Heirloom tomatoes: 9 favorites I’ll grow again! An occasional analysis.

flat of small colorful cherry tomatoes

All the pretties look so stunning together!

I’ve not written a post about my favorite heirloom tomatoes for a couple of years now, and I call that downright sad! Surely you all have wondering about this, gentle reader. Lying awake nights . . .

Undoubtedly Mother Earth News, The Heirloom Garden, Fine Gardening, and Horticulture Magazine have all been waiting, waiting, waiting for the metaphorical pearls of tomato-growing wisdom to drip from my lips, er, my tap-tapping finger tips?

Wait no longer, dear fellow heirloom tomato-growing-besotted compatriots. (And I’ll include any tomato-growers here. Not just heirloom growers! We have a big tent, we tomato growers! Here it is, my semi-annual, relatively regular assessment of new-to-me (and some not-so-new-to-me-let’s-see-how-many-dashes-we-can-use-here-shall-we?) heirloom tomato varieties.

Prepare yourself. I seem to be using a lot of dashes today. You’ve been warned.

The Past Bears Reviewing

In the spirit of . . .

 . . . I’ll note other posts inwhich (also toying with using inwhich a few times) I’ve reviewed tomato varieties, in no particular order:

In reviewing these posts, I find it amusing that I still raise most of the varieties I wrote about. I don’t usually cycle the favorites out. I just add more. Someday it will have to stop. The accumulation of favorite varieties, that is. (Or will it?)

Enough about past history though. Let’s begin with this, a strange tale of misidentification.

1. Coyote . . . or Bianca?

little yellow tomatoes

These are so sweet, so lovely and so NUMEROUS!

Certainly not “Yellow Reisentraube,” I’ll admit, with some embarrassment.

This makes me laugh: my friend Russ shared seeds with me of “Yellow Reisentraube,” a yellow cherry tomato, several years ago. He described the plants as having “an Imperialistic manner,” and advised me to give them plenty of space.

So I merrily grew what I believed to be Yellow Reisentraube. For. Years. Sure enough, Russ was correct. Why, Yellow Reisentraube did have SUCH an Imperialistic nature: they came up all over the place! They produced so many little clusters that I don’t even try to harvest them all, and all those little orbs dropping all over the place put seeds into the ground and . . . well, you know what happens with cherry tomatoes that are dropped in your own garden, right? 

So–no kidding–today I have these huge plants coming up in the old hoophouse! In the new hoophouse. In the side garden, the herb garden, and in the garden path. I’m a little surprised they haven’t migrated over to the flower beds that surround our house. Somehow the seeds have been scattered everywhere. “Oh, you silly ‘Yellow Reisentraube’ you do love to take over,” I’ve murmured, fondly, as I pulled out another huge gangling plant to throw to the chickens. “And you have such a clever name; it’s always fun to say it.”

I even prided myself (gardeners are funny birds, you know) on remembering this strange name: Yellow Reisentraube, Yellow Reisentraube, Yellow Reisentraube.

And then.

I discovered that this little tomato is not Yellow Reisentraube at all.

You could have, as they say, knocked me over with a wisp of a faux-Yellow-Reisentraube-vine.

Yellow Reisentraube–in actual fact!– is a bright yellow cherry tomato with little points on their numerous little bottoms. I must have looked at the actual photo for three straight minutes, and then checked with another site and another . . . as the actual realization came to my sluggish brain. All these years. Yellow Reisentraube/NOT Yellow Reisentraube. It would take me–an upper-middle-aged-woman with an upper-middle-aged-brain–a good while to recalibrate the name of this little tomato.

Soooo what the heck . . are they . . . ?

After some digging, I realized that these little favorites that come up in reckless abundance every year are either the variety “Coyote,” which is a pale yellow currant tomato, or “Bianca.” Furthermore. I have no idea where they came from.

Were Russ’s original seeds mislabeled? Or was it some strange bit of a variety being pollinated and then reverting to a different type? I could ask Russ but he probably doesn’t remember. I mean it has been, I believe, at least a decade ago!

Whatever variety they are . . . I’ll never have to sow them again. They’ll just come up on their own. In fact, one day inwhich I’m dead and gone, they’ll still be popping up and producing plenty of these sweeties. I hope somebody remembers this silly mislabeling story at that time and laughs at me/with me.

Dead Woman Laughing. Wouldn’t that make a good title for a mystery novel . . . ?

yellow cherry tomatoes

So Wild! So Free! So not Yellow Reisentraube!

A word on volunteer plants: Actually, I don’t mind them a bit. (EXCEPTING ANNOYING WEEDS LIKE THIS ONE.) I figure volunteer plants save me a little time and effort. And if too many of them show up, it’s a bonus because I can just pull them up and either toss them to the chickens or add them to the compost pile.

And yes, chickens will eat not only the fruit, but the leaves on tomato plants! They tend to turn up their little beaks at the stems, however. I don’t blame them.

Let’s don’t get mired down in this, however. Shall we continue?

2. Juliet

I can’t sing the praises of this variety beautifully enough. The plants are big, vigorous and heavy producers (obviously!). The fruits drip down in clusters, so you can just pick them by the handful!

They are like little miniature Romas. Cute little baby Romas. And they are all nearly identical, which ought to appeal to you if you want to make cherry tomato tomaisins.

Or a salad with tiny cross sections of small tomatoes, stirred up with a nice marinade, fresh chopped basil (or thyme or dill if you have any?) and a handful of bleu cheese . . . . (That’s not a bad idea, actually.)

pints of Juliet tomatoes

One picking–from one plant! Seriously. (There are some under-ripe tomatoes pictured because they do fall off easily when you are picking the ripe ones.)

3. Sunrise Bumblebee

The photo below might not be very clear–possibly?–because the (intrepid? desperate?) photographer was crawling in a long dark sort of tunnel of tomato vines in order to harvest.

Every one of the Bumblebee series is a winner, in my estimation, but I’m especially enjoying the Sunrise variety this year. Not only are they super-sweet when ripe, I like it that there are so many shades of colors as they ripen. One vine produces all these colors–pale yellow, golden, orange-coral, and rosy red–and that appeals to the artist in me. They are stunning, striped, and very sweet, also.

They have as much variety as the Juliet tomatoes have sameness.

cluster of cherry tomatoes

Sunrise Bumblebee tomatoes: all ripe!


4. Hungarian Heart

big heart-shaped tomato

I just love me a big ole’ pink heart-shaped tomato!

A sweet friend gave me a few tomato plants this spring, varieties that I’ve never grown before. This is one of them. I love it so. Not only is it truly heart-shaped, but all the fruits are HUGE. They are juicy and full of flavor when ripe. Pink. Heart-shaped. Delicious. What more could you want from a tomato?

5. Blush Yellow

yellow & purple tomatoes

Aren’t they weird . . . and delightful?

I confess that I have no idea where I got this plant. But I love these weird and surprising tomatoes so much. They start out pale yellow with blue shoulders where the sun hits them. As they ripen, the yellow warms and the blue turns to purple. They have the same anthocyanins that blueberries, aronia berries, and other blue tomatoes contain.

That means that there is powerful goodness in those purple shoulders. Also it means that these weird-looking tomatoes possess

  • antidiabetic,
  • anticancer,
  • anti-inflammatory,
  • antimicrobial, and
  • anti-obesity effects, as well as
  • powerful medicine for your heart!

Don’t read this if you are easily offended by things like thinking and discussing: WHY OH WHY, by the way, do folks spend so much time arguing over topics like whether masks work or if certain shots should be taken, when in actuality taking a bit of time to learn about foods and seeking out the ones that actually build health might do immeasurable good for our bodies? If we’re going to obsess about building health, why not obsess over food-as-medicine? (got more dashes in–score!) Why? This seems like a smart course of action.

After all, anthocyanins extracted from edible plants are potential and potent medicinal agents. Cool, eh?

But you probably already knew that. You’re a clever one.

Now if only anthocyanins would boost my memory so I could remember where I got this plant!?

6. Pink Champagne

pink and yellow tomatoes

The Pink Champagne pair so nicely (visually) with Barry’s Crazy Cherries.

More with the pink!

Who doesn’t love *sigh* pink champagne? What a brilliant name for this little beauty.

What’s in a name? Think about this: if liver was actually called “bacon” or “steak” I wonder if my son Mack would like it better? But: liver. It just sounds sketchy. Live-errrrr.

But this little tomato was so aptly named. The Pink Champagne and the Blush Yellow are the only tomato in this line-up whose seeds did not come from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I believe. The seeds for the pink hybrid beauty came from Totally Tomatoes.

They are unbelievably sweet, and I love the unusual pointy shape. Don’t you?

And that leads me to another pointy-ended cherry tomato:

7. Barry’s Crazy Cherry

The picture in the seed catalog is totally accurate. This is how they grow.

cluster of yellow cherry tomatoes

This photo is accurate! (Also compliments of rareseeds.com)

Think I’m kidding? Believe it. This is a Wild Boar Farms release, and it’s a winner. If I could only grow one yellow beak-ended cherry tomato that looks perfect with Pink Champagne, this would be it!

They feel really good in my mouth, as well. That’s all I can say about them. Terrific mouth-feel.

8. Pineapple

pile of pink/yellow tomatoes

all the colors! *swooon*

Pineapple tomatoes are simply stunning and also very productive! The little pile of tomatoes in the photo above all came from one plant, in one picking. And there were many more, to boot! They are very sweet, beautiful, and have a fruity flavor. 

And all that color. Such a delight!

9. Evil Olive

Plateful of cherry tomatoes

Gosh! Aren’t you amazed? They are so gorgeous! (photo from rareseeds.com)

Last spring, I wanted seeds for this new variety so badly . . . but every time I’d check the seed catalog website, I would get the same message: Out of Stock, Ya Loser. Ugh!! I put my name on a waiting list and finally my turn came. I did a cartwheel when I got the notification that I could order them. (And I didn’t even know I could do cartwheels!) I think the envelope only contained 10 seeds. 10 precious seeds; only a few of them germinated, and I only planted one plant in my garden. But–hands down–it is my favorite newbie this year!

On the outside, it is quite nondescript–a slightly oblong olive green tomato with a little orange on it) but when you slice it . . . well, you can see the explosion of color in the photo above. When ripe, it is quite juicy and tasty, and it is supposed to be a great long keeper, which is handy since the plant is producing very heavily!

That’s all she wrote!

wagonload of tomatoes

That’s all she wrote!

Now, dearest gentle reader, it’s YOUR turn! Did you grow any new varieties–or any old favorites–that blew you away with their taste, splendidly fine looks, or productivity?

Well then. Share away in the comments. I’m waiting to hear from you!

Thanks for popping in!


Oh! An important P.S.

. . . And word to the wise. I’ve noticed, as I’ve been perusing seed websites that there are a LOT of seeds out of stock. It may be time to start putting your name on Waiting lists for seeds, or even to learn how to save your own seeds. Hopefully things will get better, seeds-supply-wise (you know I had to get a few more dashes in) but if they don’t, saving your own seed may make a big difference in what you can plant next year.



8 thoughts on “Heirloom tomatoes: 9 favorites I’ll grow again! An occasional analysis.

  1. Kay

    Well, imagine my surprise! What I have been praising as “so yummy you pink Champagne” are really “super sweet Surprise Bumblebee!” I think the wind or tomato fairies moved your labels so I would get a “sweet surprise.” So good, so sweet, so prolific!

    And so thankful I bought seeds in the spring so I can plant next spring.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I am blushing, Kay, because you’re not the only one who has sweetly commented about my varieties not growing out true to the tag! Oh well, better luck next time for all of us!! But I’m really happy that you got a Bumblebee. Aren’t they just so beautiful and YUMMY??

  2. Gene Gage

    Yay! This is a great column to remind your readers of the essentially endless varieties of heirloom/artisan tomatoes available these days! But you forgot to mention one important thing – your incredibly rich soil, enhanced with 20 years of chicken manure compost. And I agree – if you want the most complete and interesting listing of tomato seeds, Baker Creek is the place to go. (rareseeds.com). I can’t wait to see your bounty in person one of these days.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Gene, That is a very good point! My chickens are definitely my allies in growing really nice tomatoes. I finally found spots where the plants are very happy, too. I abandoned the “Infamous Tomato Plant Landslide” patch that I had been trying–in vain–to make into a new tomato patch. And my tomatoes are productively much happier for it!! (Don’t ask me what I abandoned it to!!)

  3. Lisa

    It’s funny how “everyone” says how great Pineapple tomatoes are, and I hate them! The plant produced to excess too. My favorite heirloom is Hoskins-Barger. This year I have Black Sea Man, but I’m not really a fan of purple tomatoes. Tomatoes were a pretty sorry showing this year.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Lisa, whoa, that’s a surprise! What is it about Pineapple do you hate? I’m going to look up Hoskins-Barger. I’ve never heard of them and would be interested in getting some seeds.

  4. Janet Dugan

    Between county water restrictions, weather and vile, evil, horrible greedy groundhogs, there were only a handful of tomatoes for us this year. I’m living vicariously through you right now. Enjoy those precious gems!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Bless your heart, Janet. If I could box up a pile of these beauties and send them to you, I would. I’m afraid they would be sauce when they got there! I’m hoping and praying for a better garden year for you there next year. You’re in Ohio, correct? OH I’m so sorry about the groundhogs. That is one vile beast that we don’t have here. We did, however, have record numbers (i believe!) of Japanese beetles! UGH! Do you ever have them there?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.