Monday, February 18, 2008

Heirloom Tomatoes for 2008

For years I grew only hybrid tomatoes. Then, a few years ago, I added the Amish Heirloom Tomato Brandywine. Wow, what exceptional flavor! I was hooked. Last year I expanded my heirloom tomato trials and now I have two new heirloom tomato favorites, Black Krim and Aunt Ruby's German Green (pictured below).

Not only had I discovered two new great tasting tomato varieties, I also found out that there can be great tomatoes in colors other than red!

I also tried other new heirlooms of different colors last year; Dixie Golden Giant (yellow), Prudens Purple, Kellogg's Breakfast (orange), Caspian Pink and Kentucky Beefsteak (orange). These varieties didn't do as well and I really only got to sample them. They at least earned a second chance for this year's season. Only the Brandywine, Black Krim and Aunt Ruby's German Green were successful. We did have a terrible drought last summer and as I documented in my post "Pros and Cons of Heirloom Tomatoes", heirlooms can be tricky to succeed with.

Below are the seed company pictures of these heirloom varieties.

The only heirloom that I tried last year that will not be invited back is Homely Homer. It was a fun novelty marketing tomato, but lacked in performance and flavor. I have to cut somewhere, don’t I?

So now for this year, 2008!

I absolutely loved last year's alternative colors with the ripe green and black tomatoes. This year I want to expand the tomato color pallet. Something new and cool that I discovered from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is white tomatoes! I don't know about you, but I have never eaten or even seen a white tomato. I have to grow some in 2008. I selected the cultivars Great White and White Tomesol. Look how white the White Tomesol is!

I really enjoyed Aunt Ruby's German Green last year so I also wanted to add more varieties that stay green when ripe. New for me this year will be Green Zebra and Green Moldovan. Green Moldovan looks neon even!

Another area that I want to expand is the heirloom Cherry Tomatoes. Last year I grew hybrids Sun Sugar and Gardener's Delight but no heirlooms. This year I will turn to Aunt Ruby again for Aunt Ruby's German Cherry. And since Black Krim was a hit, I will add a black cherry variety simply called Black Cherry.

Another odd variety that caught my eye was Egg Yolk. I don't know if it can be called a cherry tomato but it is a tomato the exact size and color of an egg yolk?! The other heirloom pictured above is Principe Borghese which I have grown before. Principe Borghese is considered the leading variety to use for sun drying.

So to recap, my complete 2008 Tomato Heirloom Team is:

Red:

  • Brandywine
  • Principe Borghese
  • Pink:

    • Caspian Pink
    • Purple/Black:

      • Prudens Purple
      • Black Krim
      • Black Cherry
      • Yellow:

        • Dixie Golden Giant
        • Egg Yolk
        • Green:

          • Green Zebra
          • Green Moldovan
          • Aunt Ruby's German Green
          • Aunt Ruby's German Cherry
          • Orange:

            • Kellogg's Breakfast
            • Kentucky Beefsteak
            • White:

              • Great White
              • White Tomesol

Wow! That is quite a list isn't it? A rainbow of delicious and interesting heirloom tomato excellence!

I'll keep you posted on how they all do throughout the 2008 season. I am really excited!

16 comments:

Meg

Impressive! I find heirlooms so hard to resist. Some people have a weakness for stray kittens; I have a weakness for heirloom tomatoes. I want to grow them all, and if I had the space, I'd try.

I can't wait to see how they do for you!

Gina

you are your crazy tomatoes! you know i was so intrigued by your the tomesol that I went right over to order some only to find that they are sold out of the seeds. so, I'll be growing vicariously through you this season, Mark! cant wait to see how they do!

Scarecrow

Hi Mark
I grew some Kellogg's Breakfast tomatoes one year and they failed for me too...but an old timer from garden club got some of my seedlings from the trading table and ended up getting huge fruit off them.

Must have been the way I spoke to them...

Good luck with your tomatoes this year.

Matron

An interesting post Marc. What interests me about heirloom tomatoes is the number of new varieties found in Eastern and Northern Europe. There are plenty with names like 'black Russian' and 'sub arctic plenty' to suggest that we might extend the season and find a hardy tomato! Do you know of a very early variety?

Marc

Thanks for the encouragement Meg!

Sorry Gina that they were sold out of the White Tomesol. Maybe all my readers are buying from Baker Creek now. I should get a commission. :) Seriously, they are available by a few other companies like Anioleka Seeds. Good luck!

Scarecrow, I did get a couple ripe Kellogg's Breakfast tomatoes and the groundhog ate a couple too. The taste was great. They are worth trying again!

Matron,
I forgot to mention my early heirloom varieties! Also from Baker Creek, I am trying a variety called Sub-Arctic or "World's Earliest" which claims to be cold tolerant like you are hoping for. Their description is this: 50 days. One of the very earliest tomatoes, the compact plants produce lots of 2 oz red fruit. It is one of the best for cool conditions and will set fruit in lower temperatures than most. It has even been grown in the Southern Yukon. Developed by Dr. Harris, Beaverlodge Research Station, Alberta, Canada.
I'll let you know how they work out in a few months.

M Sinclair Stevens (Texas)

I love the flavor of 'Green Zebra'. We tried 'Black Krim' last year but both of us thought it was bland. Some people have suggested that it is because it prefers cooler climes than Texas. Or perhaps we got too much rain last summer.

Tracy

I grew the black tomato this year but it is the only plant in our garden which has been affected by grubs. The fruit we have had have been quite good. I love the look of the white ones. I think a blindfolded taste test would be a good idea if you can have them all ripe at once.

Nicole

Those first two pictures look delicious! I grew and enjoyed green zebras and costuluto. This year I am trying black Krim, Russian black and Persimmon. Though I only have a dozen plants, I also grow a mix of heirlooms and hybrids-just for insurance purposes!

Jeph

I LOOOOVE Black Krim - i discovered them a few years back and they're my favorite tomato.

The Aunt Ruby's are also great - those suckers are HUGE! You just have to watch them, or more like feel them, to see when they're ready. Those poor tomatoes probably feel like I'm molesting them as they get closer to being ripe and ready to pick...

I grew black cherries the last two years and LOVED them! Last year was the first year I also had blister beetles, and they were ONLY on the black cherry tomato plant...not sure if they had a preference for it, or if it was proximity (the plant was potted up and away from my other tomatoes).

I've been growing green zebras as long as the black krims. They produce a smaller, but more prolific tomato in my experience. I've also found that EVERY YEAR they get small brown spots on the skin. Doesn't seem to affect the flavor/quality though. I love the citrussy zing the green zebras seem to get.

You might want to try green grape... They're not nearly as green as the other "green" tomatoes, turning a little more yellowy when they're ripe, but like the black cherry tomatoes, they taste soooo good!

I'm real eager to try growing one of the white tomatoes, but since I love the acidy kick of tomatoes so much, and haven't liked any of the low-acid yellow tomatoes (better for people with digestion problems I guess?), I've passed on white. I don't actually know that "less color = less kick", so you'll have to report back and let us know!

I would definitely suggest steering clear of pleated zapotec - a really cool looking tomato I tried years ago. Just like it's name, it's shaped with "pleats" all the way around, but it had no real flavor and was very mealy tasting.

I also haven't had much luck with sun gold, which all the catalogs and magazine lists of top rated tomatoes TELL me I'm supposed to like, but I always find their skins are really tough.

Looking forward to this year's tomato bounty!

Marc

Wow, lots of tomato lovers out there.

Thanks to m sinclair stevens, tracy and nicole for stopping by and joining in the conversation.

Welcome back Jeph! You have now reminded me that it was YOU who originally turned me on to Black Krim from reading your blog back in 2006. I thought about "green grape". Glad to know that you endorse it. I have no idea what the white tomatoes will taste like. They are described as having a tropical taste. A tropical taste? is that more or less acid. Hopefully I can let you know in about 4 months. I can hardly wait!

Connie

An heirloom tomato that I grow every year is 'Pineapple'...my hubby loves them. They are huge, sweet, and have a great marbled red/yellow color.
If you find a good heirloom cherry tomato please let us know. Until then, nothing beats hybrid Sweet 100 for me. :-)

Curtis

What a list of tomatoes. I am growing 3 heirlooms this year. Cherokee Purple, green zebra too, and black krim also.

lisa

Ooooh! I'm excited, too! Thank you for all the great info and trials!

Anonymous

I've grown heirlooms for the past 20 years - Mortgage Lifter was my first. I also always grow Pineapple, Cherokee Purple and a terrific cherry tomato I found in seed form from Marianna's Heirloom Tomatoes a few years ago is Cherry Brandywine; potato-leaved, 5 to 6' tall, fabulous Brandwine flavor - I highly recommend it.

Anonymous

I don't think Gardener's Delight is a hybrid.

Janae

My name is Christian...I'm using my wife's account. This is my first year trying Heirlooms and I kind of went wild due to my Tomato addiction. As I started reading about Heirlooms mid way through the 2007 season, I instantly became a fan and very intrigued. I ordered my seeds through Tomatofest.com and ended up with quite a collection that all found their way into my garden this year. Here's my list: Mexico, Sunset's Red Horizon, Italian Tree, Brandywine OTV(sets more fruit than original Brandywine strain), Chocolate Stripes, Cherokee Purple, Black Sea Man, Black From Tula, Black Prince, Black Cherry, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Long Tom, Mortgage Lifter, Purple Haze, Goose Creek, Orange Russian 117, Caspian Pink, Homer Fikes Yellow Oxheart, Lillian's Yellow Heirloom, Gary Ibsen Gold, Marvel Striped, and Amana Orange.

I know...I'm insane for growing that many, but I have the room and figured the more I tried this year, the more I'll find out which ones do well.
I live in Salt Lake and it gets into the mid 90's to 100 degrees for most of July, so some plants have a hard time setting fruit. So far I've found that the Italian Tree, Mexico, Chocolate Stripes, and Florida Pink are not setting fruit as well as the others in the high heat.
Anyway, needless to say I'm on the edge of my seat everyday waiting until I can try each one of these varieties. I'll give an update on all of the varieties as the season progresses. Thanks for letting me ramble on your blog! It's interesting to hear everybody's comments and experiences with different varieties...Love it!

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