Other Chicago gardeners will empathize with me when I say that waiting until August for tomatoes is a painful exercise in patience. I scan the tomato bounties for sale during every farmers market trip, angry that mine remain green on the vine back home. I can’t help but compare my progress to theirs. Every trip before August leaves me seething with envy! Since “green with envy” is not a good look, I bought some Golden Bison tomato seeds from Victory Seeds as a remedy.
Golden Bison tomatoes were developed by the North Dakota State University breeding program in 1932. They are a determinate variety that has been developed for the short growing season up north, as so are typically ready to harvest 59 days after being put into the ground. That makes Golden Bisons some of the most early maturing non-cherry tomatoes. There are Golden Bison plants in my garden. Two are in the raised bed and two are directly in the ground.
These plants were the first to produce fruit, which came in heavy clusters around mid June. Because of the amount of fruit produced, a cage was necessary for each plant. The plants themselves have grown to approximately four feet. The plants in the raised bed are a bit taller.
Each plant has been moderately resistant to disease. The Golden Bisons in the planter are the second most heavily affected variety by verticillium wilt, after the Yellow Pears. The plants directly in the ground have had less problems. I had to prune a few of the plants that had yellowed leaves, but the upkeep was much less intense than that of the plants in the raised bed.
The plants are still producing a tomato here and there, but the initial heavy flush has not been repeated. Nonetheless, each plant has been a remarkably heavy producer, with about 20, if not more, tomatoes on each. The fruits themselves have been moderately resistant to cracking, and have miniscule to no catfacing. A few fruits tend to drop from the plants after a rain or during a windy day, so I picked up fallen fruit once in the morning and once in the evening. The dropped fruit was not always ripe, but the plants did not drop any green tomatoes.
The fruits themselves are typically golf ball sized and shaped, but tend to get bigger. A few fruits grew to be tennis ball sized. They range in color from lemon yellow to goldenrod. A fruit will tend to have green shoulders when lemon yellow. The green shoulders will mostly disappear when the tomato is fully ripe, and turned goldenrod. The tomatoes have a thicker than typical skin. This skin is easily peeled when the tomato is ripe.
Golden Bison tomatoes have a mild flavor, which is earthy at first, then very fruity. There are sweet notes throughout. The tomato is juicy, with thick walls and a thick inner core of pulp that does not have to be cut out. There are few seed chambers. The tomato meat disappears before the skin in one’s mouth, so you’re often left chewing on the skin. Overall. Golden Bison tomatoes have a good, simple flavor. I would recommend them for any gardener that enjoys yellow tomatoes early in the season.
Readers, are there any other early yellow tomatoes I should know about for next year?