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Sep 6, 2000 07:11 AM

Heirloom Tomatoes

  • c

The discussion on tomato sandwiches reminded me
that I've been a little disappointed with the
tomatoes I've grown this year. Yes, they are
delicious and way better than those horrible
winter tomatoes but they are not fantastic.
Next growing season I want to try growing
a couple of heirloom varieties. I'd be interested
to know which heirlooms are the most sun and pest resistant and can be grown by a non-expert
gardener (ie, don't need a lot of babying).
Also, (and more important) which ones are the tastiest?

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  1. j
    Josh Mittleman

    Don't draw strong conclusions from any tomatoes you
    grew this year (at least not in the northeast). The
    weather has been terrible for tomatoes. Even the best
    sources are producing pretty mediocre results. There just wasn't enough sun.

    Same thing for the peaches and berries.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Josh Mittleman
      Jason Perlow

      Yeah, the weather has been bad for all nightshades in general, including chiles and peppers. This year, like the last, I planted cayennes and jalapenos and cubanellas -- only to result in a lackluster crop. I had like two or three yeilds of cayennes from my plants last year, I only got a few this year. The cubanellas were a joke, I only got like 4 total out of one plant.

      We only had to water our plants a few times this summer because it was so rainy -- there was just not enough sun for the plants to produce clorophyll and all the damn nutrients got washed out in the soil.

      I had so many peppers last year I didnt know what to do with them -- I had to use my food dehydrator to preserve them all. But we had a lot of sunshine and heat last summer.

    2. I don't know if these are easy to raise or not so I can only talk about flavor. I really like sweet tomatoes and I have a recipe for a cold summer tomato soup that calls for sweet, juicy tomatoes. I use two heirloom varieties for it: New Zealand pink pastes and Marble Stripes. The NZ pink paste is somewhat persimmon shaped (the long kind, not the short squat kind) and their skins are kind of cloudy red with a blue undertone. Marble stripes are squat, round, and wide. These are orange to red in color and can have these beautiful stripes that are orange-red-yellow.

      I also like a tomato that is pale yellow like a light lemon buttercream icing yellow. I've found this tomato under a few names - white wonder or pineapples. It's also very juicy and the sweetest of all tomatoes I've had at its peak. It's wonderful and I need to get to the farmers market early because they sell out so quickly.

      Just for a little visual variety, zebras are green tomatoes that have a green skin with yellow stripes through them. They have a green interior as well. I've had these when they are sweet and when they aren't so I can't make a flavor recommendation but they look neat.

      I'm sorry that your crop isn't what you had hoped for but at least you have tomatoes that are better than what you can get in the supermarket! Good luck!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Tida

        We like to try different varieties every year, both heirlooms and hybrids.

        You'll need to talk to someone in your local growing area for advice on the best ones to grow at home. One heirloom that seems to be prized all over the place is Brandywine (As well as Yellow Brandywine). We tried Yellow Brandywine last year and got only two tomatoes, which is not a great yield even if they do taste really good (which they do). However, you will see several varieties touted as "better than Brandywine" or "beats Brandywine in taste tests."

        This year for our yellow tomatoes we tried an heirloom called Mr. Stripey, which apparently does great here in VA. It has yielded a ton of tomatoes, with a very pleasing yellow/orange/red color. However, they are not the meatiest tomatoes we have ever had.

        We have had great luck over the years with purple varieties. This year we have Aunt Ginny's Purple, which has grown close to seven feet high and produces some big whoppers, one of which is sitting on the counter now and weighs in at 1.25 lbs of lusciousness. We also have Pruden's Purple, which are just now ripening. Over the years we have also enjoyed Cherokee Purple and the very cool Japanese Oxhearts, which are a very very deep red and yes, shaped like hearts.

        The biggest tomatoes we've grown are a hybrid called Supersteak. Our record is a two-pounder. Three slices cover a dinner plate. :>) Add some fresh mozz and basil from the garden, drizzle on some olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and you're in heaven.

        There are hundreds of tomato varieties out there. Have fun!

      2. If you don't already get one, you'll want to get a catalogue from:

        Totally Tomatoes
        P.O. Box 1626
        Augusta, GA 30903-1626
        (803) 663-0016

        1. Also check out for heirloom everything!

          1. l
            Leslie Brenner

            Zebras are actually one of my favorites. I suppose I've only had really good ones at their peak (mostly in northern California), but when they're like that they're incredibly flavorful, sweet but with a nice kick of acid (well-balanced) and very juicy. Worth a try, I'd think...