Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

It is possible that there is nothing tastier than a home grown tomato picked right off of the vine. There is a world of difference between your own tomatoes and the tasteless things you find in the grocery store. Tomatoes are probably the most popular and rewarding crop and the many heirloom varieties available make it the most fun and interesting too.

Heirloom varieties are those varieties of a vegetable that have been openly pollinated and are at least fifty years old. These varieties come from a time before commercial farms and grocery stores; when fruits and vegetables were grown for flavor, not shelf life.

The tomatoes found in your local supermarket are bred for disease resistance, ideal ripening, shelf life, travel-ability and consistency. You might notice that flavor is not on this list. Growing your own heirloom variety tomatoes might mean that your tomatoes are not as picture perfect as the ones in the store, or as hardy, but they will definitely be tasty, delightful and beautiful in their originality, especially if you commit to organic gardening practices.

Known as Heritage or Heirloom, there are over 500 varieties of tomatoes to choose from. Many are named after the person who first grew them hundreds of years ago. They come in all different shapes and colors, green, purple, yellow, orange, and white; some are as small as peas and some are as big as melons. Following is a list of a few strange and delicious varieties, as well as some growing tips and a quick description.

Amish Paste Tomatoes
These heart shaped red tomatoes mature in 85 days. They have a mild flavor and grow well in poor conditions. They are good for sauces.

Aranyalma Tomato
Aranyalma is the Hungarian word for “Golden Apple”. These tomatoes are from Germany. These are yellow cherry tomatoes with a high yield and good disease resistance.

German Green Tomato
Also from Germany, these large bright green tomatoes can weigh more than a pound! They are sweet, juicy and beautiful. The German Green performs well in very hot climates.

Black Cherry Tomatoes
These cherry tomatoes are a deep purple and grow in clusters. They are a beautiful addition to salads and taste much like the bigger purple tomatoes.

Black Krim
A large red and brown tomato with bright green seeds! It has a salty and spicy flavor. Though they tend to crack, they are always delicious. These tomatoes come from the Island of Krim, in the Black Sea near Russia.

Black Russian Tomatoes
These medium sized round black heirloom varieties also come from Russia. This is a highly disease resistant variety. The plants are prolific early producers.

Brandywine Classic Pink
These tomatoes date back to 1885 and were originally grown by the Amish. These medium-sized pink tomatoes are said to taste like Brandywine.

Cherokee Purple
This variety is over 100 years old and was originally grown by the Cherokee Indians. The fruits are large and purple with pink and green spots. Has a sweet and smoky taste and performs well in high heat areas.

Glacier Tomato
These golf ball sized red tomatoes fruit in cold weather and early in the season. The plants start flowering at only four inches tall! This is a good plant for cold locations, especially coastal redwoods, but also does great in cold weather.

Green Zebra Tomatoes
These small green tomatoes begin as dark green with yellow stripes and mature to being dark green with light green stripes. They have a sweet and tart flavor and are a favorite amongst heirloom growers.

Ida Gold
These small, golden tomatoes have a high yield and do well in poor conditions. The vines are compact and good for small gardens.
Manalucie a breeder named J.M. Walter developed this rare variety in the 1950s. This was a big achievement at the time as the tomatoes are highly disease resistant and tasty. They produce medium sized red tomatoes and are a heritage variety that are excellent for southern climates. They are resistant to Blossom End Rot, Gray Leaf Mold, Early Blight and Fusarium Wilt.

Nebraska Wedding Tomato
Hailing from Nebraska, these big orange tomatoes are sweet and lovely to look at.

Orange Banana Tomato
These long, orange banana shaped tomatoes have a sweet taste with a citrus undertone; they are great for making tomato pastes and eating fresh. This is an heirloom (heritage) species you will want if you love cooking from the garden.

Pineapple Tomato
These tomatoes weigh in at almost two pounds! They are beautifully streaked with red and yellow stripes and have a distinct flavor. Very high yields.

As you can well see, there are far more varieties of tomato available than the ones we are all used to. You can decorate your garden with a whole bouquet of beautiful, rare and delicious tomatoes from around the world. Preserving these special tomato varieties has been a priority of small farmers around the country, and we have them to thank for preserving the tomato, as we know it.

Do not miss out on one of life’s great pleasures; growing your own organic food, especially tomatoes. You will never think of tomatoes in the same way again.

This article is courtesy of the Tybee Island Community Garden. For more information please join their Facebook group.

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