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All About The Champion Tomato

Firm, juicy, meaty, and slightly sweet…the Champion tomato is a classic garden choice. Wondering how to grow your own? Read on to discover more about this variety of tomatoes, including some recipes, suggested garden equipment, and growing instructions!

Red Tomatoes similar to Champion tomatoes

What is a Champion Tomato?

Know how some tomatoes fall apart after slicing? Well, the Champion tomato solves this problem, since it was bred specifically for thick slicing. Think tomato and mayo sandwiches, or BLTs with thick, firm tomato slices.

It also contains fewer seeds than many other varieties, and it tends to win taste tests against other types of tomatoes. It can grow in most locations throughout the US, with a preference for warmer areas (zones 3-12).

Characteristics of Champion Tomatoes

The Champion tomato is an indeterminate plant, meaning it continues growing and producing fruit until the frost hits. The vines can get pretty long, so wood stakes, a trellis, or metal growing cages help this plant thrive. It bears early and keeps growing and producing all season long.

In addition to a high yield, these tomatoes typically weigh 8-10 oz each (medium-sized). The first crop takes about 65 days to grow from seeds. Growers love this tomato so much that they developed three Champion sub-varieties in addition to the original!

First, Second, and Bush Varieties

Tomato plants similar to the champion tomato plant growing outside

The main difference between the original Champion and the Champion II is the latter is extra disease resistant. The Champion tomato is resistant to:

  • Verticillium wilt
  • Fusarium wilt
  • Nematodes
  • Tobacco mosaic virus
  • Yellow leaf curl virus (Champion II only)
  • Alternaria stem canker (Champion II only)

The Bush Champion variety (I and II) is a shorter, determinate cousin of the Champion clan. Gardeners can grow this bush variety in a pot or raised bed and save a lot of space. It only produces fruit once during the season, which works great for freezing or canning.

Champion Tomato Uses

Slicing Tomato

The most common use for Champion tomatoes is slicing for sandwiches. This also works for burgers, or they can be sliced into wedges for salads. Cook or stew with herbs like oregano, chives, and thyme, or pair in dishes with beans and peppers.

Health Benefits

Champion tomatoes contain vitamins A, C, and K. They are low in carbs and fat but high in potassium and several antioxidants, making them a healthy choice for snacking. Those antioxidants help support heart and skin health.

Recipe Ideas

Ready to get slicing and cooking these shiny red fruits? These tomatoes make great salsa, marinara, or bruschetta. Check out these recipes:

How to Grow

Planting tomatoes

To prepare for the growing process, these tomatoes require some special garden supplies. The first is a 4-6-8 plant fertilizer. The second is a support system for those super long vines and heavy fruit: stakestrellis, or cages.

When to Begin Planting

Wait until all danger of frost is over to plant. Select a large enough fertile area of soil in direct sun that will drain well. These plants can handle hot days and dry days with the right care, but temps lower than 40° F can cause problems.

Planting Starters or Seeds

Space starter plants or seeds 2-3 ft apart, with 4 ft between rows. Water and feed with fertilizer at planting. For a starter plant, dig a wide hole deep enough to cover all but the top leaves.

Remember, each plant will grow really tall, around 5-7 ft. The seeds may begin to germinate a week after planting, and the plants can begin to bloom by late spring. They are early producers, providing ripe fruit by summertime.

The small hairs that grow on the tomato stalk can actually grow into roots when placed in the ground. If your plant needs some extra support, plant it deep enough for these hairs to grow out and provide extra stability. Add extra dirt on top to level things out.

Watering and Fertilizing

Adding mulch around the Champion tomato plants can help with water dispersal and drainage. How much and how often the plants need water will depend on the soil, climate, and weather, but 1 inch a week is a good rule of thumb. Continue fertilizing the plants about once a month.

Pruning and Harvesting

Keep an eye on the Champion tomato leaves and fruit for bugs and signs of disease. These plants like at least six hours of direct sun each day. You can begin harvesting when the tomatoes start turning red, but the longer the tomatoes stay on the vine, the richer their flavor will be!

Wondering why these plants need a cage or trellis to grow on? Well, if the plant grows along the ground, the tomatoes hang down onto the ground and start to rot. For plump, healthy tomatoes, guide the vines to grow upwards, keeping the fruit away from the ground.

After harvesting the first batch of ripe, juicy tomatoes, the plants will continue bearing fruit until fall and chilly weather rolls around. The vines also continue growing longer during this time. Make sure to wash the fresh tomatoes well before eating.

Where to Buy Champion Tomato Seeds

tomato seeds being planted

Ready to grow your own Champion tomatoes? Scouring local Farmers’ Markets or garden shops might yield some starter plants or fresh produce, but these plants are early to mature even when grown from seeds. The Champion II variety offers the best disease resistance of the indeterminate options.

Wrapping Up the Champion Tomato

Champion tomatoes are the obvious choice for dishes requiring thick, meaty slices or wedges. Plus, these plants yield fresh fruit all season long! If you want to read more about other varieties of tomato, check out our overview post on tomato plants.