Monday, February 1, 2010

Heirloom Tomatoes

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
Black Krim
Burpee Gloriana
Cosmonaut Volkov
Early Rouge
Kellogg's Breakfast
Oregon Spring
Pink Brandywine
Prudens Purple
Red Penna
Reif red heart
Sweet Home
Urban Beef Steak


Jane Ellis said...

Terrific pictures... all from your garden?

What do you use to support your plants? I've tried everything.... nothing compares to the simplicity of The Tomato Stake.

Dirty Girl Gardening said...

Yumm, tomato time. I can't wait for that season again.

marion said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

katty said...
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Dinah said...

Nice photos! My friend, Danielle, is growing and selling tomatoes and other vegetables in the neighborhood and through the internet. She's always active in every tomato planting season. Her clients love her freshly-packed tomatoes too. However, she's looking for better ways to grow her business. Thankfully, she was led by a friend to a company that provides complete and concrete guidance in terms of marketing. When it comes to food marketing, there's always positive results with Calgary marketing style in selling food products.

Thanks for sharing the inspiring post, Amanda! I learned a lot from it!