Golden Bison Tomato – A Review

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.

Top row shows the most varied fruit shape-wise, while the bottom shows the most typical.


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 cut length-wise and width-wise.


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?


Battling Tomato Wilt

Gardeners have often heard the importance of rotating vegetable crops during seasons. Rotate your crops! Your plants will drain the soil of needed nutrients otherwise! Rotate your crops! Your plants will become more vulnerable to disease otherwise! I have gardened with this maxim in the back of my head, but often have found the tasty homegrown tomato bounties’ siren songs too difficult to resist. And so, bucking common wisdom, I grew tomatoes in the same spot as tomatoes years past. Until this year, all was well. Tomato plants flourished in the same locations year after year.

Well, the time has come to atone for my gardening sins. How I rue my confidence now, thinking that a major disease could never strike my plants. Well, fusarium wilt, or verticillium wilt, came this year with a vengeance. I guess I was due for my lesson from Mother Nature.

Wilting Yellow Pear Tomatoes Disease
What bucking common wisdom will get you.

Both fusarium and verticillium wilt share many characteristics, making it difficult for a gardener to distinguish between the two. Both are soil-borne fungi, so the disease travels from the roots of the plant through the stem. [1] , [2]  Both brown the vascular tissue of the tomato plant, and choking the leaves off from nutrients from the soil. These leaves yellow, then brown, and then die. Individual plants are affected, with symptoms appearing when the plant begins to set fruit.

Fusarium and veticillium are distinguished from each other based on their ranges and based on how quickly the plant succumbs to the fungus. Fusarium wilt is much more common in the southern range of the United States. Veticillum wilt is common in the north, so much more than Fusarium wilt that the University of Illinois Extension office only has a website on the former. [3] The streaking that accompanies verticillium wilt is lighter than that of fusarium wilt and typically does not extend all the way up the stem. Veticilum wilt also proceeds more slowly.

photo of yellow pear with streak in leaf stem
Dark vascular streaking on Yellow Pear stem.)

There is no easy solution for either fungus. Instead, crop rotation and disease management is the only way to control the spread. This year, I have pruned the first foot of each tomato plant of foliage and have cut back watering to every other day. Without those lower leaves, the tomatoes have more airflow close to the ground.  Also, the drier soil prevents the fungus from spreading. Finally, in desperation, I have also treated each tomato with powdered copper fungicide below the fruiting level. This is risky because the plant is also in danger of being damaged by the fungicide and the copper never leaves the soil (it is a heavy metal after all). [4] I have also pruned all diseased leaves from affected plants on a weekly basis.

Kims Civil War Oxheart Tomatoes
Pruning foliage has the added benefit of giant tomatoes!


My efforts seem to have stymied the spread of the disease in all of the tomato plants but the Yellow Pears. Yellow Pears are my mother’s favorite variety of homegrown tomato, and so she has been particularly disappointed with this year’s crop. I have grown the variety for her before and never had any problems with them.  Foolhardily, I only planted one Yellow Pear this year. Well, Mother Nature, I have learned my lesson.  Next year I will take heed of old gardening wisdom and rotate my tomato crop!