Thursday, May 3, 2007

Make room for Homely Homer the tomato!

I know I wrote in my Why grow so many different tomatoes post that I was capping my number of different tomato varieties to 20, but why not just one more? I have to make room for Homely Homer!

Yes this was an impulse buy. I was at the grocery store's garden center looking for some broccoli plants to replace my broccoli that froze to death when Homely Homer caught my eye.

I'm always interested in colorful and unique packaging, like the bottle of Great Big Plants. I'm a sucker for unusual garden marketing as well. To me Homely Homer is in the ranks of the Magic Sproutz Secret Fortune Plants and the Jiffy Kids Seed Cups. The interesting eye-catching part of this tomato plant is the big and funny tag.

The genius in this marketing idea is that they are taking the quality of irregular "ugly" ridges, which many people dislike in tomatoes, and actually highlighting it! They then move on to claim excellent flavor. The tag says "Great Taste - Being Ugly is only skin deep!" and "You won't care what it looks like, you'll just love the way it tastes".

So what exactly is this tomato? This plant came from Bert R. Hybels Inc., which is a bedding plant wholesaler in Michigan. Their website makes no mention of Homely Homer. Researching in my garden books and on the Internet turns up no such tomato cultivar. In that case, Homely Homer must just be the marketing name and the variety is something else. But what?

The tag calls it an indeterminate Beefsteak with exceptional flavor, and of course they call it ugly. The only thing I can figure is that it is an UglyRipe Heirloom tomato. Maybe they don't want to call it UglyRipe because of the controversy over the Florida Tomato Committee banning it in Florida. If you haven't heard about this and want to know more, this article explains it.

I found this picture of an UglyRipe Tomato on

It looks like Homely Homer, don't you think? The article that this is from on goes into even more detail about the Florida Tomato Committee's ban. To sum it up, the committee won't allow the sale of Florida Ugly Ripe Tomatoes to the rest of the states because they want all Florida tomatoes to look nice and round. The opponents to this ruling say that the "nice looking" Florida winter tomatoes have no taste but Ugly Ripes do! This article even calls for you to write to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and congress to re-instate the winter UglyRipe Tomato.

If my Homely Homer is indeed an UglyRipe, I will let you know in August if the flavor is good enough to demand such action. The thought of actually being able to buy a tomato that tastes like a tomato in January is quite appealing. But just in case UglyRipe is not available this winter, I plan on consuming hundreds, maybe thousands of tomatoes from twenty twenty-one different varieties this summer and fall from my own backyard garden!



This blog posted about the UglyRipe controversy the other day, including links to articles on it from the likes of the Washington Post. According to those articles, the tomato has been allowed, but it had to jump through a lot of hoops.


Heirloom tomatoes (or "ugly tomatoes) have always had better flavors. Last year I grew hybrids next to my ugly ones and the hybrids couldn't touch the ugly ones on flavor.

I must be out of the loop. This is the first time I heard of banning heirloom tomatoes. What a tragedy that would be, no wonderfully sweet, salty tomatoes to enjoy on a hot humid day!

Enjoy your homely homer, I think you will find it a keeper!


I'm not sure if they are still "banned" in Florida or not. The ban was on selling them to the rest of the country. The Florida Tomato Committee said they only wanted "nice looking" round tomatoes to represent their state. I think it was because UglyRipe was outselling the others and the Committee probably consisted of those other sellers!

I'm not sure if Homely Homer is indeed an Ugly Ripe variety. If anyone knows anything else about Homely Homer, I would love to hear from you.


Hi! Just looking around the net I found your page about the Homely Homer and the uglyripes.

The uglyripe is actually a different variety, developed by Procacci Brothers and grown exclusively by Santa Sweets. It was developed from an Italian variety called Maramondo.

It is actually the first (and only) product audited and protected under the USDA Identity Preservation Program.

The controversy with the Florida Tomato Commitee was finaly resolved when USDA passed a final ruling exempting this tasty beauty from shape the restrictions that made it virtually impossible to ship the Uglyripe out of Florida during the marketing order season.

This winter season volumes were kind of low, but very soon you will all be able to enjoy the Uglyripes and bring some relief to your winter days.


Thank you Manuel for the update on UglyRipe. I had heard that it was Santa Sweets that was trying to sell them from Florida.

I wonder is Homely Homer is a different derivative of Maramondo. I'd so like to know what tomato it is or if it is a one-of-a-kind variety of its own.

I'd love to hear from anyone else who has any insight Anyone out there from Michigan who knows anything about Bert R. Hybels Inc, the distributer of Homer?

Thanks again to ellipsisknits, our anonymous friend and Manuel for your contributions so far!


For you tomato lovers, you could check a very intersting site with pictures of a LOT of heirloom tomatoes.

I have never ordered from the site but find their display of varieties truly amazing.

On the Uglyripes, we grow them in three locations in Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey and Mexico.

The original maramondo is not as flat shaped as the Homer. I can be sure, but it doesn't look like a descendant.

Check out that site, i'm sure you'll find it interesting


I grew Homely Homer this year in my Mesquite, Texas garden and I am totally addicted to the flavor. I don't know what genus is is, but I've started new plants from seed for my fall garden and hope it's not a hybrid. Has anyone else done this?

Bruce F

Is the another name for the ugly homer Costoluto?

I've got a couple of Costoluto plants with fruit that are almost ripe and they look very similar to the Homely Homer.

Also shown in this photo -


Yeah I'd say it's definitely a Costoluto Genovese, here is a picture of mine before it ripened:

This is an old time heirloom tomato. I've since harvested many and they are very beefy and the flavour has been verified as very tasty by myself and many friends who have tried them. In fact it's one of the few I'm saving seeds from this year, the others weren't so interesting.

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