What Are Heirloom Tomatoes?
Heirloom, a term used interchangeably with Heritage, refers to varieties of tomatoes whose seeds have been passed down for generations. In other words, Heirloom tomatoes are varieties that have been grown without crossbreeding for 50 or more years. This tomato Varieties are often open-pollinated, which means that they are pollinated naturally, by birds, insects, wind, or human hands.
The seeds are what make an heirloom tomato an heirloom tomato. They are passed down from season to season, taken by the farmers from the tomato plants that produced the best fruit. This process allows farmers to select for certain desirable traits like juiciness, size, shape, or color. This is in contrast to the typical supermarket tomatoes, which are hybrids that have been carefully crossbred to have particular characteristics.
Heirloom varieties are classified as: family heirlooms, commercial heirlooms, mystery heirlooms, or created heirlooms. They usually have a shorter shelf life and are less disease resistant than hybrids. They are grown for a variety of reasons: for food, historical interest, access to wider varieties, and by people who wish to save seeds from year to year, as well as for their taste.
- Black Cherry (purple/black)
- Chocolate Stripes (red/green striped)
- Blondkopfchen (yellow cherry)
- Black Krim (purple/black beefsteak)
- Brandywine, OTV (red beefsteak)
- Amana Orange (orange beefsteak)
- Azoychka (yellow/orange beefsteak)
- Cherokee Chocolate (mahogany beefsteak)
- Sunset’s Red Horizon (red beefsteak)
- Mr. Stripey
- Arkansas traveler
- Green Zebra
- Vintage Wine
- Black Russian
- Dwarf Emerald Giant
- Amish Paste
- Mexico Midget
- Kentucky Beefsteak
- Rosella Purple
- Oxheart Pink
- Marvel Stripe
- Boxcar Willie
Heirloom Tomato Types
The heirloom Black Cherry has deep, almost black skin. It boasts large crop yields and a sweet, rich flavor. Mature black cherry tomatoes measure about 1.5 inches. You can start growing black cherry tomato seedlings indoors or outdoors. But, to be on the safe side, it is better to start them indoors.Cherry tomato plant stages include about two to three months from seedling to harvest.
Chocolate Stripes grow as vigorous, indeterminate plants up to a height of around 2m. The variety ripens medium-late from August and can be harvested continuously until the end of October. ‘Chocolate Stripes’ tomatoes are around 7 to 10cm wide and very wide with slight ribbing. When ripe, the fruit takes on a dark red color with green-dark brown stripes and weigh on average 180 grams.
An heirloom tomato from eastern Germany. The name of this adorable heirloom cherry tomato means “little blonde girl”. This tomato plant produces big, leafy, indeterminate, regular-leaf tomato plants that yield a phenomenal amount of 1/2″, grape-sized, brilliant yellow/gold, cherry tomatoes in clusters of 20-30. The vines are large and sprawling, so give them plenty of space.
Also known as Black Crimea, Black Krim tomato plants are native to Russia. Black Krim tomatoes are medium-sized, beefsteak-type tomatoes with a flattened globe shape. The outer skin is dark maroon, although with sufficient sunlight and heat they can turn almost black, with greenish-brown shoulders.Black Krim tomato seeds mature late, but are prolific producers of the large fruit, which weigh an average of eight to twelve ounces. The heat-tolerant, indeterminate plants are exceptionally hardy, and can adapt well to adverse conditions in a wide range of climates.
Brandywine is notable for its enormous fruits, which may weigh up to 1 1/2 pounds when fully ripe. The fruits are meaty, with firm, rich pink skin. The fruit is quite juicy, with some proclaiming it the best tasting of all tomato varieties. The plant has a vining, sprawling growth habit, and dull green, broad leaves that have a coarse texture. Brandywine’s large fruits take a long time to grow and mature on the vine. The tomatoes may not be ready for harvest until 90 to 100 days after planting, which is about a month later than the average tomato cultivar. As with other heirloom tomato varieties, “Brandywine” is less prolific than most tomato cultivars.
Amanda Orange is a beefsteak tomato variety named for the Amana Colonies in Iowa. It produces above average amounts of beautiful light-orange, irregular shaped (fluted) heirloom tomatoes that can grow to 2 pounds or more, with an average diameter of 5 inches. Excellent sweet, almost tropical fruit flavors.The Amana Orange is a large plant and will need some support or it will droop and the tomatoes will get low airflow and may rot.
Azoychka beefsteak tomatoes are heirlooms from Russia. The plants are regular-leaf, indeterminate, and open pollinated. They produce abundantly, up to 50 tomatoes per plant and are early producers, often done before the first frost. The tomatoes are yellow, round but slightly flattened, and grow to about 10 to 16 ounces (about 200 grams). Azoyhka tomatoes have a sweet, citrus-like flavor that is well-balanced with acidity.
Cherokee Chocolate Tomato Seed produces a beautiful tomato with mahogany colored fruit and delicious flavor. This variety was a naturally occurring mutation of Cherokee Purple that occurred in Craig LeHoullier’s garden several years ago.They are an indeterminate variety that can potentially produce fruit until the first freeze. Expect it to take about 80 to 90 days until you can harvest your first round of Cherokee Chocolate tomatoes after planting.
Sunset’s Red Horizon
One of the great red heirlooms, the famed Sunset’s Red Horizon, has a very rich tomato flavor. Perfect for salads, slicing, and sandwiches. Also known as Rostov Tomato, because of its origin, the Rostov Don region of Russia. Huge, red, 4 to 6-inch, meaty, heart-shaped fruits are borne from a big leafy plant with wispy vines. This variety has proven resistant to frost, blossom end rot and cracking.
The Hillbilly tomato is also known as the Flame tomato , is an heirloom cultivar originating from West Virginia in the 1800s.This fruit is considered a beefsteak tomato weighing 1-2 pounds. It is round, heavily ribbed and its skin and flesh is orange- yellow with red streaks. The Hillbilly tomato plant stands anywhere from 52-84 inches tall when fully established, needing 85–94 days of growth before it reaches its full maturity. There are said to be two types of Hillbilly tomato plants, one being the potato leaf, characterized by leaves that are large, teardrop shaped, and dark green, and another that has regular, small and serrated leaves. The two types are reportedly identical except for their foliage.
Mr. Stripey is a type of heirloom tomato with unusually small leaves and a mix of a yellow and red color that can fool some growers into thinking they are picking an unripe tomato. Under good conditions in size, shape and internal structure it may be considered a “beefsteak”. Without pruning, it reaches up to 10 feet tall with fruit maturing 55 to 85 days after planting. The fruit grows between 1/2 to 2 pounds. The ideal temperature for growing these red and yellow striped tomatoes is between 50 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit in full sun locations.
As the name suggests, this tomato hails from the state of Arkansas, where it was bred at the University of Arkansas in 1968. The plant is indeterminate with round red fruits weighing approximately 6 ounces. Considered to be one of the best tasting tomato varieties with well balanced sweet/tart flavors. Arkansas Traveler is much esteemed for its ability to produce flavorful tomatoes under normally adverse conditions high heat, humidity or drought.
Green Zebra vines grow to 4-6 feet in length, are large, and require stakes or cages for support to keep fruit off the ground. It’s an indeterminate variety with a moderate to generous yield of fruit. The tomatoes are small, globular fruits, averaging 2 to 5 centimeters in diameter. The skin is smooth and taut with a light green base, covered in mottled, vertical striping. As the tomato matures, the stripes will transform from pale green to golden yellow. Green Zebra tomatoes have a tart, astringent flavor when young, transitioning into a balanced blend of sweet and tangy flavors with maturity.
Vintage wine is a vining plants that produce abundant crops and can average six feet in height with potato-leaved foliage, leaves that lack the lobes or notches seen on regular leaf tomatoes. The tomatoes are quite large, each fruit averaging just over one pound, and they have an attractive pastel pink coloration with golden-green stripes. Their skin is quite thin, and their squat round shape has an occasional rib that deepens towards the stem-end. The fleshy interior is dense with narrow seed pockets and few seeds, and it offers a pronounced, meaty, sweet flavor with a particular tanginess.
The Black Russian tomato has a darkish brown skin that darkens further with age as they mature. It’s a later-ripening, indeterminate tomato with slightly flattened, mahogany-coloured fruits. The fruits are of medium size, slightly flattened, often slightly misshaped and have a dense meaty texture. They are actually an old variety of tomato that is usually grown as a Corden (which means it needs to be grown tall, up a large strong cane or something similar).
Dwarf Emerald Giant
Dwarf Emerald Giant is essentially a dwarfed version of ‘Green Giant’, has deep green, rugose potato leaf foliage and a very stout central stem, growing to four feet, and perhaps a bit more depending upon conditions. Fruit are smooth and oblate, ranging from eight to sixteen ounces, and barely change color upon ripening – though a pale pink blossom end blush develops on many of the fruit. The flesh is bright green, and the flavor is balanced, full and delicious.
Amish Paste is a heirloom tomatoe variety are very well whose name come from the fact that it originated from the Amish community in the Wisconsin area and their primary use, although not exclusively, is for making tomato sauces and pastes. Amish Paste is grown as a cordon type (indeterminate) tomato. Individual stems bearing fruit may also need some support.They can be grown in a greenhouse or in a protected position outside. This variety produces three or four large fruits per truss and these may need some support to prevent the weight of the fruit breaking the branches.
Mexico Midget’ is an interesting currant-type tomato variety that was developed in the early 2000s.The plants are vigorous growing, sprawling, and very productive. Its fruit are borne in clusters, tiny and pea-sized, red in color, and deliver an intense, full, tomato flavor. Although it is quite prolific and in many locations can become naturalized, it does tend to be very difficult to start from seeds.
Kentucky Beefsteak is an extra-large beefsteak tomato that has the traditional, treasured, mildly sweet, low acid, and slightly fruity heirloom flavor. Unlike many beefsteaks, though, the fruits lack much of the roughness usually associated with heirloom beefsteak-types. Fruits are actually quite attractive – globe to oval-shaped, and a beautiful deep orange in color. Kentucky Beefsteak tomatoes are indeterminate, which means their vines keep growing and they keep producing fruit until the first frost kills the plants in the fall.
The Rosella Purple tomato is a high-yielding dwarf tomato that produces loads of medium-sized, dusky red tomatoes with intense flavor. The Rosella Purple tomato is not true purple, but more dark red with greenish brown shoulders, very similar to the Cherokee Purple tomato. Their shape is slightly flattened (oblate) and they can reach respectable size of 6 to 12 oz, making them a medium-large tomato. Their crimson red flesh is juicy and is usually described as having a balance of sweetness, acidity, and umami savoriness, but overall having more intense flavor than other varieties.
The Marvel Stripe is a vvining tomato plant produces heavy yields of the large fruit along sprawling vines that can grow to six feet, and will continue to set fruit throughout the season.The Marvel Stripe tomato is named for the “marvelous” stripes that run down its skin as well as its interior flesh. The largest of bi-colored heirloom tomatoes, these thin-skinned tomatoes can weigh in at one to two pounds and grow to four inches in diameter. Their exterior is deep orange and streaked in thin, blood red strips, and their juicy flesh is colored with the same orange and red of its skin, and is also marbled in white.