No other vegetable creates such a stir in the gardening community more than the tomato. Gardeners are constantly experimenting with new varieties, and breeders comply by providing us with over 4,000 varieties of these “mad apples” to play with. Not a new kid on the block, the stuffer tomato plant is more than just another variety; it occupies a unique niche amongst the plethora of tomato types.
What are Stuffer Tomato Plants?
As the name implies, stuffer tomato plants bear hollow tomatoes for stuffing. Hollow tomato fruit is not a new-fangled idea. In fact, it's an heirloom enjoying a resurging popularity. During my childhood, a popular dish at the time was stuffed peppers or tomatoes, wherein the interior of the fruit was hollowed out and stuffed with tuna salad or other filling that was often baked. Unfortunately, when a tomato is stuffed and cooked, it usually becomes a gloppy mess. Stuffer tomatoes, tomatoes that are hollow inside, are the answer to the cook's wish for a tomato with thick walls, little pulp, and ease of stuffing which holds its shape when cooked. However, these tomatoes are not truly hollow inside. There is a small amount of seed gel in the center of the fruit, but the rest is thick walled, relatively juice free, and hollow.
Types of Stuffer Tomatoes
The most popular of these hollow tomato fruit varieties look much akin to lobed bell peppers. While many come in single colors of yellow or orange, there are an incredible range of sizes, colors, and even shapes. Types of stuffer tomatoes run the gamut from the most commonly available 'Yellow Stuffer' and 'Orange Stuffer,' which look like bell peppers and are one color, to a heavily ribbed, double-bowled fruit of pink coloration called 'Zapotec Pink Pleated.' There are multi-hued types of stuffer tomatoes as well, such as 'Schimmeig Striped Hollow,' which has a shape like a delicious apple striated with red and yellow. Other varieties include:
- 'Costoluto Genovese'- a lumpy, red Italian cultivar
- 'Yellow Ruffles'- a scalloped fruit about the size of an orange
- 'Brown Flesh'- a mahogany tomato with green striping
- 'Green Bell Pepper'- a green tomato with gold stripes
- 'Liberty Bell'- a scarlet, bell pepper shaped tomato
While stuffers are said to be mild in flavor comparatively, some of these hollow tomatoes for stuffing do have a rich, tomato taste with low acidity that complements, not overpowers, fillings.
Growing Tomatoes Hollow Inside
Grow stuffing tomatoes just as you would other varieties. Space the plants at least 30 inches (76 cm.) apart in rows at least 3 feet (1 m.) apart. Thin out any excess growth. Keep the plants uniformly moist. Most types of stuffer tomatoes are large, foliage laden plants that need extra support like wire mesh towers. Most stuffers are prolific producers. You might think that means stuffed tomatoes every night during fruiting, but it turns out that these hollow tomato fruits freeze beautifully! Simply top and core the tomatoes and drain off any liquid. Then place them in freezer bags and squeeze out as much air as possible and freeze. When ready to use them, pull out as many as needed and put them in a barely warm oven, no more than 250 degrees F. (121 C.). Drain the liquid as they thaw for 15 to 20 minutes. Then when defrosted, fill with your choice of stuffing and bake according to the recipe instructions.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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