"Citrine: Favorable color and texture. Nice well-balanced acidity — light sweetness. Good preserving tomato."
— Katina & Kyle Connaughton, 3-Michelin-Star Single Thread Farms Restaurant & Inn
, Healdsburg, California
In 2009 we made numerous crosses with a mysterious Johnny's orange cherry tomato. I say mysterious because earlier in the 2000s it appeared unannounced in my tomato nursery. I saved seeds and made annual selections. One of the 2009 crosses was with a small-fruited variety that I got from North Carolina State University tomato breeder Randy Gardner.
We liked the resulting hybrid in trials each year, beginning in 2010. Well then, why did we wait so long to introduce it?
Johnny's introduced 'Sun Gold' to the United States in 1991. As time passed, throngs of growers and their families and customers discovered its outstanding, sweet, winey, tropical taste.
'Sun Gold' was the only orange cherry that Johnny's offered from 1991 through 2019. But it had faults, mainly cracking of the mature fruits, and the ripe fruits tend to drop to the ground within a week or two of ripening. Throughout those twenty-some years we were trialing many good, new orange cherries from our cooperators, but we were not wanting to introduce a tomato that improved on 'Sun Gold's faults without it at least nearly equaling 'Sun Gold' in flavor, and we weren't finding that.
Finally, Johnny's tomato breeder Emily Haga trialed that 2009 Johnny's cross in 2017 and 2018 with growers in different climates in the US. The growers liked the healthy plants: vigorous, but not too tall. And they liked the flavor, which they described as rich and balanced, with a meaty texture. They also liked its resistance to cracking, and they appreciated how the ripe fruits held well on the plant.
We named it 'Citrine.' Nice name. Time will tell how widely appreciated and grown it becomes, and what effect it has on 'Sun Gold's dominance.
Thanks to NCSU for their cooperation.