I planted a lot of heirloom tomato plants this year. News flash. Since I didn’t really have a plan for marketing them, having closed up our farmer’s market table this summer, I did field many questions about precisely why I was planting so many, besides the fact that it was keeping me out of the house, which is what I prefer, naturally. I was vague and noncommittal in my answers, because . . . I . . . well, just because. I didn’t have a plan for what I was going to do with all of them, Gentle Reader, I just knew that I had to grow them.
There. The truth is out. I didn’t have a plan. Does that shock you? If you are a faithful Gentle Reader, probably not. You probably know this about me, that I do aplenty without much of a plan. I think maybe that’s what is referred to as “flying by the seat of your pants,” which is something I do quite often. *sigh*
I have so many favorite heirloom tomatoes now, after growing them for a couple of decades, that I have to grow at least a couple of each of my absolute favorites: Dr. Wyche’s Yellow, Pink Bumblebee, Cream Sausage, Granny Cantrell, Green Zebra, Blue Berries, Chocolate Cherry, Purple Pear, and several more, I will grow (God willing) every summer until I croak. (And that will happen most likely–and hopefully–in my garden, a half-eaten Indigo Apple clutched in my arthritic claw.)
Besides the old favorites that I’ve written about already, I have gardening friends who shared plants with me this spring, and so I was introduced to some new heirloom delights, which I’ve added to my ever-expanding list of heirloom must-grows. You see the conflict here, don’t you? My list of favorites keeps growing, as my garden ought to be getting smaller, not bigger! Oh well (picture me shrugging, and throwing off common sense for one more gardening year. And popping one more Sunsweet II into my mouth).
I didn’t even order any new tomato seeds this year, believe it or don’t, but I still managed to plant over a hundred tomato plants (well over, *cough*) and I don’t regret a single one of them.
So, what have I done with all of these tomatoes? I know you must be wondering. Well, well. What do you know? A friend who markets to chefs in the city has bought a weekly picking of cherry tomatoes from me. I’ve given flats full of them away to friends. I have a few customers who live in the area who have purchased them from me, doing business over Facebook (and Paypal), and I’ve had folks show up at my back door, asking me if I would sell them tomatoes. 🙂
In short, it has been easy to find homes for my superfluous tomatoes, even without much effort on my part. AND I’ve been able to eat like a homestead hog on them, all summer long. Life is good when you’ve got a steady supply of heirloom tomatoes to cook with, to can up into salsa and tomato soup, to give to friends and sell to customers. AND I still plan on making a batch or two of this salsa that ruins everything, another batch of tomato soup, and some pizza sauce. Gosh, I’d better get busy!
Really, it has been so nice. Having too many tomatoes is a piquant blessing.
But this post is about a few new favorites I grew this year. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are five new favorite heirlooms that I’ll grow again.
1. Yellow Reisentraube
I have my gardening friend Russ to blame for this one. I couldn’t remember even where it came from, this lovely little pale yellow cherry tomato that I discovered in my lineup in the hoop house, so I had to do a bit of digging in my seed collection. I came up with the envelope that Russ sent me in the early spring, bragging on this lemon-colored jewel. Russ wrote “plants have imperialistic tendencies–so give them room” and I found this to be true. They perhaps are the most lush and enthusiastic plants in my hoop house, growing out of the tops of my 5′ tall tomato cages and then tumbling all the way down to puddle on the ground at my feet. That’s at least 10′ of vine, folks, if my second-grade math skills are to be trusted.
The lush plants are loaded with sprays of small pale yellow berry-like tomatoes. The flavor is mild and unique. The skins are a bit thin. They do pop into the mouth (or on top of a salad) so nicely, though.
2. Red Zebra
The green zebra, I think, is for many people the entrance non-red-colored heirloom tomato. In fact when my friend Mr. Lawrence admitted that for his tastes, a tomato must be red to be acceptable in his garden, I asked him (after my initial gasp of disbelief and then dismay, coquettishly hidden in a delicate cough) if he had tried the green zebra. It has long been in my top ten list, as it is in many other heirloom tomato fancier’s lists. There are great reasons for this. It is a smaller, salad-sized tomato, zingy and full of flavor, and the vines are vigorous producers, to boot. It’s just a winner in a lot of growers’ books. This new close relative of the green zebra has the same qualities, only in a red and yellow striped color. I just love it.
So here you go, Mr. Lawrence: a truly outstanding little striped heirloom tomato, and it’s not green! 🙂 Start with this one, and maybe in a year or two I’ll have you slicing up green striped tomatoes on your BLTs, with relish.
3. Indigo Rose
I think my friend Gene shared this plant with me. I just adore the new blue and purple tomatoes, as you well know. They are just stunning, and of course are loaded with anthocyanins, those antioxidants that we are trying to get more of into our diets.
The “Indigo Rose” tomato appeared a couple years ago, the first truly purple variety, through the program at Oregon State University that is working to breed tomatoes with higher levels of antioxidants. One year in the not-too-distant future, it won’t be startling to see this purple color in our tomato patches. But right now it is a visual delight, and a surprise.
The tomatoes above are ripe. They are bright purple before they ripen, and then they turn a blackish-darkish-reddish-um—. Put another way: when they are green, they are purple. Ha. (Sorry.)
You can read all about this new tomato variety here, and also about why anthocyanins are such a big hairy deal. See, decent reading on vomitingchicken.com, at last!
4. Isis Candy Cherry
This is another prolific producer, and is visually stunning, as well. These tomatoes are a bit larger for cherry tomatoes, and come in shades of blushing yellow and red, usually with golden flesh, and sometimes are swirled in color. They are very sweet, and mine had a tendency to crack, but usually in a spiral–such a pretty cracking pattern! . . . so it is all good. Oh, and they produce like crazytown. Bushels. Upon bushels.
5. Wapsipinicon Peach
I am just entranced by this little tomato, for so many reasons. It grows in enthusiastic clusters on a rather small plant (by my garden’s standards) and the tomatoes are sweet and tangy, and rather small, also. The nifty thing about this tomato, I guess, is that it has a slightly fuzzy skin, unlike any other tomatoes I grow. The flesh is yellow and very juicy.
This heirloom was developed in Iowa, and named after the Wapsipinicon River, a great place to fish, apparently. Who doesn’t love peaches, Iowa, and fishing? Ergo. Everybody ought to grow this tomato.
It only stands to reason. If it were possible to keep a tomato for a pet, I’d keep the Wapsipinicon Peach.
So there you have it. Five new heirloom tomato favorites from my garden to yours. And be assured, Gentle Reader, that if you decide to plant way more heirloom tomatoes than is prudent next spring, I’ll be the last one to laugh. I’ll nod sagely and agree that you’ve done a Very Wise Thing.
As far as sources for seeds—hmm, it doesn’t help you to say my sources are “Russ, Gene, Jamie . . . ” but I think you can find most of these varieties through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, or Territorial Seeds. They are all great sources for heirloom tomato seeds.
Oh, and here are a couple of links to my other favorite heirloom tomato listings:
Two years ago: top heirloom varieties that I grew.
Last year: My top 11 heirloom tomato varieties.
Thanks again for checking in, Gentle Reader. If you have time to write a comment, PLEASE, oh please, share with me what your favorite heirloom tomato varieties are. It doesn’t matter if you grow them or buy them at farmer’s market, I’d love to hear from you!
yellow reisentriebe (sp?)
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