An heirloom is something that is handed down from generation to generation. An heirloom tomato is a plant which is passed along from grower to grower. Why would they do this when they can just go to the local nursery? Flavor – real, rich tomato flavor.
The typical tomato plant that is mass produced these days - your Big Boy, Better Boy, Early Girl have been bred to be reliable and disease resistant. Taste was sacrificed in the process. If this is all you’ve ever planted, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Flavor aside, there is an heirloom tomato to meet any need or growing condition. You can grow by color: white, yellow, orange, green, red (how boring!), purple, black and even striped! Shape is another factor: heart, egg, coffee mug, currant, and pear are some popular choices. Taste: lighter color fruits have a milder less acidic flavor than their darker colored counterparts. Size: some varieties produce pea sized fruit; others can reach upwards of 2 pounds!
I’ve been growing around 20 varieties of heirlooms for about ten years. Other than a tomato worm attack last year, I’ve had no problems. I generally plant in early April. The soil is loosened and amended with a peat / worm casting / bat guano mix. Slow release fertilizer is added in the planting hole. Later in the season, especially if it’s hot and dry, I’ll add Miracle Grow once or twice. If you are growing Indeterminate type tomatoes, you will want to pinch back runners. This tells the plant to set fruit instead of getting bigger.
Heirloom tomato plants can be purchased through most nurseries but you may have to request them. Seeds can be purchased over the internet. Try a few in your garden this year. One bite and you’ll be hooked. Here are some of good choices to try:
Amish Paste – excellent flavor; perfect for canning
Arkansas Traveler - great in hot weather
Black Seaman – A robust, smoky tasting tomato; very dark skin; prolific plant.
Banana Legs – Long, skinny and yellow with a great fresh tomato taste.
Big Rainbow – very large fruits; red, yellow and green striped; amazing taste; not prolific.
Enchantment –smallish tomato that can handle partial shade; good flavor.
Omar’s Lebanese – rich complex flavor. Fruits average 1.5 lbs!
Pineapple – pale yellow tomato, very sweet and mild taste, 2lb fruit.
Sausage –large Roma style tomatoes look like misshapen sausages; prolific, great tasting tomato- perfect for Italian sauces or canning.
Originally published in the defunct Foothill Sentinel.
This is a collection of stories and articles created by writer / artist Holly Dare. All materials, including photographs, on this blog are copyright protected and are the sole property of the writer or original publisher. Do not steal intellectual material!