Friday, January 9, 2009

Looking for new "strange but good" heirloom tomatoes

If you have visited my blog in the past, you probably know that I am addicted to tomatoes. I'm sure my wife wishes that I could stop with that statement because she too loves tomatoes. Unfortunately for her, I also have an unusual fascination for wierd tomatoes - the stranger the better, as long as they still have great flavor.

Eating plain red tomatoes is a bit boring to me. I would rather my BLT look something like this:

or this:

The first picture featured Aunt Ruby's German Green tomatoes and they are fantastic! The second picture was a new heirloom variety that I tried last year called Kentucky Beefsteak. Since I live in Kentucky, I am particularly proud of it. It boasts tasty large orange fruits.

Of course my all time favorite unusual colored tomato is Black Krim. It isn't exactly black in color, but look at them in comparison to the red Roma tomatoes:

Another new unusual heirloom tomato from last year was Green Zebra:

It has great flavor and the markings make it very interesting to look at. I do wish it produced larger fruits though. Here it is plated with red Brandywine (the king of flavor) and Black Krim:

Not every wild and wacky variety that I try turns out to be great. This is why I think my wife gets aggravated with my obsession. For every variety that "makes the team" there are two or three that don't get invited back. Last season's disappointments included the White Tomatoes. How cool is a white tomato? Unfortunately when you take all the pigment out of a tomato, some of the tomato flavor goes with it. They do look cool though:

The above picture is Great White and the below picture is White Tomesol:

Actually, to be fair, the flavor is still good but pretty different. I may still grow some this year, even if for no other reason than the novelty of it.

So this year I am perusing the seed catalogs and seed company website in search of more "strange but good" heirloom tomatoes. My keeper list from years past include Brandywine, Black Krim, Orange Blossom, Ky Beefsteak, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Kellogg's Breakfast and possibly White Tomelsol. A clear winner in the Pink Tomato varieties have yet to surface.

So help me out - am I missing out on a truly great heirloom tomato variety? What is your favorite? Least Favorite? What should I be looking for for my new rookie sensation this year? I'm a bit worried. I have successfully found worthy varieties to join the rooster each year, but I'm not sure about this year.

I'd like to hear your thoughts. Doesn't this make you crave a garden fresh BLT?

22 comments:

Harmony

Actually, I don't like BLT's. :-) But I love tomatoes, and the heirloom varieties are definitely fun!

This year's Baker Creek catalog says that they prefer the taste of Yellow Brandywines to the regular Brandywine tomato. I don't know if that's true, but it might be worth looking into.

As far as pink tomatoes go, the Marmandes from France are reputed to have excellent flavor, but they are pretty small in my experience. The taste was quite good, though.

Victory seeds has some nice pink tomatoes that I would like to try someday. The ones that most interest me are the Pink Accordian (which just looks cool), New Big Dwarf, and Ferris Wheel.

Chiot's Run

How lovely. I'm just getting into different kinds of tomatoes. As a kid though, my parents always let each of us choose one kind of crop we wanted to grow each year. I always ended up choosing something blue: blue corn or blue potatoes I remember.

Nancy

you might try loking in
rareseeds.com

Mrs Flam

My husband says it makes sense i like ugly or odd looking veggies , he says I have the same taste in Pets (I collect some very odd fish)

Jenn

I have had a bit of an addiction to heirloom tomatoes since I began gardening as well. I have not grown a red tomato in about 7 years.
Last year I grew 10 different varieties and I can't wait till spring to start again.
One of our favourites last year was "garden peach". It is yellow with a slight orange blush and is actually fuzzy like a peach. We all thought is was very cool.
I do have to say that the "green zebra" has so far been my favourite, year after year.

Dan

I just found a heirloom tomato grower from California the other day. They have something like 600 varieties of heirlooms! I am very excited as I am a weird tomato nut like yourself. Their url is http://www.tomatofest.com/heirloom_tomato_seed_store.html

I think my favorite heirloom would be Hillbilly Potato Loaf, sometimes just called Hillbilly. It is a great tasting, large, yellow/red tomato. It is a must try.

This year I think my most unusual variety I am going to try is Jersey Devil. It is shaped like a cayenne pepper, it is mostly meat and is supposed to be very good for salsa.

Can't wait to see your tom's grow this season!

HappyGirl

My favorite pink heirloom tomato is Prudents Purple. I got the seeds from Johnny's Seeds. They have a terrific flavor and they typically weigh in around a pound.

Connie

For a pink Tomato, you might try Caspian Pink, a good tasting heirloom. Pineapple, a mottled red/yellow variety, grows huge and makes a great sandwich tomato. It is one of my husband's favorites.
In my tomato trials this year, I grew Nyagous from a seed trade. It turned out to be one of the best tasting of all the heirlooms I've tried. It is a Russian variety, smaller in size with black shoulders. Can't wait to grow some more this year!

Lynn

Last summer our Master Gardners held a tomato tasting day. We had over 60 varieties of tomatoes. It was so much fun and we had over 300show up that day. YOU WOULD HAVE LOVED IT!!! I can send you pictures if you want, they were beautiful...

Kelli Simone

Have you had any experience with Mortgage Lifters?

I planted them last year as an homage to my West Virginian mother. I love them. I will plant more this season. I believe they fall in the "pink" category. ~ksp

Throwback at Trapper Creek

We love the Green Zebra too, although I wished it produced more tomatoes, but it is so tasty, it gets to stay.

Have you tried Persimmon? It makes the most beautiful tomato marmalade and tastes good too.

The Black Krim looks intriguing on that plate.

Marc and Renee

All of these suggestions have been great so far. Thanks!

Mr. and Mrs. H

Black Krim has been one of our favorites for years also, and gets better for us each year that we save the previous years seeds. One of our other favorites is Bloody Butcher due to it's early ripening and great flavor. Matt's Wild Cherry is also at the top of our list. It is not only very tasty but seems to resist splitting better than any other cherries we have grown.

Patrick

My two favorites this year were probably Emerald Evergreen and Japanese Trifele Black.

The former was less colorful than your green tomato, but the taste was very good and the plants were very productive. The later tomato was not very productive by the way, but the taste was very good.

If you want to be a little more adventurous, a plant breeder I know is offering some of his creations as well as some unstable genetic mixes and crosses.

http://homegrowngoodness.blogspot.com/2008/12/seeds-will-be-available-again-january.html

These would be particularly good if you wanted to plant a couple of them, then selectively save seeds from tomatoes you like, creating your own varieties specially developed for your garden and tastes.

I hope to try some of these this year, but I'm still planning space in my garden and I don't know if they'll fit.

Janet

Seconding the recomendation of the peach tomato. I grew them last year and they just produced and produced (I'm in New England). Warning -- they are small, so a mini BLT would suit them best : ) Very sweet and just delicious. Mine never actually made it into the house -- and they don't keep more than a day once picked, so that's just as well.

Matron

There are just too many varieties to choose from!! I enjoy a heritage beefsteak tomato Golden Jubilee - superb flavour. I am also trying some of the brown and black varieties for the first time this year.

Melinda

My favorites from last year were Japanese Black Triefle (which is actually from Russia - lol) and Black Cherry. Somewhat like Black Krim, but sweeter and VERY early varieties. Black Cherry tomatoes are like candy. But make sure you let them get fully ripe on the vine - they actually do get pretty dark in color.

I'm on the lookout for a good orange heirloom. I had one from a vegetable stand in northern CA once, and it was the most divine tomato I've ever had: sweet, meaty, juicy, yummy goodness. But I can't find one that compares.

Patrick

There's also the Oregon State University blue tomato that's making the rounds now:

http://kcgardens.kansascity.com/files/images/blue4.img_assist_custom.jpg

I didn't get any seeds because I don't have space this year, and I think by now all the available seeds are gone. Next year I'm pretty sure it'll be possible to get seeds from fellow gardeners for anyone who's interested.

It's made with traditional breeding techniques, by crossing a wild tomato with a normal one.

I understand it tastes 'inky', so it may not win on taste tests. A number of people are planning to cross it with other tomatoes in their garden this year, so in a couple of years there may be some interesting new tomatoes as a result.

I don't know if this fits in with your definition of 'heirloom' tomato!

Patrick

Here are some KY heirloom tomatoes:

www.blueribbontomatoes.com

The blog that talks about these tomatoes is here:

http://blueribbontomatoes.blogspot.com/

These are more likely to be suited to your climate than any others, meaning more disease resistant and productive as well.

Have you grown these before?

rosewalker

Hi there - I just found your blog today. :) I grew "Rose" last year, and it has earned a permanent place in my garden. It's a beautiful pink tomato, and it's DELICIOUS!

"Paul Robeson" was another favourite of mine last year, it was the best of the black tomatoes I grew.

I also tried a white tomato for the first time this year (White Tomesol). I wasn't particularly impressed by the flavor until I made a white tomato soup - it concentrated the flavor, and since it was subtle and sweet, it didn't get make the soup overly-acidic like some of my reds tend to.

Jack

Has anyone tried a heirloom called Cherokee Purple? It will be a new one for me this year.

Diane

One of my favorite tomato plants is the Cherokee Purple. They look somewhat purple but have a great taste!

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