The Simple Joys of Home-Grown Heirloom Tomatoes

If there is one topic that I end up revisiting again and again in the world of gardening, it’s that of the heirloom tomato. It seems the tomato is the most popular fruit that is grown by home gardeners. No, I can’t back this up with actual statistical evidence. But I’m willing to bet it’s true, because, well, who doesn’t love a delicious home-grown tomato?

One thing that many people often find surprising about growing heirloom tomatoes is that you have nearly an innumerable amount of choices when it comes to heirloom varieties. There are literally hundreds of different types of heirloom tomatoes that you can grow. You can find heirloom tomatoes in a great variety of sizes, and in every color from cardinal red, to brilliant yellow, to deep purple. (Cue: “Smoke on the Water” riff.)

Why not experiment with different varieties? Along with the different shades, shapes, and sizes, you’ll find that heirloom tomatoes have different textures and flavors as well. Some are mild, like the red Arkansas Traveler, and the white Beauty Blanc. Others, like the orangey Moskovitch are quite sweet. You may be most surprised by those tomatoes that have a naturally deep and slightly smoky flavor, like the green-shouldered Noir de Crimee.

So with so many wonderful heirloom tomatoes to choose from, how do you select the varieties that you wish to grow? Well, it’s not easy, I can tell you that much! One thing you may wish to consider is that some heirloom tomato varieties are great for slicing and eating raw, while others are particularly good for canning. So, consider what you wish to use the tomatoes for before planting. You certainly aren’t limited to just one variety, however. In fact, I personally plant 3 different varieties each year in order to satisfy all of my tomato needs and interests. Here are the three types of heirloom tomatoes that I particularly love, and plant each year:

The Druzba Tomato– The Druzba is a Bulgarian variety, with the name literally meaning “friendship” in Bulgarian. I originally received my Druzba Tomato seeds in my Survival Seed Bank, and I’ll tell ya, these tomatoes are real beauties. Their growing season is particularly long, so the plants bear a large number of fruits throughout the summer. The fruits top out at about 4 inches across, and are very red, round, smooth, and unblemished. Druzba tomatoes are particularly tart and high in acid, so these are our canning tomatoes. I would definitely recommend the Druzba for this purpose. Another bonus is that I have been able to successfully and easily save the seeds from my Druzbas each year to plant them the following year. For my tips on how to save seeds from your own home-grown tomatoes, you can click here.

The Besser Tomato– I have found that even people who claim to not like tomatoes enjoy eating my Bessers. These are a cherry tomato variety that are originally from Germany. They are a very old heirloom variety as well, and date all the way back to the 1800s. The plants grow quite large with vines that tend to sprawl, so make sure you stake or support your plants well. I find that cherry tomatoes are pretty good for just plain eatin’ as they are. For a little variety, try hollowing out each tomato with a little pairing knife, then filling it with basil pesto. Or, toss your Bessers in a large bowl with some extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil leaves, and mozzarella cheese. Delicious. If you have a really large cherry tomato harvest, which is quite possible with this variety, you can also make tomato sauce with them. Many people think you have to use full size tomatoes for sauce, but cherries work just as well.

The Giant Belgium Tomato- Yep, this one is called “giant” for a reason. These tomatoes can be downright huge- as large as 24 ounces, or the size of a small plate. Admittedly, I feel a little unoriginal when I plant these each year, because they are definitely one of the most popular heirloom varieties. But there is a reason they are so popular. Large, round, red, meaty, juicy, low in acid, few seeds and gunk inside… this is the quintessential slicing tomato. The flavor is sweet, mild, and delicious.

Okay, so there you have my three picks. But you should, by no means, limit yourself to my recommendations. Take your space, zone, and growing conditions into consideration, then check out the many sizes, shapes, flavors, and colors of heirloom tomatoes for yourself. For tips o how to successfully start your tomato seeds indoors, click here to read my article, Tips for growing heirloom tomatoes from seeds.


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  1. […] tomatoes – « Memory 1 – Gloucester summers, Captains Lodge, adopted German Shepard and […]

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