Park's Guide to Heirloom Tomatoes

Park's Guide to Heirloom Tomatoes
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Park's Guide to Heirloom Tomatoes

Park's Guide to Heirloom Tomatoes

Modern hybrid tomatoes are often accused of having no flavor, and certainly many have replaced the papery skin of yesteryear with a tougher coating that makes them easier to harvest and transport. For these reasons and many others, heirloom tomato varieties are the favorite of gardeners who seek the old-fashioned look, texture, and flavor of tomato. These varieties often boast colorful backgrounds, a unique look, and very strong, delicious flavor. And although they are not, as a rule, as disease resistant as some of the newer varieties, their charm and heritage make them popular at the dinner table.

Tomato Costoluto Genovese
78 days. For intense tomato bite with a high acidic content, there is no better variety than this splendid Italian heirloom, probably dating from the early 1800s. The fruit is deeply lobed and irregular, but the flavor is unbelievable -- no modern hybrid can equal it! A good choice for warm climates, it thrives in summer heat and then continues setting new fruit well into the cooler fall days.

Tomato Big Rainbow
Gigantic 2-pound Fruit! 90 days. This heirloom is a pleasure to watch grow, as it turns from a green-shouldered, yellow-centered, red-bottomed young fruit to a mature gold-and-red sunset of color. Absolutely enormous, it reaches 2 pounds before you know it and has a flavor as over-the-top as its size and parade of colors. Resistant to foliar diseases, it keeps producing until frost.

Tomato Heirloom Blend
75-100 days. The best mix of Heirloom Tomatoes ever assembled! You get 6 distinctively different indeterminate varieties: Aunt Ruby’s German Green, a chartreuse 12- to 16-oz. beefsteak; Big Rainbow, a gold-and-red fruit up to 2 lbs.; Tomato Black from Tula, a flattened dark brown to purple fruit, 8 to 12 oz., a rich smoky flavor; Brandywine Red, a deep red up to 2 lbs.; Cherokee Purple, a purple/pink/brown combo on 10- to 12-oz. flattened fruits; and Dixie Golden Giant, an enormous golden-yellow slicer up to 2½ lbs. with sweet mild flavor.

Tomato Pineapple
85-95 days. The tastiest heirloom tomato our Director of Seeds has ever sampled, this American classic is a large beefsteak type, weighing up to 2 pounds. Colored a rich yellow-gold and often boasting red stripes, this colossal tomato is sweet and fruity with a tangy, meaty afterbite. Few seeds and more solids give you an extra bite or two. Dependably high-yielding plants.

Tomato Brandywine
80 days. This favorite yields deeply-lobed purplish-red fruit that is surprisingly large -- 12 ounces or more -- and no two will look exactly alike. Attention-getting, distinctive, and tried-and-true, Brandywine is truly a classic!

Tomato Moneymaker Organic
75-80 days from setting out transplants. Indeterminate. You will love the look as well as the flavor of this heavy-yielding Tomato, which thrives in hothouses in Britain but loves our warmer summers here in the U.S.!

Tomato Cherokee Purple Organic
80 days from setting out transplants. Indeterminate. A beloved heirloom as valuable for its flavor as it is for its unusual look, Cherokee Purple sets giant beefsteaks weighing about a pound and filled with intense violet-purple hues.

Tomato Kellogg's Breakfast Organic
80 days from setting out transplants. Indeterminate. Recently named one of the best heirloom tomatoes by the food editors of Sunset magazine, Kellogg's Breakfast is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Originally bred in Michigan by a gardener named Kellogg, it is absolutely unique, both for its size and for its bold golden skin and juice, exactly the color of fresh-squeezed orange juice!