You’re probably already familiar with the glory that is a beefsteak tomato. These big, red, juicy, tomatoes have thick, plump flesh that’s nothing short of a taste sensation. Beefsteaks are the biggest type of tomato, with fruit often weighing over 1lb. Needless to say, successfully growing your own takes a little more time and care than ordinary tomatoes, but it’s well worth the effort.
Read on to learn why these versatile, flavor-packed tomatoes are the most beloved on the planet.
What are Beefsteak Tomatoes?
The large, meaty fruit of the beefsteak tomato has smaller seed cavities than other varieties. This means that there’s a greater ratio of flesh to juice and seeds. It is also the reason why beefsteaks have such a distinctive appearance.
Often described as oblate, the beefsteak has lumpy or flattened-looking fruit. Their skin is usually smooth, and can range in color from rich reds to delicate pinks and vibrant orange. Some varieties, such as Coustralee, are ribbed.
Due to its unusual appearance, the beefsteak tomato is sometimes considered to be the ugly duckling of the tomato world. Many people prefer to purchase smaller, more perfectly round varieties such as the cherry tomato. As a result, beefsteaks are rarely grown commercially: many businesses consider their size and shape unsuitable to standard industrial operations.
Despite this, many gardeners and home chefs will tell you that beefsteaks are some of the best tasting tomatoes out there. They create sweet, juicy, multi-purpose yields that are as perfect for BLTs as they are for pasta sauces.
Benefits of Beefsteak Tomatoes (and Great Varieties to Choose From)
Not only do tomatoes taste great, they’re also good for you. Like other varieties, these tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C, and packed with fiber. Freshly picked tomatoes tend to have more nutritional value than tinned or cooked tomatoes, but they’re all good, really.
Tomatoes also contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant compound. There’s some evidence to suggest that it can protect against heart disease and cancer.
Beefsteak Tomato Varieties
If you’d like to grow your own beefsteak tomatoes, there are a number of varieties to choose from. As with most vegetables, the choice is greatly increased if you decide to grow from seed. Just be aware that tomato plants can be either determinate or indeterminate.
Determinate tomatoes are usually bush varieties. These produce blossom at the end of shoots. Flowering prevents further growth, limiting the size of the plant. Determinates will bloom and set fruit once and then decline.
Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow, flower, and produce fruit throughout the summer. The flowers of the indeterminate tomato grow on the vine, not at the end of a shoot.
Some of the most interesting beefsteaks are:
- Beefmaster: A reliable, disease-resistant, indeterminate variety that produces meaty, bright red tomatoes that can weigh up to 2lbs each.
- Big Beef: Another indeterminate variety that creates globe-shaped fruits. It lacks the typical deep-set stem and large core of other beefsteak tomatoes. As a result, there’s less waste and the slices are more pleasing to the eye.
- Brandywine: The classic Brandywine is an indeterminate pink tomato. The plants produce rich fruit with a creamy flesh. Not a heavy cropping variety.
- Corazon: A smooth-skinned almost seedless variety, so there’s more succulent flesh to enjoy. Corazon is ideal for soups and gazpachos.
- Aunt Ruby’s German Green: An heirloom variety that produces sweet, spicy, yellow and green-striped fruit.
Growing Your own Beefsteak Tomato
There’s nothing like the taste of a fresh, homegrown tomato. Since they’re originally from South America, tomatoes require a long growing season. This is particularly true for big, juicy beefsteak tomatoes. This extended growing period allows the tomatoes time to fully form and mature.
How to Grow Beef Tomatoes from seed
Most varieties can be sown under cover 6 weeks before the last frost date. Sow beefsteak tomato seeds half an inch deep in seed trays filled with well-draining starting mix. Keep the soil warm, 65-90F, and moist.
Following germination, keep the soil damp as the seedlings grow. When the seedlings are large enough, transplant them either into pots—for growing on in a greenhouse—or outside into raised beds. Unless you live in a warm area with a long growing season, beefsteaks are best grown in a greenhouse or cold frame.
Growing Tomatoes Outside
Don’t plant tomatoes outside until soil and air temperatures have warmed up and the nighttime temperature is unlikely to fall below 50F.
As the young plants are hardened off, prepare the soil for transplanting. Tomatoes like well-draining, fertile soil that’s rich in organic matter. For the best results and heaviest yields, grow tomatoes in a loamy soil. Light soils dry out quickly, which can cause the fruit to ripen before it’s fully grown.
Tomatoes require at least 8 hours of sunlight a day. Best planted in a full sun position, tomatoes can also sit in partial shade but they will be slower to grow and mature.
Your chosen location should not be somewhere that has recently grown tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, or potatoes. Repeatedly growing the same plants in the same soil increases the risk of disease. Implementing a simple crop rotation system can help you avoid this problem.
Planting Beefsteak Tomatoes
The planting process is the same whether you plant your tomatoes outside in raised beds or inside in containers.
Dig a hole large enough to hold the root ball. When placed inside, the lowest leaves should sit just above the soil. This creates a stronger root system, allowing the plant to take on nutrients and water more easily.
When you’re happy with the plant’s position, fill in the hole, mulch, and water well. The space your beefsteak tomatoes require will depend on the variety. Generally determinate varieties will need 12-24 inches, while indeterminate varieties require 14-20 inches.
Supporting your Plants
Most tomato plants require some form of support, either with stakes or tomato cages. This is particularly vital for beefsteaks. Not only can some varieties grow to up to 6ft in height, but the plants will become increasingly top-heavy as the fruit develops. Without the proper support, plants can fall and snap, ruining your entire crop.
Watering, Mulching and Feeding
Tomatoes are notoriously thirsty, so you’ll need to water them regularly. Try to keep the soil evenly moist. This prevents diseases such as blossom end rot from striking, and also stops the fruit from cracking. Mulching around your plants will help the soil to retain moisture and decreases the chances of your plants drying out.
Regularly apply a tomato feed to encourage healthy, vigorous growth. You can also side dress about half a cup of 5-10-5 fertilizer per plant. When the fruits are roughly an inch in diameter, work the fertilizer into the top inch of soil—any deeper and you risk damaging the roots. Repeat this process just as the fruits ripen. Alternatively, some people apply an Epsom salt solution to the soil around their tomato plants.
Companion planting is the process of growing beneficial plants alongside each other for healthier, happier plants and heavier yields. Carrots, onions, garlic, chives, and asparagus are all good tomato companion plants.
Avoid planting tomatoes near brassicas like cabbage, kale, or Brussels sprouts. This combination can slow or stunt growth. Tomatoes also struggle near corn, fennel, and potatoes.
The beefsteak tomato is prone to the same diseases as other varieties. As this tomato needs more time to grow and ripen, it sits on the vine for longer. This means that it’s more exposed to potential pests and diseases. As long as you keep your plants health,y they should be fine.
Harvesting Your Tomatoes
Tomatoes allowed to ripen fully on the vine have a fuller flavor than those that are picked early. If you’re unsure when to harvest your tomatoes, watch the bottoms of the fruits. Generally, the bottom ripens before the top. Heirloom varieties in particular will ripen before they reach their full color. Pick tomatoes while the skin is still smooth and waxy, even if the top has yet to turn its mature color.
To harvest, simply pluck fruits from the plant with a gentle twisting motion.
Remove all new flower clusters at the end of the season approaches, about a month before the first expected frost. This directs the plants’ energy into ripening green fruit.
Uses for Beefsteak Tomatoes
Large, juicy slices of beefsteak tomatoes look great sliced up and used fresh in sandwiches, such as BLTs, or burgers. They can also be used in a stacked salad with layers of avocados and mozzarella. This tomato’s meaty texture makes it great for pasta dishes, soups, and sauces. Furthermore, roasting beefsteaks can enhance their natural flavor.
Store beefsteak tomatoes at room temperature. Keeping ripe tomatoes in the refrigerator may slow decay, but isn’t necessary, and will dampen their flavor.
If you find yourself with a glut of the fruit, you can also dry tomatoes for long-term storage. This will allow you to enjoy them throughout the colder winter months. Alternatively, they’re perfect for canning, either whole or in sauces and salsas.
These versatile reliable tomatoes are so sweet and juicy, it’s little surprise that they’ve long been a favorite of gardeners and cooks alike. Better grow some in your own garden this year so you can enjoy them too!