Beefsteak tomatoes are by far the most popular type of home garden tomato grown in North America. These tomatoes grow fairly quickly, produce huge (up to 2 pounds!) fruits, and are relatively easy to grow. They are not often available in the grocery store as they are not well-suited to mechanized growing on a large scale. There are many varieties of Beefsteaks, including Big Beef, Mortgage Lifter and Brandywine.
Best Soil for Growing Beefsteak Tomatoes
The primary destroyers of Beefsteak plants are diseases that proliferate in situations where plants are not rotated. So proper crop rotation in the garden is a must. A slightly acidic soil is best (about 6.5 pH) for Beefsteaks and good nutrition is paramount.
Most in-ground growers will turn their soil and include a mulch such as straw or winter cover crops. This keeps the soil loose and allows the tomato’s roots to breathe, alleviating other problems common to Beefsteaks.
Proper soil should be loose, rich, and not have had tomatoes in it for at least three years.
Proper Care of Beefsteak Tomatoes
A common mistake made by those new to Beefsteak tomatoes is to underestimate the amount of space the plants require. They can grow as much as 8 feet in height and spread two to three feet wide, so minimum spacing of 36 inches is a must.
As with most tomatoes, pinching early shoots will encourage upward growth and production. They should be tied to a trellis, staked or caged. Beefsteaks often get end-rot and other problems when not held upright.
Watering correctly is vitally important to Beefsteak varieties. Watering on the ground and increasing frequency when tomatoes begin forming will discourage blossom end rot and larger fruits.
When to Harvest Beefsteak Tomatoes
Harvest when the tomatoes are at their peak color. This is usually at 65 to 90 days, depending on the climate and specific strain. Beefsteaks are a medium-red color when ripe and will be easily plucked from the vine.
Beefsteak Tomato Pests and Diseases
Most pests and disease can be avoided if the above Proper Care (above) is given. Crop rotation and loose soil stop most rotting issues. Tomato fruitworms and beet army worms can be a problem in some areas as can tobacco hornworms. These pests will be evidenced towards the late stages of the plant’s development and are often controlled using sprays or complementary planting. Planting onions or beets nearby often keeps these pests at bay or gives them something else to attack.
How to Prepare Beefsteak Tomatoes
Beefsteaks are best known for their crisp outer shell and moist insides. They are perfect sliced on sandwiches and are popular for stuffed tomato recipes and deep frying. They are also often diced and added to salsas fresh (uncooked) to add a little crunch to the mix. They are also excellent candidates for canning in halves or quarters for stew and chili.
Tips for Growing Beefsteak Tomatoes
Excellent soil is the most important element. Side-fertilizing with an even mix (10-10-10) just as the first flowers form is also recommended. Compost or compost tea can also be used if growing organically. Proper support cannot be emphasized enough and lots of water once tomatoes begin to form is vital.
Want to learn more about growing Beefsteak tomatoes?
Check out these helpful websites:
Virginia Cooperative Extension – Growing Tomatoes
Purdue University – Growing Information for Tomatoes [PDF]