Tomatoes are the most widely grown fruit in US home gardens. Proponents of heirloom tomatoes say they taste better than hybrids. I’ve tasted some mighty good hybrids, but then again I remember my “first time” with ‘Prudens Purple’.
Reif Red Heart
I define an heirloom as a variety that can reproduce from saved seed and that existed before World War II. Hybrid tomatoes are bred for production and disease resistance first and then flavor. You can not save their seeds as they will not reproduce true to type.
The best selling heirloom tomato is ‘Brandywine’ and it is now offered by most mainstream catalogues. The fruit is a dark pink and the leaves look more like potato leaves.
Unfortunately, so many individuals got involved in saving seeds from this variety that inferior strains came onto the market. Some ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes can taste pretty bland. Furthermore, it has not been a good producer for me and it is late season. I offer it because customers ask for it, but I would also recommend ‘Pruden’s Purple‘ for the northern grower, as it ripens a week or two earlier than ‘Brandywine’ with similar flavor.
Last summer I trialed all kinds of heirloom tomatoes, but the cool wet season topped off by by late blight thwarted most of my efforts.
My customers tend to be enthusiastic gardeners, so I will offer a good selection of heirloom tomatoes again. Among those that I will also definitely grow for myself are the following:
‘Moskvich’ - A really early (60 days) indeterminate, tolerant of cooler weather and with promised good flavor for such an early tomato. Most heirlooms tend to ripen late for my short season.
‘Earl of Edgecomb’ - This is an orange tomato with both “excellent yield and exceptional flavor .” It is an heirloom from New Zealand that matures at 73 days.
‘Cherokee Purple’ - A lot of serious tomato growers pick this one as having the best flavor. It’s on the late side, so I will try to put some good healthy plants in the ground.
I’m not a purist, and my garden will have just as many hybrid tomatoes as heirlooms. I grow the heirlooms more out of curiosity and for fun, hoping I’ll find a winner. The hybrids are the backbone of my tomato garden. Here is a list of other heirloom varieties I will be growing to sell.
Aunt Ginny’s Purple
Reif red heart
Urban Beef Steak