Independence Day calls to mind parades, picnics, fireworks, and the summertime food we look forward to. Tomatoes are often included in those foods but, chances are, there aren’t any homegrown tomatoes ready to pick in early July. The Fourth of July tomato is the answer to this problem!
Keep reading to learn about this dependable and tasty tomato — a Fourth of July tomato might be a new addition to your garden this summer!
History of the Fourth of July Tomato
The Fourth of July tomato (also known as the Independence Day tomato) was bred by Burpee in the early part of the 21st century and the company keeps the parentage of this tomato a closely guarded secret. It’s one of the earliest of all tomato varieties as it was designed to produce ripe fruit by the Fourth of July, giving the tomato its unique name.
Characteristics of the Fourth of July Tomato
The Fourth of July tomato is an indeterminate hybrid with vines that grow 4-5 feet tall. It prefers cooler summer temperatures for setting fruit. In the warmer zones it takes a break during the hottest part of the summer when it won’t produce blooms or set fruit. Once temperatures cool again it will resume fruit production until the first fall frost.
It’s described as a dependable and prolific tomato. Its fruit is among the better tasting of early season tomatoes — it won the Salad and Slicing category in the 2004 Tomato Tasting Reports.
Ripening Season (early, late, etc)
This is a very early ripening tomato — fruits are ready for picking within 60 days after transplanting (some reports are as early as 49 days).
Tomato qualities: tart, sweet, firm, etc
The Fourth of July is a round “slicer” tomato. A thicker than normal skin and occasional cracking are the two main complaints. The flavor improves as the temperatures get warmer.
Fourth of July tomatoes are golf ball to tennis ball sized fruits, weighing around 4 oz each.
Start seeds indoors 8 weeks before last spring frost in your area. Fourth of July tomatoes can be transplanted in the garden by May 15 in most areas and should be planted no later than Memorial Day to ensure harvest-ready fruit by July 4.
Size and Spacing
Plant tomatoes 24-36 inches part within a row and plant rows 48 inches apart to reduce risk of plant disease. Provide large tomato cages or stakes for support of the plant’s vines.
Tomatoes are self-pollinating only need the help of natural pollinators like honeybees, bumblebees, and wind.
For the most part, the Fourth of July tomato requires normal tomato care.
Tomatoes require full sun — at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.
Should be acidic (6.5 pH), well-draining, and amended with compost and decomposed manure to a depth of 24-36 inches.
Water twice a week, early in the day so plants will dry by evening (try to keep foliage dry). Use mulch to retain moisture.
Once there is fruit, provide regular feeding — too early in the season will result in a larger plant producing fewer fruits. Use a low-nitrogen fertilizer mix.
Lush, bushy tomato plants won’t give you many (if any tomatoes) — you have to prune/pinch them aggressively! This short video will explain all you need to know about suckers and how to remove them so that your plants will produce the best yield of fruit.
The Fourth of July tomato was bred to be highly resistant to disease. However, the normal precautions should be taken to protect your plants from the common tomato diseases like blight, fusarium wilt, Septoria leaf spot, Verticillium wilt, and Southern bacterial wilt. Keeping the foliage dry by watering the base of the plant is your best defense against tomato plant disease.
Tomatoes suffer a number of pests including aphids, whiteflies, tomato hornworms, slugs, pill bugs, and rodents. Companion plants like marigolds, catnip, fennel, dill, basil, and cilantro repel common tomato pests. Netting helps keep out birds and larger pests, but can also interfere with beneficial insects and pollinators.
When to Harvest Fourth of July Tomatoes
You should be able to take this tomato at its name and be picking tomatoes by July 4!
Common Uses For Fourth of July Tomatoes
While it’s described as a slicer and salad tomato, Fourth of July tomatoes can be used as any other tomato from your garden — with the exception of being used for stuffed tomatoes.
What Does This Tomato Taste Like?
Finding written descriptions of what a Fourth of July tomato tastes like were hard to come by and vague, at best. This is a video in which the grower does a taste test on camera, which was much more helpful. His review was “juicy…nice acidity…sweet…good red tomato flavor…very flavorful.”
Based on the taste and physical characteristics of this tomato, it would go well in sauces, braised dishes, soups, stews, and casseroles. The size of the tomato would also lend itself to being used as a pizza topping.
Salads (leafy and pasta), salsas, pico de gallo, and bruschetta toppings would allow this tomato’s flavor to really shine.
Canning / Freezing / Drying
“Prolific” is the word that keeps coming up about the amount of fruit a Fourth of July tomato produces. Unless this is the only tomato in your garden, you’ll likely be preserving your harvest (and you still might do so even if it IS the only tomato you’re growing). These tomatoes do well for canning, freezing, and drying.
Use Fourth of July tomatoes in your favorite recipes or try them in the ones that we found.
Roasted Tomato Soup (roasting the fruit gives it a whole new depth of flavor)
Bacon-Tomato Linguine (bacon and tomato aren’t just for sandwiches)
Health Benefits of Fourth of July Tomatoes
Tomatoes aren’t just delicious fruits from the garden — they’re healthy too. Tomatoes are high in vitamins C and K, potassium, and folate. They’re also one of the best dietary sources of lycopene, an antioxidant credited with reducing the risks of heart disease and cancer.
Where to Buy Fourth of July Tomato Plants or Seeds
Fourth of July tomato starter plants may not be easy to find. Seeds are, of course, available through Burpee, but they can also be purchased through online retailers such as Amazon.com.
Where to Buy Fourth of July Tomatoes
Fourth of July tomatoes aren’t likely to be found in grocery stores as they don’t appear to be commercially grown. You can scout local farmers markets and farm stands around the end of June/beginning of July for availability.
Wrapping Up the Fourth of July Tomato
Thanks to early season tomato varieties like the Fourth of July, it’s possible to actually enjoy fresh homegrown tomatoes in your Independence Day picnic and barbecue foods. This tasty tomato will continue producing a bountiful crop in your garden all the way through Labor Day. The first tomato off your Fourth of July tomato might be the real start of summer for you!
Have a tip about growing Fourth of July tomatoes or have a great tomato recipe idea to share? Leave it in the comments section below! And for more tomato reading, click here for our other tomato blog posts.