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Cultivating Heirloom Tomatoes


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This year I've started 18 tomato plants from seed and all are coming along nicely. I ordered a couple of variety packs from Tomatofest.com last year and so I had to pick through and decide what to plant.

I decided on (better desciptions at website):

Blondkopfchen - A Yellow cherry from Germany

http://store.tomatofest.com/Blondkopfchen_Heirloom_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0070.htm

Black Cherry- The only truly black cherry tomato.

http://store.tomatofest.com/SearchResults.asp?Search=Black+Cherry

Dagma's Perfection- Yellow tomato with red stripes

http://store.tomatofest.com/Dagma_s_Perfection_p/tf-0136.htm

Pink Branywines- Sudduth's Strain- Possibly the original Brandywine strain?

http://store.tomatofest.com/Brandywine_Sudduth_s_Strain_p/tf-0080.htm

Flamme- Golf ball sized persimmon colored- Good for sauce

http://store.tomatofest.com/Flamme_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0175.htm

Green Zebra- Yellow with green stripes- Citrus flavored

http://store.tomatofest.com/Green_Zebra_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0225.htm

I have never grown any of the above before so the descriptions are what Tomatofest says about each one.

What is everybody else planting this year?

What are your favorite strains?

Any strains you've planted in the past that were disappointing?

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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Last year I bought some beautiful heirlooms from whole foods. Yellow, orange with stripes, purple....they are available now at the farmers market, but varieties are limited. I sprouted some from the store bought, and they are beautiful, sturdy plants.....of unknown parantage unfortunatly as the seeds got mixed up. Should they produce anything, I'll let you know, maybe you'll be able to identify them. I am afraid they'll be sterile, it would seem that heirlooms would be harder to grow than this!

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I've been growing Goose Creek for the past half-year or so hydroponically in my apartment windowsill. I got the original plant from Laurel's. This is an exceptional tomato - intense flavor, baseball sized fruits great for eating raw with a touch of salt, or warmed... Very happy with it and would highly recommend it.

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Have tried Brandywines, Cherokee Purple, a couple striped varities, and some Russian black whose name I can't recall: terrible production out of all of 'em, but I'm in climate zone 9B. I think it's just too hot & wet here for so many of the older varieties; I would get 1 or 2 early fruits, then lots of flowers and NO fruit set. This year, I have orange jubilee, Park's whopper, Beefmaster, Better Boy, Celebrity, a grape cultivar, and some fusarium-wilt hybrids. I have good fruit set, so far, with fist-sized tomatoes already on the larger plants. Should have some edible grape tomatoes by the end of next week.

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Have tried Brandywines, Cherokee Purple, a couple striped varities, and some Russian black whose name I can't recall: terrible production out of all of 'em, but I'm in climate zone 9B. I think it's just too hot & wet here for so many of the older varieties; I would get 1 or 2 early fruits, then lots of flowers and NO fruit set. This year, I have orange jubilee, Park's whopper, Beefmaster, Better Boy, Celebrity, a grape cultivar, and some fusarium-wilt hybrids. I have good fruit set, so far, with fist-sized tomatoes already on the larger plants. Should have some edible grape tomatoes by the end of next week.

I'm in 7b and my problem last year was not production. I had plenty of fruits but almost all of mine split before they were ripe. This year, I'm using a moisture control potting soil and I'm growing mostly smaller fruited strains (except for the Brandywine). Hopefully that helps.

ETA: Was the Russian "Black Krim"? My mother had no luck with hers either (she's in 8a).

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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Yes, I believe it was black krim. I need to go out today and look for some heat-tolerant varieties--as soon as the nighttime lows stay above 70, I won't get any fruit set at all unless I have some Florida, Solar Fire, etc. The cherry & grape varieties do best as the summer wears on. Luckily, I've avoided the usual plague of caterpillars that shows up in April; we had a consistently cold winter this year, and lower temps always lower the pest load come spring.

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Yes, I believe it was black krim. I need to go out today and look for some heat-tolerant varieties--as soon as the nighttime lows stay above 70, I won't get any fruit set at all unless I have some Florida, Solar Fire, etc. The cherry & grape varieties do best as the summer wears on. Luckily, I've avoided the usual plague of caterpillars that shows up in April; we had a consistently cold winter this year, and lower temps always lower the pest load come spring.

There's actually a variety called Creole that should work for you if you can find them. I saw them last year and heard good things about them.

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Yes, I believe it was black krim. I need to go out today and look for some heat-tolerant varieties--as soon as the nighttime lows stay above 70, I won't get any fruit set at all unless I have some Florida, Solar Fire, etc. The cherry & grape varieties do best as the summer wears on. Luckily, I've avoided the usual plague of caterpillars that shows up in April; we had a consistently cold winter this year, and lower temps always lower the pest load come spring.

There's actually a variety called Creole that should work for you if you can find them. I saw them last year and heard good things about them.

The named variety 'Creole' is pretty much crap in my garden. It is a low producer, not very disease resistant, and generally lackluster all around; tried it several years running with poor results each time. I'm also annoyed by the co-opting of the general term "creole" for a named variety. Around here, a Creole tomato is any tomato, regardless of variety, that is grown in the alluvial soils deposited by the MS river. Typical farm-grown Creoles are from hybrid varieties like Celebrity; they're heavy, non-symmetrical, and often have healed cracks on the shoulders (thanks to abundant rain).

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Yes, I believe it was black krim. I need to go out today and look for some heat-tolerant varieties--as soon as the nighttime lows stay above 70, I won't get any fruit set at all unless I have some Florida, Solar Fire, etc. The cherry & grape varieties do best as the summer wears on. Luckily, I've avoided the usual plague of caterpillars that shows up in April; we had a consistently cold winter this year, and lower temps always lower the pest load come spring.

There's actually a variety called Creole that should work for you if you can find them. I saw them last year and heard good things about them.

The named variety 'Creole' is pretty much crap in my garden. It is a low producer, not very disease resistant, and generally lackluster all around; tried it several years running with poor results each time. I'm also annoyed by the co-opting of the general term "creole" for a named variety. Around here, a Creole tomato is any tomato, regardless of variety, that is grown in the alluvial soils deposited by the MS river. Typical farm-grown Creoles are from hybrid varieties like Celebrity; they're heavy, non-symmetrical, and often have healed cracks on the shoulders (thanks to abundant rain).

The people I heard from were growing them up here but I was told they were developed for Louisiana (hence the name) so I figured they would work for you. Guess not.

ETA: The site I mentioned in my original post has a collection of Hot\Humid varieties that I might order next year (I feel like it's too late this year).

http://www.tomatofest.com/tomato-seeds-tropical-hot-humid-collection.html

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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Should they produce anything, I'll let you know, maybe you'll be able to identify them. I am afraid they'll be sterile, it would seem that heirlooms would be harder to grow than this!

I thought sterility was generally more of an issue with modern hybrids.

My botany knowledge is limited so perhaps someone else could enlighten us both on this point.

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Should they produce anything, I'll let you know, maybe you'll be able to identify them. I am afraid they'll be sterile, it would seem that heirlooms would be harder to grow than this!

I thought sterility was generally more of an issue with modern hybrids.

My botany knowledge is limited so perhaps someone else could enlighten us both on this point.

Heirloom is an empty term these days. It can mean different things to different people. The most common useage in plant circles is for an open-pollinated variety that will indeed breed true to seed--in other words, a plant that will set seeds that produce similar offspring. On the other hand, some retailers identify anything that's not a hard, machine-picked tomato as an "heirloom" variety, when some of those odd tomatoes are indeed hybrids (just less common than the most productive commercial varieties).

Hybrids aren't true seeding--they're crosses of varieties and their seeds will produce wildly variable (or poor quality) offspring. They're not always sterile; the seed just isn't dependable. In addition, if it is a recently developed hybrid, it's technically a violation of intellectual property laws to save seeds from patent hybrids for your own propagation.

So if those tomatoes were old-fashioned, open-pollinated tomatoes, there's a good chance you'll get productive plants. I don't save tomato seeds (too tiny & fiddly for me, plus I have no greenhouse to start the seedlings in late Dec or Jan, which is when I'd have to start to be ready for transplanting in late Feb/early March), but I do save herb seeds (multi basil varieties, dill, cilantro, fennel, parsley). One benefit of allowing the cooler-season herbs to set seed as the weather warms: their flowers bring bees to the garden just about the time the tomatoes will need pollination, too.

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Should they produce anything, I'll let you know, maybe you'll be able to identify them. I am afraid they'll be sterile, it would seem that heirlooms would be harder to grow than this!

I thought sterility was generally more of an issue with modern hybrids.

My botany knowledge is limited so perhaps someone else could enlighten us both on this point.

Heirloom is an empty term these days. It can mean different things to different people. The most common useage in plant circles is for an open-pollinated variety that will indeed breed true to seed--in other words, a plant that will set seeds that produce similar offspring. On the other hand, some retailers identify anything that's not a hard, machine-picked tomato as an "heirloom" variety, when some of those odd tomatoes are indeed hybrids (just less common than the most productive commercial varieties).

I'm with you on this. The Atkinson variety was developed at my Alma Mater in the 60s but is regularly referred to as an heirloom (in fact it's included in the collection I linked above).

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I found out that Laurel is in my neighborhood a bit late last year. I got an Abe Lincoln and planted it the first week of June. It was am amazingly strong, large plant and the yield and flavor were good and to our taste even though I had the poor plant in a spot that was too shady. I see she is open this Sunday, so I will head over there and report back on what I pick up.

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I've got four varieties started for this year: White Wonder (my most dependable variety, my favorite for preserves), Jubilee (with luck lots of beautiful, large, meaty yellow/orange fruit with excellent flavor), Brandywine (first tried last year, and in a terrible year for tomatoes seemed promising in my area), and one new one, Giant Belgium Pink. I'm basically in zone 5, but not far from 6. Wish me luck.

Dick in Northbrook, IL

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Well I killed all of mine today. I was hardening off my seedlings and hadn't looked at the weather. It ended up being 90 and they dried up before I realized it was so hot. Every last one is toast.

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Made it over to Laurel's Heirloom Tomatoes today. I wanted them all but only had room for two plants. I got a Clint Eastwood Rowdy Red and a Berkeley Tie Dye. Since I have no garden space for them I picked up two 25 gallon Smart Pots and four bags of E. b. Stone potting soil. They are in sunny spots and caged. I am excited.

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Well I killed all of mine today. I was hardening off my seedlings and hadn't looked at the weather. It ended up being 90 and they dried up before I realized it was so hot. Every last one is toast.

Oh man, now that is a bummer. I've come close before but always been able to resuscitate mine. A total loss sucks.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Well I killed all of mine today. I was hardening off my seedlings and hadn't looked at the weather. It ended up being 90 and they dried up before I realized it was so hot. Every last one is toast.

Oh man, now that is a bummer. I've come close before but always been able to resuscitate mine. A total loss sucks.

It ended up being OK. Though mine were unable to be revived, it turns out my mother had planted all the same varieties (I gave her the same collection I bought last year) so she's going to give me everything I lost. Fortunately, my mother always overplants.

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There needs to be a rule here:

If you don't grow your own heirloom tomatoes, you cannot joint as a eGullet member. :laugh:

I have a removable/re-installble insulated greenhouse, which takes about 15 minutes to take down and install every year.

I never have to worry about frost or need to harden the plants. I get about two more months of growing in NY zone.

dcarch

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so if you could only grow one tomato plant, which variety would it be? I'm growing a Goose Creek heirloom tomato in my small NYC apartment - it's been growing happily since last May or so and it's still producing quite a bit of fruit - although it has definitely taken over the corner of the apartment where it lives... i imagine it will start slowing fruit production over the next few months as it will be getting close to a year of fruiting around then.

I'm debating whether to clone it and start over with the same variety or try a new one. To be honest, this tomato has the best flavor of any tomato I've had - intense tomato, acidic and sweet at teh same time... I'd like to stick with a indeterminate variety since my wife and I can only consume a few tomatoes per week, which is what my plant keeps providing - whereas a determinate would provide basically the whole crop all at once...

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We've got some San Marzanos and Amish paste growing. Finding good sauce / paste / canning tomatoes is a lot harder in the markets than finding the more popular varieties of heirlooms, which I also enjoy. To me, the paste tomatoes are great fresh on top of pasta without any pre-cooking.

I really like Evans tomatoes when they're around at the market - I haven't been able to find much information about them, but I think they're a modern hybrid produced by a seed company, not an "heirloom".

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Yes, I believe it was black krim. I need to go out today and look for some heat-tolerant varieties--as soon as the nighttime lows stay above 70, I won't get any fruit set at all unless I have some Florida, Solar Fire, etc. The cherry & grape varieties do best as the summer wears on. Luckily, I've avoided the usual plague of caterpillars that shows up in April; we had a consistently cold winter this year, and lower temps always lower the pest load come spring.

There's actually a variety called Creole that should work for you if you can find them. I saw them last year and heard good things about them.

The named variety 'Creole' is pretty much crap in my garden. It is a low producer, not very disease resistant, and generally lackluster all around; tried it several years running with poor results each time. I'm also annoyed by the co-opting of the general term "creole" for a named variety. Around here, a Creole tomato is any tomato, regardless of variety, that is grown in the alluvial soils deposited by the MS river. Typical farm-grown Creoles are from hybrid varieties like Celebrity; they're heavy, non-symmetrical, and often have healed cracks on the shoulders (thanks to abundant rain).

The people I heard from were growing them up here but I was told they were developed for Louisiana (hence the name) so I figured they would work for you. Guess not.

ETA: The site I mentioned in my original post has a collection of Hot\Humid varieties that I might order next year (I feel like it's too late this year).

http://www.tomatofest.com/tomato-seeds-tropical-hot-humid-collection.html

Around atlanta area (~7B) and some years work ok and others don't. Hard to predict. Tried ~ 15 variety of heirlooms. Overall, I guess I've settled on Cherokee Purple as my main squeeze. I LOVE dark fruited tomatoes; incredible depth of flavor. And they seem to do pretty well here whether-wise. Some cracking, but not too bad.

This year, finally, I've decided to plant more hybrids along with the heirlooms. That way I assure myself of better production. And the taste is not bad, lets be honest. Good enough for the in-laws, anyway. : )

Chip Wilmot

Lack of wit can be a virtue

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dcarch, I love your greenhouse! what a great idea and a great use of space, too. Did you build it yourself?

Please tell me those tomato plants are from last summer--I'd be too jealous if you already have plants that size in NY.


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