Big Beef Reviews

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MissS
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Big Beef Reviews

#1

Post: # 27796Unread post MissS
Sun Aug 09, 2020 4:04 pm

Big Beef is the new standard for many tomato growers, not so much for some. In this thread let's talk about the Big Beef's assets and faults.
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#2

Post: # 27806Unread post MissS
Sun Aug 09, 2020 5:28 pm

I grew Big Beef many years ago when it first was released. I had 4 very healthy plants that had great production of absolutely awful insipid tomatoes. We pulled the plants out after eating a few.

Since then there is still a lot of hype about this tomato. It seems to be many peoples favorite so I tried it again this year. Once again the plants are healthy and very productive. I have picked the first fruits and they are rather uniform red globes that are rather firm. The taste is far better than my first go round with this variety although it tastes to me like a vine ripened store bought tomato. I think it would be great for markets. It holds well on the counter. Not my go to choice for salads or sandwiches but would be great for salsa and canning. All in all I would give it a 7 out of 10. Good production and average flavor.
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#3

Post: # 27808Unread post edweather
Sun Aug 09, 2020 6:55 pm

I like it for the good balance of acid, and tomato flavor. It's an industry standard tomato with great shelf life as mentioned above. Having a hard time getting it off my grow list.
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#4

Post: # 27810Unread post Cole_Robbie
Sun Aug 09, 2020 7:48 pm

Red tomatoes and flavor is largely about soil moisture, at least in my climate. I have had early girls and big beef taste better than any heirloom red I have ever tried, but the weather has to be just right. They need enough rain to get started for their first month, and then no rain at all after that. I can remember one perfect weather year like that. A few weeks later, it started raining and the tomato flavor went way down.

If I have had a better red that the garden hybrids that year, it was the fall that I found several ripe fruit on a chinese heirloom, peiping chieh, while cleaning out the high tunnel garden I had let go to grass in mid summer. The high tunnel plastic kept them from getting rain. Moisture probably plays a role in the flavor of all tomatoes, but I think it affects reds the most.

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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#5

Post: # 28352Unread post JRinPA
Sun Aug 16, 2020 11:24 am

My Review.
If you can only grow one tomato...grow Big Beef.
If you can grow a mess of tomatoes...still grow some Big Beef. Just in case of a year like this, hot dry hot dry hot dry then HOT WET. The ones in the truck were picked this morning, since it rained all night. They are great and I don't want to them to even think about splitting.
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#6

Post: # 28373Unread post Barb_FL
Sun Aug 16, 2020 12:44 pm

Great job; that is a lot of BB tomatoes you picked this am! and you still have quite a few on the vines. How many BB plants produced the truckload?
I like that your plants have fruit super low.

I always plant at least on BB plant for insurance. Dave Freed, the tomato guy in CA. gets 100 lbs from a Big Beef (and other varieties too). I was trying to copy a picture but couldn't.
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#7

Post: # 28381Unread post JRinPA
Sun Aug 16, 2020 2:09 pm

I saw you guys were talking about him. I don't know how well that would work here, will all the humidity. We are about as far from SoCal weather as one can get. I do use a lot of compost, but other than that...I was thinking about trying it until I saw the "2-3 gal daily" on the water per plant. This year I was using 5 gallon drip for 30 plants every couple days. Many years I don't water hardly at all. I see the big pit more for a place in town where the soil has been stolen for building. Not needed here.

Oh yeah there are a bunch more, but that pic was taken a few days back. I had only cherry picked a couple trays for sandwiches before this morning, one was the pic on the table. This morning I picked about half or more of the first truss of each, I guess. A lot of first trusses still have 2-3 big orange ones. Anything with a red bottom looking to split got picked. Some ripe off the second trusses. I found one first truss "in the deep jungle" that should have been picked earlier, nice red ones, but they were split/rotted.

I will have to count. I want to say 29 and I lost 3, with 4 thessaloniki, so 30 in that row. The back trays were all big beef. Looks like about 7 trays of Big Beef and a few Thessaloniki (thessa are smaller but good/sweeter and I have picked some for BLTs). All from the right double row. That leaves 3 trays of mostly my fauxpice mixup seed, along with a handful of CP, SOO, and maybe a Paul Robeson. Those were from the left double row which is shorter and the fauxpice went crazy with suckers.

It was not perfect execution. The spacing was through the black mulch that had holes burned last year for corn and tomatoes/peppers. Last year's tomatoes/peppers were about 14" spacing in the row, and the corn was 9". So at the 9" I skipped and put in radish or redbeet seed. That didn't do much since it was so dry and the drip tape was down the middle of each double row. Both rows had AG19 over them and I waited too long to pull it. I didn't have that CRW ready yet. When I did pull the AG19 the tomatoes were really pushing it and already had lots of stems. I wanted to run 1 stem up each vertical, one of every 6", so that each plant would be 2 or 3 stems and easy to train. But the plants were tough to coax them out that far so relented on the fauxpice and I dropped some strings from the top instead on the big beef row.

For the big beefs I kept it to two stems pretty well, supressing all except the big sucker under the first fruit cluster. Next year I should be golden and will absolutely keep to the plan. (sure I will). I need a little big more space between rows, or separate tomato rows, to make it easy to walk through. But the corn I want to keep in blocks, so I must compromise. Somehow. Tomatoes Corn Corn Tomatoes maybe.

With florida weave I was getting 3 good trusses per big beef plant plus maybe laggards, with about 1 ft per stem. Call it 12-15 good tomatoes per foot, plus peppers with their own weave on the other side of the double row. The problem was, they would start to sag the weave or fall down between the lines once the weight developed and they lost branches due to pruning or blight. Or wind would blow it some. So then I wouldn't get many past the 3rd truss. I wanted to try the CRW run like this, double row with drip underneath, and I think it works great.
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#8

Post: # 28395Unread post JRinPA
Sun Aug 16, 2020 3:49 pm

♪ ♫ ♪
I
like
big
beefs
and I cannot lie
you other growers can't deny
:shock: :shock:

This a pic of that tray of big beefs on the table versus the other tomatoes.
Big Beef is the top tray.
Bottom tray from left:
Sweet Ozark Orange(3) are doing well and taste great.
Cherokee Purple(4) are smaller and lots of concentric cracking. Lots of catfacing on bottom.
Thessaloniki(7), kind of a thin skin but meaty center, not bad, some cracking
Paul Robeson(1) on end, every one of them has had lots of cracking and splitting. Lots of catfacing on bottom.
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#9

Post: # 28406Unread post brownrexx
Sun Aug 16, 2020 5:14 pm

That's a lot of tomatoes all at once @JRinPA What will you do with them?
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#10

Post: # 28414Unread post JRinPA
Sun Aug 16, 2020 6:59 pm

This year is pizza/ravioli sauce (down to <7 quarts I think). We used to freeze 1 cup ea in ziploc as a food processor/cook down job. Chunky. When I bought a victorio with the super powerful, I mean, powerfully electrically efficient, 55w motor, it became a milled tomato-->food processed remainder and pressure canned recipe. It is better for ravioli this way and still great for pizza with bonus of no skins or seeds. They didn't matter for pizza but, this is better since the jars don't have to be thawed, and can use extra if wanted. But a quart jar can easily stretch for four, 2 pizza meals. Only use a half cup per pizza. Also can use it just to dip mozzarella, or mozz sticks. It's not really a pasta sauce though. Plain old cans of Del Monte Traditional is what we use for spaghetti.

The problem is the kitchen, 12 qt+8.5qt+8qt is max doable and only about 30 quarts of tomatoes, even when topped off after a bit. For a real good sauce, that cooks down to 10 qts. Which is 1.5 pressure canner loads, well a bit more with the other vegetables. It's never quite the same, so it never gets old. Today I cold milled the inside tray plus 5.5 trays from the truck. So 6.5 trays made 30 qts milled. These were pretty nice tomatoes, so maybe it won't need to cook down as much. I usually stand a certain tall spoon to judge. It will for sure be more than one canner load. It's not that big a deal to only do 4 jars, but I make it a big deal in my head. Pressure canning suace is so easy, but you have to plan for a 2 hour minimum cycle, heat up and down.

Then I have 4.5 trays of the big beefs from that pick for the next cook. At least they aren't sucking up water, though the raised rows help a lot in that regard too. I used the few splits and cracks and tried to avoid the lighter colored ones so a few days won't hurt. But probably tomorrow night, do another cook. May just do one load tonight and refrigerate the remainder until tomorrow.

There is plenty of chili sauce and salsa from 2018. Besides pizza sauce, I need to make tomato basil soup this year. That gets milled/juiced and pressure canned. Roasted sauce, I'm not sure how much we have. We still have some frozen. But I like to mill and can that in pints. That is the recipe from tomatoville that was all the rage when I joined there, roasted hot tomato with hot peppers sauce. I do it with an old convection oven that I put outside on the picnic table. I use it for pasta at times, and sausage. Any extra tomatoes at the end of the year can go for plain sauce, that is real easy. I just don't like to use freezer space for things that can be passably canned.

I would love to have another kitchen, like a canning kitchen type deal. Be great to have an extra place to process game and garden. Or at least a standalone burner to put outside...but then you have bugs. A cold cellar would be nice. Hmmm. But we do okay here, it just gets hectic.
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#11

Post: # 28415Unread post JRinPA
Sun Aug 16, 2020 7:24 pm

I just looked at the notes from the last couple years and I should be able to mill another tray or so and have enough to do two pressure canner loads tonight. The three pots are down enough to add at least one tray now. I forgot this is the first year with the 8qt pot. Previous that 3rd pot was only 5 qts. That extra capacity will make it easier to get a full 14 qts done in one cook. Basically the tomatoes cook down with just bay leaf until the 12 qt pot is half full of thick sauce. Then add the rest of the ingredients to make 7 qts, and pressure can it then. When the canner gets going, the two smaller pots can be dumped into the big pot for the 2nd batch of 7 qts and be ready two hours later. Then there is enough for pizza once a week for year.

So..I'll only have to do this twice more this season to have enough pizza sauce for three times a week!
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#12

Post: # 28417Unread post pepperhead212
Sun Aug 16, 2020 8:02 pm

I have a question for you @JRinPA (and any other canners out there), since you mentioned pressure canning tomatoes: I only did this once (all other times, just water bath), and a lot of the tomatoes leaked out of the jars, plus one didn't seal, which I thought may have been due to the leakage. I read that they should only be filled to an inch from the rim, but actually had them around 1 1/2" from the rim, just because that was what I had, and used new lids, as always. Yet I still got the tomatoes leaking out. I got the water boiling, before lowering the jars in, then brought the pressure up to just over 10 lbs, cooked the 25 min., and let the pressure release naturally. Any ideas to prevent the leakage?

I'll post my Big Beef experiences a little later - right now I have to go remove some tomatoes from the grill - fire roasted tomatoes I will be canning!
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#13

Post: # 28431Unread post pepperhead212
Mon Aug 17, 2020 12:19 am

I have grown Big Beef since I tried it, maybe 15 years ago, and it has rated as one of the highest every season. Every season I try new types, hoping to find some keepers, and I have what I call "blind taste tests" with a bunch of tomatoes every season; of course, I know what they are, but others don't. I was surprised the first season, when BB rated on top! Of course, some don't like the stronger flavors of juicy tomatoes, but I have always liked stronger, more tangy and acid tomatoes. Green zebra tested on top several years before, but many can't stand it. As I would tell people, when they would taste new tomatoes, see how they liked them, then taste one of the stronger ones, then go back to the other, and often, the mild tomatoes (though not necessarily bad) would be almost totally tasteless - like eating milk chocolate after bittersweet! A few times the top rated ones were a new variety, but usually something that didn't produce well, or was very disease prone. The heirlooms seldom panned out - often not as flavorful, but usually disease prone. BB isn't the most disease resistant type, but it is the best producer and flavored type, with some disease resistance.

This year, I grew only 2 plants, in SIPs, one totally organic, one not, and those in the organic didn't produce as well (though both were fairly early, just after 7-4), and didn't taste any better, side by side, so I started treating them the same, adding some hydroponics nutrients to the organic, along with other "snacks"; it never really caught up, but both are still producing, and have definitely produced more lbs than any other varieties this season.
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#14

Post: # 28432Unread post pepperhead212
Mon Aug 17, 2020 12:19 am

I have grown Big Beef since I tried it, maybe 15 years ago, and it has rated as one of the highest every season. Every season I try new types, hoping to find some keepers, and I have what I call "blind taste tests" with a bunch of tomatoes every season; of course, I know what they are, but others don't. I was surprised the first season, when BB rated on top! Of course, some don't like the stronger flavors of juicy tomatoes, but I have always liked stronger, more tangy and acid tomatoes. Green zebra tested on top several years before, but many can't stand it. As I would tell people, when they would taste new tomatoes, see how they liked them, then taste one of the stronger ones, then go back to the other, and often, the mild tomatoes (though not necessarily bad) would be almost totally tasteless - like eating milk chocolate after bittersweet! A few times the top rated ones were a new variety, but usually something that didn't produce well, or was very disease prone. The heirlooms seldom panned out - often not as flavorful, but usually disease prone. BB isn't the most disease resistant type, but it is the best producer and flavored type, with some disease resistance.

This year, I grew only 2 plants, in SIPs, one totally organic, one not, and those in the organic didn't produce as well (though both were fairly early, just after 7-4), and didn't taste any better, side by side, so I started treating them the same, adding some hydroponics nutrients to the organic, along with other "snacks"; it never really caught up, but both are still producing, and have definitely produced more lbs than any other varieties this season.
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#15

Post: # 28498Unread post JRinPA
Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:03 pm

pepperhead212 wrote:
Sun Aug 16, 2020 8:02 pm
I have a question for you @JRinPA (and any other canners out there), since you mentioned pressure canning tomatoes: I only did this once (all other times, just water bath), and a lot of the tomatoes leaked out of the jars, plus one didn't seal, which I thought may have been due to the leakage. I read that they should only be filled to an inch from the rim, but actually had them around 1 1/2" from the rim, just because that was what I had, and used new lids, as always. Yet I still got the tomatoes leaking out. I got the water boiling, before lowering the jars in, then brought the pressure up to just over 10 lbs, cooked the 25 min., and let the pressure release naturally. Any ideas to prevent the leakage?

I'll post my Big Beef experiences a little later - right now I have to go remove some tomatoes from the grill - fire roasted tomatoes I will be canning!
If the contents siphon out, then it will be a chance not to seal. The good thing is, with pressure canning, all that seal should stay sealed. Most if not all the failures I have had in the Pantry (days weeks months later) were bwb seals.

I read this earlier and took some pics today of what they look like before and after today's sauce. None of these siphoned out and all sealed.

Do you have a weighted gage/wobbler that holds pressure steady? I have a presto but never used the standard valve; I spent the extra for weighted gauge that absolutely should come with all of them.

As I understand it, the depressurization is when siphoning occurs. Anytime the gauge goes down, the material (other than water which is "nearly incompressible") expands. Air in the material expands as it depressurizes, and it disrupts a chunk of tomato or pepper to do so. If this is a slow process, no problem. If it only happens one continuous time at the end, good. But if it constantly varying "around 10psi" than it is constantly going to want to spit. If it comes down too quickly, it will spit.

What I do is leave plenty of headspace. Make sure the vegetables and spices in the sauce are well cooked (don't add them last 10 minutes and then seal and can them). The sauce should be bubbling yet when the filling begins. Turn it off now. The canner should have the tray/rack on the bottom and 2-3 quarts of water hot and just about boiling on 5/medium. Stir the sauce well and scoop deep so all the thickest bits do not end up in the last two jars. Fill to halfway up shoulder, but not to throat (pics below). Wipe the jar rim with vinegar, lid, twist seal, that one in canner. Next hot jar, do the same. When all done, oil the gasket, seal it, and let them come up to heat on medium+. My stove is glass electric, Lo 1-9 HI, I use 5.5 - 6 on the the big burner. Ten to fifteen minutes later, the vent locks closed; I set a timer for 10 minutes of steam equalization. After 10 minutes, spin on the weight like a top to ensure it sits on correctly. I set the 10 minute again. If the heat is right it will be nearly exactly 10 minutes for the weight to start wobbling. Then I set the stove to 3 and the timer for a minute or so short of process, go about whatever, come when I hear it beep.

When it is done, I have two options. Turn off the stove completely for a 30 minute cooldown, or turn it off and then reset it to 1 or 2 on the inner burner. I use the canner on the main burner, it has an option for just the center which is much less wattage. If I am worried about siphoning (thick tomato sauce) then I will set that at 1 or 2 to help the canner come down to 1atm a little bit slower than turning it off. What I don't do, is to move the canner. Taking that bottom off the heat is the surest way to cool it off too quickly.

I like to wait longer than the just the 30 minutes until the seal drops. Often I will leave the weight on and unpack it in the morning when it is well cooled. The jars sealed long ago and can be unscrewed right away.

It takes some getting used to, and it takes some careful thought when it doesn't work out. Honest cause and effect analysis. I have had sauce that I thought should be fine, pretty much headspace, but ended up with 5 good 1 messy 1 unsealed. That particular time, I wanted a "fresher" tasting sauce so I didn't put the vegetables in until late, and then I moved the canner afterward to clear the stove sooner. The seal dropped in under 25 minutes. None of them tasted any different anyway. They were great, but not any fresher tasting. And I have no idea why only 2 siphoned instead of all 7. Until we are cooking with lights and camera in there, it is tough to know what is happening inside a pressure canner.

Pizza Sauce 2020 Batch#2
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#16

Post: # 28506Unread post pepperhead212
Tue Aug 18, 2020 12:15 am

Thanks for the reply, @JRinPA! I pretty much followed the suggestions you made, and like I said, had even less tomatoes in the jars than suggested, but they still got messy, and one didn't seal. I have one of those wiggle weights, and once the pressure got to 11 or so, I adjusted the flame, and it stayed right there. And I let it release naturally - I have always been leery of those recipes calling for releasing the pressure early! I figure people that never really cooked wrote those recipes. Hopefully, next time I'll have better luck. Today I did 5 pints of fire-roasted tomatoes, but did a water bath with those - the amount was perfect for the water bath, but I would have had to put less in every jar, for the pressure canning.

Back to the Big Beef - both plants are still producing, and both have new flowers and new growth, though the organic SIP has less tomatoes on it. A lot of other varieties are gone!
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#17

Post: # 28522Unread post brownrexx
Tue Aug 18, 2020 9:37 am

@pepperhead212 I have read that having too much headspace in jars that are pressure canned can cause siphoning of the contents during the canning process. Having too much trapped air around the contents in the jars can cause the same thing but I doubt that would be the problem with tomatoes.
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#18

Post: # 28556Unread post JRinPA
Tue Aug 18, 2020 2:17 pm

What is really comes down to with canning is experience, particularly with YOUR stove and equipment. I can a lot.

The other thing that is needed is reliable garden production! If only there was a tomato for that...
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#19

Post: # 28719Unread post JRinPA
Fri Aug 21, 2020 12:25 am

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I had 3 trays left over from Sunday/Monday. These sat out in boat and held up pretty well to the sun and 1/8" of rain. Still in very good shape and sweetened up. Lost 1 to collapse and another one I tossed half due to a soft spot. Had one of these for a sandwich tonight and the flavor was as good as it gets.

2nd pick, 8/21. Some years the second pick is still in July. I needed a few more so I went and picked all that looked ready. Big Beefs and Thessaloniki in the 4 trays. A lot of the 2nd trusses had fewer fruit. It was very hot and not conducive to fruit set for much of the season, but they did pretty well without help. I've been looking for my tuning fork all year but can't seem to find it. Long past needing it, now, so I should stumble across it soon. Tray 4, the tomato on the bottom left corner had a little BER, but it was easy to cut around, and used 80% or more of that fruit. That is the bottom of it showing. Looks like a stem hole instead of a blossom scab. Other than some cracks, that was the only one with any problems.
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Third batch of pizza sauce is done now and coming down slowly. The trays from Monday, the few damaged from today, and half the mountain of little red ones were cooked down. Then spices. Lastly, the basil and peppers, plus an onion and a big bulb of garlic went in. That make 21 jars of pure joy so far. I hate to say it, but it is a lot more work to do this with most heirloom/OPs I have grown. Much more in the way of percent loss and knife time required to remove the corruption before milling. I used to use a lot of heirlooms for canning, but it was weeks of fruit flies in the kitchen from all the defects and leaks and outright collapses.
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Re: Big Beef Reviews

#20

Post: # 29335Unread post JRinPA
Sat Aug 29, 2020 2:03 am

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right side of Big Beef double row after two big picks.
Blurry pics taken a few evenings back...it was a lot darker out than that sky appears...Color is about right though. Today they were a few days riper and I wanted them picked before the storm. I got there right as the storm was threatening. Speed picking, I got all the ready big beef (6 trays) and half of my little ones (3 trays) into trays and on the ground and then the straight line winds came as I was running them to the truck. The west wind just about folded my driver's side door when I opened it...that would have made for a bad day. I don't even know what coverage that would be. Probably U-Pull-It out of pocket...I left behind three trays on the ground and jumped in the truck when the sky opened up, and then realized a length of agribon had blown out of my truck bed. By realized, I mean it was 200 feet from me and 30 foot from the highway! It wasn't even unrolled, still daisy chained to itself, but zipping across the parking lot. Luckily when the sky cut loose, it was pinned by the rain and I was able to grab it.

Crazy violent storm, but this cage system works so well...the rebar/CRW rows just laughed at that wind. I'm sure previous years' florida weaves would have been compromised and lost tomatoes. When I came back in the evening to collect the three left behind trays and to pick the remainder of the small variety on the left (2 more overloaded trays of them), I didn't take notice that any of the remaining blushed or green big beefs were on the ground. I also wonder if this strong support system is the main reason that a whole lot of these big beefs are hitting 16-17 oz each. The trusses are pretty well supported and the vines aren't folding and choking off nutrients. I try to keep track of the modal number, a 2 oz range or so. Usually for Big Beef with the florida weave it is 12-13 oz. Which I always thought was excellent. This year it is 16-17 oz. These are two stem plants, for the most part. One after another after another of the 1st and particularly the 2nd picking were 1 lb each. This third picking still had a lot of big ones, but they'll probably taper off after this.

Below, right side of double row of smaller canning tomatoes with a few cuostralee mixed in. Also had been picked twice before.
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