Heirloom Tomatoes that Grandma Used to Grow & Sources to Buy Seeds
Amish Paste Tomato
Amish Paste, at risk of extinction, has been designated as an Ark of Taste Food. By planting and eating this tomato, you’re helping to keep it in production. This variety produces crack-free 8-12 oz acorn-shaped fruits. Firm and meaty, Amish Paste is an excellent processing tomato because it contains only a small amount of seeds. Also great fresh. Indeterminate plants, 80-85 days from transplant.
Aunt Ruby’s produces 1-pound pale green fruits, and is actually green when ripe. Gardeners report they grow well in containers. With a sweet and rich flavor, meaty flesh, and buttery texture, it’s incredibly versatile. For truly memorable eating, pursue the obvious: fried green tomatoes. Indeterminate, 80-90 days from transplant.
This legendary beefsteak variety sets the standard for flavor by which all others are judged. We’re talking Garden-of-Eden flavor-sweet, juicy, rich-whether you use it in sandwiches, salads, salsas, or anything else. (Don’t make your BLTs with Brandywine unless you want to be spoiled forever.) Fruits easily hit the one-pound mark; many exceed two. Indeterminate plants, 80-90 days from transplant.
Some tomato lovers insist this will be “the next Brandywine.” Caspian Pink matures early but also produces well late in the growing season. Experienced gardeners recommend you let this plant sprawl rather than climb. This low-acid tomato is great for both slicing and canning. Medium-sized pink fruits average 10 to 12 ounces. Indeterminate, 80 days from transplant.
Cherokee Purple is known for its rich, complex, smoky flavor. Extremely prolific plants produce large crops of 12 oz. beefsteak tomatoes. There’s nothing finer than a ripe Cherokee Purple just off the vine, cut into chunks, drizzled with good sherry vinegar, and sprinkled with a pinch of Celtic sea salt. Plants are indeterminate, but seldom grow more than 4′ tall. 75-90 days from transplant.
Bavarian immigrant Michael Ott brought this tomato to America in 1883. This variety was one of the first promoted by the Seed Savers Exchange in 1975. If you’re looking for just one all-purpose tomato, this is it. It’s excellent for canning, freezing, slicing, and juicing. The plants produce large 1-2 pound meaty fruits with few seeds. Indeterminate, 85-90 days from transplant.
Gold Medal (a.k.a. Ruby Gold and Early Sunrise) is a classic bi-colored beefsteak reintroduced in the 1970’s by Ohio tomato collector Ben Quisenberry. Gold Medal produces generously large fruits, often well over 1 pound. Gold Medals are robust early growers so seedlings are hardy to plant as early as possible. Indeterminate, 80-90 days from transplant.
With its distinctive green-on-green stripes, the Green Zebra is prized by chefs for its unique appearance. With an emerald green interior, and zingy, fruity flavor, it’s fast becoming a market favorite. Green Zebra yields medium-sized 2-3″ fruits that grow in clusters of three to five. Great for slicing, salads, and salsa; works well in pasta dishes, too. Indeterminate plants, 75-80 days from transplant.
Hungarian Heart is an oxheart type that’s tomato pink inside and out. It was brought to the U.S. in 1901 from a small village outside Budapest, Hungary. Under optimum conditions, expect 10-15 fruits per plant. Huge, irregularly shaped fruits often weigh one pound or more. The savory flavor is delicious fresh, but stands up to canning and roasting as well. Indeterminate, 80-85 days from transplant.
This prolific, vigorous plant cranks out hundreds of 1″ fruits throughout the growing season. Thought to have originated in the Ozarks, this humble little gem is bursting with superb flavor. Grows well in containers. Great for snacking, salads, canning whole, and drying. Indeterminate plants, 75-90 days from transplant.