Grow Heirloom Tomatoes for an Interesting Change

May 29, 2008

Well I finally set my heirloom tomato seedlings out into the garden. It’s a bit later than usual, but with the weather being as cool as it has been this shouldn’t amount to much of a setback for them.

Marc over at the Garden Desk announced his starting tomato lineup way back in February, and Hanna of This Garden is Illegal just recently reported on the mysterious tomatoes making their way into her garden, so here’s my opportunity to share the tomato varieties that I will hopefully be harvesting this summer.

Every year I toy around with the idea of scaling back on the number of tomato varieties that I grow in the garden. Not because I don’t like tomatoes, but rather because there are so many other heirloom veggies and fruits competing over the limited space in the raised beds. No matter, I always seem to wind up with more tomato plants than anticipated.

It’s So Difficult to Turn Down a Good Tomato

Despite my intentions, this growing season finds me once again struggling to fit over a dozen tomato plants into the garden. This time around the losers are the fingerling potatoes which were scratched from this season’s rotation. The spuds aren’t going down without a fight though, as several volunteer plants have appeared from tubers that were missed during last summers harvest.

I would never admit to a bit of envy towards gardeners like Hanna and Marc who find a way to grow and trial dozens of different heirloom tomato varieties each and every year. Surprisingly there is only one tomato variety (Black Krim) that is duplicated from their gardens to mine. That will give you a hint at just how many heirloom tomatoes are out there for you to try.

Veggie Gardening Tips 2008 Heirloom Tomato Listing

Well here’s the list of the unique heirloom tomatoes that you will find growing if you drop in on my organic garden this summer:

  • Black Krim – One of my favorites, I never go a season without planting at least one seedling of this small fruited, dark-colored tomato with a rich, juicy, and delicious flavor.
  • Green Tomatillo – I’ve struggled to grow a harvest of these husk type tomatoes in the past, but I’m really anxious for a successful harvest so that I can enjoy a taste of authentic home made salsa this summer.
  • Dutchman – Purple-pink colored tomatoes that can reach up to three pounds in size… so they said when they sold this one, well we’ll just have to see how large they will grow in my garden.
  • Pineapple – A regular and another of my favorite tomatoes that’s so beautiful that you almost hate to eat them… almost! Large fruits infused with streaks of red and gold and a delicious sweet flavor that will really attract attention!
  • Big Rainbow – This large, bi-colored tomato is very similar to the Pineapple heirloom variety in appearance with its eye-catching alternating patterns of red and gold marbling.
  • Camp Joy – This one is a red heirloom cherry tomato that’s replacing Sungold in the tomato line-up this year. But make no mistake about it, Sungold my all-time favorite cherry tomato (even if it is a hybrid) will return next summer!
  • Tess’s Land Race Currant – An interesting and intensely flavored tomato that’s has the remarkable ability to produce tiny fruits that range in shades from red to rose, or even gold and yellow hues.
  • Thessaloniki – This is a Greek heirloom that I’m growing for the first time. Thess is an early tomato variety that’s reputed to offer excellent flavor, disease resistance, and large yields of medium sized fruits.
  • Cherokee Chocolate – Derived from a purple variety, this tomato is an unusual brownish or chocolate color, unlike most of the dark fruited types that are actually closer to a shade of purple.
  • Box Car Willie – A red, disease resistant heirloom sporting good old-fashioned tomato taste on fruits averaging around 10 ounces. I’m afraid I can’t shed any sordid details regarding how it got its name but I’m sure that they are out there somewhere.
  • Delicious – This is a popular tomato with a famous pedigree, but it’s a variety that I’ve neglected in the past. Not as flashy as the others, but hopefully I’ll reap consistency with this large beefsteak style tomato.
  • Moonglow – Now I know good and well that I didn’t choose a tomato called Moonglow! And where is the Mortgage Lifter seedling that I purchased at the Herb Fair? Well that’s what I get for not paying closer attention when grabbing my tomato plants… I’ll have to report back once I figure out how a tomato could wind up with a name like Moonglow!

It’s not too late to jump on board the heirloom tomato bandwagon. If you didn’t start your own pampered tomato seedlings this spring then it’s time to search the local greenhouse in hopes of finding a heirloom variety or two. Otherwise you can contact the Tasteful Garden to see what interesting heirloom tomato choices they may still have in supply.

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  • John Hart

    I’ve only got 2 heirlooms this year, Paul Robeson and Black Cherry. The rest are hybrids. So far so good although I wish they were getting more sun.

  • My tomato craving just increased tenfold after reading this – am growing 1 heirloom – hopefully will somehow find space to grow more 🙂
    ~plantgirl of
    Plantgirl’s Square Foot Garden

  • Ben

    Great post, I’m keen to start growing some heirloom tomatoes!
    At the moment I’ve got a couple of hybrid Ox Heart, a Truss Cherry a few Gross Lisse.
    Might jump on Ebay and get some heirloom seeds delivered for a change.

  • I planted a Black Krim for the first time this year. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

    I’m also trying Cherokee Purple and good ol’ Brandywines.

  • Hi Kenny,

    I don’t think you’re going to be disappointed with the Moonglow tomato. On the seed packet the Seed Savers Exchange describes it as ‘one of their favorite tomatoes’, and in their annual tastings a few years ago it was voted the best tasting tomato. I’m growing it this year too for the first time.

  • The name is Thessaloniki and is the name of 2nd biggest city in Greece. I live there

  • Kenny Point

    Thanks for the heirloom tomato comments… John, I’ve been wanting to try the Paul Robeson tomato also. Plantgirl my biggest problem is always finding enough room to grow all the heirloom tomatoes that I’m interested in. Thanks Ben, I had never heard of a tomato named Gross Lisse… did a search but there doesn’t seem to be much info or any pictures out there on it. Christa, I think that you will like the Black Krim variety and I’m excited to hear that Moonglow is such a highly rated heirloom, thanks Patrick! Sorry about that Citygarden… the correction is noted and an i has been added and dotted… thank you! 🙂

  • After reading this post and these comments I believe I will plant a couple heirloom tomatoes next spring.

  • Cat

    This is my first time gardening in eons and I’ve planted nothing but heirloom tomatoes and peppers. I had to have the Hillbilly tomato because it’s from WV (as am I) and of course the Brandywine since it is a standard. I don’t actually remember what the others are…

  • Tom


    Thanks for sharing the picture of your tomato. It’s looking good.
    With so many varieties full of nutritional flavor, it’s hard to believe that you don’t like them. Enjoy your garden!

  • Cameron

    Hi Kenny,
    I’m a tomato addict—a 1/4 of my garden is devoted to heirloom tomatoes—this year I planted Heirloom Seeds variety pack, which includes: Besser, Tigerlla, Yellow Brandywine, Stupice, Roma, Pink Brandywine, Green Zebra, German Pink, Cherokee Purple, Bonnie Best, Black Krim, and Big Red. This is my first year of totally heirloom varieties. Thanks for another great post!!!

  • Wish I could plant more heirlooms. Unfortunately here, it gets way too hot for most. I have to turn to hybrids like the Heatwave or Sunmaster to really produce. But I have had lots of luck this year with the Black Prince heirloom. Tastes great, looks cool, and puts on lots of tomatoes.

  • Chris

    When perusing a local nursery a few weeks ago, I came across a tomato plant sitting by itself. It look fairly healthy and didn’t have a price on it. On a whim I picked it up and brought it home to fill out one spot in my raised beds that looked to bare. I didn’t know anything about the variety and there was only a marker in the pot that said ‘bragger’. From what I have been able to find on the web, it seems that this is an heirloom variety and grows fairly large (I hope it doesn’t overgrow the place I put it in). So far it hasn’t grown a great deal yet but there are some flower blooms on it, but they don’t seem to develop and open nearly as quickly as my other varieties. In fact I am still waiting on some flowers to see what color they are. Are there any special needs for this variety? From what I gathered on the web, they seem to be somewhat difficult to come by now for some reason.

  • Kenny Point

    Chris, heirloom tomatoes don’t have any special needs, they can be treated just like any other tomato. I had never heard of the “Bragger” variety, please let me know what you think of them once they bear fruit.

  • Chris A

    With respect to Boxcar Willie and how it got its name, I’ve heard that it was named after Willie Nelson. Of course that could just be some modern tomato folklore or disinformation.

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