Saturday, July 31, 2010

Finding Prolific Heirloom Tomatoes

A while back I read the book 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden, by Carolyn Male and took some notes about the varieties. It has some great information about numerous heirloom tomatoes and shows detailed pictures of the plants and fruit. When I read the book I was primarily looking for heirloom tomatoes that were highly prolific to plant in my garden. Why grow heirlooms tomatoes if you are going to only get one or two. I've created a list of the heirloom tomatoes that I liked in bold. The asterisks denote how prolific they are supposed to be, with three asterisks (***) being the most prolific. I think that will likely vary depending on your climate and soil, but the ones reported as being prolific are probably a good place to start.

I have since grown some of the varieties and can anecdotally report how well they performed based on my recollection. I grew Box Car Willie, Brandywine Red, Debbie, Green Zebra, Heidi, Noir De Crimee, Santa Clara Canner, and Yellow Pear. The tomatoes are listed from greatest to least productive in my experience.

= is a tie
> is greater than

Box Car Willie = Heidi > Green Zebra > Noir De Crimee = Debbie > Yellow Pear > Brandywine Red > Santa Clara Canner

Yes, Box Car Willie was probably my most productive tomato and Heidi was just as prolific but a bit later in the season. Box Car Willie would be a good main crop bottling variety and Heidi is a good paste tomato like Juliet or Roma. I love Green Zebra tomatoes; they have a nice zingy flavor much different from red tomatoes. Noir De Crimee is similar to Black From Tula it had perfect tomatoes that never cracked and were always blemish free. Noir De Crimee was also the perfect size for bottling tomatoes. Santa Clara Canner did not do well at all, which could be partly due to the zucchini squash that tried to overtake it. I only grew one Santa Clara Canner plant, so maybe I just got a dud. I grew two of all of the other varieties and had decent luck with them. I was also not impressed with the Red Brandywine either, I have never been impressed with the production of the Brandywine tomatoes, sure the taste is good, but they don't seem to put on many of those good tasting tomatoes unless you have a really long season with perfect weather.

Tomatoes in bold made my cut.

Aker’s West Virginia
Amish Paste
Amish Salad
Andrew Rahart’s Jumbo Red***
Anna Russian
Aunt Ginny’s Purple**
Aunt Ruby’s German Green***
Big Rainbow
Black From Tula*
Box Car Willie**
Brandywine, OTV
Brandywine, Pink (Sudduth Strain)**
Brandywine Red***
Brandywine, Yellow (Platfoot Strain)***

Break O’Day
Bulgarian #7*** not commonly available
Bulgarian Triumph***
Cherokee Chocolate***not available commercially, same as Cherokee Purple except color
Cherokee Purple***
Chris Ukrainian***
Crnkovic Yugoslavian***
Debbie***red heirloom, not available commercially

Dr. Carolyn
Dr. Lyle***
Dr. Neal
Dr. Wyche’s Yellow***
Druzba***hardy, also called Druzba, Drushba, or Druzhba

Earl of Edgecombe***
Eva Purple Ball***mottled white

Germaid Red
German Head***
German Red Strawberry***
Gold Ball Livingston’s ***not available commercially
Golden Queen (USDA Strain)***USDA strain not available commercially

Green Gage***old, not available commercially, found in USDA collection
Green Grape***green cherry
Green Zebra***

Grosse Cotelee
Heidi***West African, red paste tomato not available commercially
Herman’s Yellow
Hungarian Oval***
Jaune Flammee***

Jaune Negib
Jefferson Giant
Kellog’s Breakfast***

Large Pink Bulgarian
Lida Ukrainian***
Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom***

Marizol Gold
Martino’s Roma***
Mary Ann
Matchless (Austin Strain)
Matina***rare potato-leafed with red fruit, not available commercially
Mortgage Lifter
Mule Team**
Nicky Crain
Noir De Crimee***not available commercially
Olena Ukrainian***
Omar’s Lebanese***

Orange Strawberry
Pale Perfect Purple
Peach Blow Sutton
Pink Ice*
Pink Ping Pong*
Pink Sweet
Plum Lemon**
Polish C
Rasp Large Red
Redfield Beauty
Red Pear***old
Red Penna
Regina’s Yellow**
Reif Red Heart**
Russian #117***

Sandul Moldovan*
Santa Clara Canner***

Sophie’s Choice
Sutton***not available commercially
Tangella***not available commercially

Tiffen Mennonite***
Ukrainian Heart (O’Neill Strain)
Ukrainian Heart (Tnmuj Strain)
White Queen***
Wins All
Wuhib***determinant, not available commercially
Yellow Pear***

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