their hydro garden aren’t much better tasting than the ones from the store, though they will have the right texture being vine ripened.

Like exactly what is the secret here? It’s a combination of things. Namely real sunshine, soil, moisture, and cultivar.

Sure, tomato plants grow like mad given lots of water, however, you stand the risk of split skins, and are definitely loosing flavor. It’s not always enough to ensure good drainage, even jalapenos have more flavor grown in somewhat drier conditions. Of course, if you’ve grown some improved hybrid you’re likely already sacrificing flavor. Ignore any tomato seed offer that says, “our most popular variety,” or “biggest seller,” etc. A lot of market farms buy their seed from the same places you do. That drives up the ‘popularity’ of any vegetable seed, because these growers buy in bulk. Things are different when you only grow heirloom varieties which tend to be open pollinated, though not always.

For some reason tomato breeders decided we needed tons of low-acid tomatoes. Reduced acid equals reduced flavor, but they just want to sell tomato seeds. That old-fashioned tomato awesomeness is the perfect balance of sweet and acid. Furthermore, reduced-acid tomatoes are dangerous to can. Who would want to, when their bland flavor does nothing for salsas or spaghetti sauce? Best to make sure you’re buying real tomato seed – cultivars that have been with us for many, many years. Their delightful high juice content, and beautiful flavor won’t have been messed with so they can be perfectly round, ship better, give wholesalers and grocery stores a month of shelf life, or suit special consumers. The commercial preferred varieties are tasteless, and crunchy like a cucumber purchased at the store. The ‘sweet’ home garden varieties were bred to appeal to people who don’t like anything sour or have delicate tummies.

Next is the lumens of the sun versus your grow lights. If you’re going to grow tomatoes indoors, the better flavor will come from the most intense lights you can get your hands on. The sun throws light that is 100,000 lumens and that along with UV rays are part of the secret in what makes garden tomatoes so tomatoey. Getting started under lower intensity light is fine. Once they head into flower and fruit production stage, you need to bring on some serious lighting.

Efficiency is important in the indoor garden and even commercial hydroponic tomato growers are only capable of producing vine ripened fruits with bland flavor when maintaining recommended conductivity in their nutrients. There is a lot more nutrients in real soil than is found in even the best nutes you can buy. There are upwards of 17 elements in any nutrient on the market, but the soil has more than 90 elements in it. Big difference, wouldn’t you say?

Its been found that the EC level usually aimed for to guarantee rapid growth and increased yields is a big part of bland hydroponic tomatoes. You can measure tomato flavor with a BRIX tester, but using the already discovered corresponding EC levels will give you the same result for less investment. Standard EC of 3.0 isn’t what you want. A great tasting hydroponic tomato results from 4.1-4.6 EC. Your plants will grow slower and your yield will be reduced, but what is more important here? A bland tasting tomato doesn’t do a salad, a sandwich, a sauce or an entree much good. Yes, your tomato plants in the hydro garden will be a little salt stressed, but not so much that they won’t give you plenty of great tasting fruit. Quality still outweighs quantity. : Get more info here about this.

You might also consider growing your tomatoes outside the hydro system. Real soil is part of the thing that grows a truly mean tomato. Fabric pots will allow you to grow in a soilless blend or bonafide soil. They dry out quickly with straight potting mix which is designed for pots that don’t breath in the first place. You can mix 25% topsoil with soilless mix and have no issues in a standard plastic growing container. With the sidewalls providing both drainage and air flow, your potting mix can contain a lot more soil. Try a 50-50 blend and a drip system. Make part of the topsoil you add worm castings but not a lot as it is mucky or fine particled but will do wonders for your tomatoes’ robustness of growth. You can also feed them worm tea and liquid fish and they’ll not only be organic but will be delighted to grow faster and better.

By the way, increased EC for indoor garden grown tomatoes also heightens their health benefits. They have 20% more lycopene which means their antioxidant properties are far more intact. Sometimes flavor isn’t all about taste.

Tammy Clayton

Tammy Clayton

Content crafter and Senior Editor at Garden Culture Magazine
Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home. (Some feel she's got a perennial obsession, others say the problem is tomato plants.)

If you don't find her at the desk - check the gardens. When not writing and weeding, she enjoys a good book, painting junk furniture, and blending the harvest of heirloom tomatoes and chiles into salsas.
Tammy Clayton

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