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Go Heirloom for Growing Tomatoes

When planning your garden, you surely give consideration to what types of plants, vegetables, and herbs you will grow. You think about what your family needs and also what you all enjoy eating. For their wonderful flavor and their healthful properties, tomatoes should make up a significant portion of your vegetable garden. They are great eaten fresh, but they can also be canned, pickled, and made into sauce to preserve them for eating throughout the year.

Before you grow your next crop of tomatoes, think about going with heirloom varieties. An heirloom variety of any vegetable is one which has been around for a long time, at least fifty years, and has been passed down from generation to generation. People who get their tomatoes at the grocery store are limited to four or five different types of tomatoes. Most don’t realize that there are so many more varieties and that most of the heirloom tomatoes are far superior in taste and nutritional quality to the supermarket standbys.

Modern varieties of tomatoes were designed to be tough, disease-and pest-resistant, and to give good yields, not for taste or nutrition. With heirloom tomatoes, you will get vegetables that taste much better than anything you have ever tried, and they will provide more vitamins and minerals. Heirlooms also provide a continual harvest. Unlike engineered tomatoes, each heirloom plant grows at a different rate, extending your growing season. With so many different choices in heirloom tomatoes, you can try a few that sound appealing and experiment with these delicious and historic tomatoes.

Blue Ribbon Tomatoes That Taste Like They Came Straight From Your Grandparent’s Garden

Amish Paste

The Amish Paste tomato is a good general eating tomato. It originated with the Amish in Wisconsin and produces acorn-shaped fruits that are around eight to twelve ounces. They are juicy and meaty and have minimal seeds. The Amish Paste is perfect for slicing into a salad or sandwich, but it is also an excellent canning tomato.

Ananas Noire

Also called the Black Pineapple, the Ananas Noire tomato is a Belgian import. The unique coloring of the fruit sets this heirloom apart: it has a tie-dyed appearance both inside and out. The tomatoes are large, growing to between one and one and a half pounds each. The flavor of the Ananas Noire is rich and sweet, and it is great for slicing and eating fresh. The fruits are very soft and must be eaten very soon after picking.

Aunt Ruby’s German Green

This lovely green tomato comes from Ruby Arnold of Greeneville in Tennessee. The one-pound, light green to yellow fruits are sweet and spicy. The Aunt Ruby is great for slicing and eating alone or accompanied by herbs and mozzarella. The Aunt Ruby, unfortunately, is not very easy to find.

Austin’s Red Pear

From Dale Austin and family of Washington State, the Austin’s Red Pear is a two-inch, pear-shaped red tomato with a full and strong flavor. The neck of each fruit is exaggerated, distinguishing it from other pear varieties of tomato. The Austin’s Red Pear is perfect for salads and is best enjoyed fresh from the vine.

Baby Roma

The Baby Roma is also known as the Cherry Roma and produces small fruits shaped like the larger Roma tomatoes. They have an intensely sweet flavor and are good for snacking and putting in salads. The Baby Roma has a decent shelf life and lasts longer when fresh than many other varieties.

Beam’s Yellow Pear

Yellow Pear tomatoes are some of the oldest of heirloom varieties. The Beam’s Yellow Pear comes from John Hartman of Indiana. The pear-shaped fruits are about one to one and a half inches long and have a mild and sweet flavor. They are ideal for eating fresh and in salads.


The Brandywine tomato dates back to at least the 1880s and comes from the Amish of Pennsylvania. Brandywine tomatoes can top out at one pound and have a pinkish color and deep grooves on their exterior. The flavor of the fruits is extremely sweet and delicious, making the Brandywine very popular for slicing and eating fresh.


This Italian heirloom produces medium-sized red fruits with an unusual lobed or gourd-like shape. They are relatively new to the U.S. and not easy to find, but they have a very desirable and robust flavor. Canestrino tomatoes are great for sauces and for roasting.

Caspian Pink

The Caspian Pink comes from Russia and produces fruits similar to the Brandywine. The appearance is similar, although the Caspian fruits are less pink. They are usually just under a pound in size and have a rich, sweet flavor. Caspians are best for eating fresh.

Cherokee Purple

Another rival for the Brandywine, the Cherokee Purple produces large, purplish red fruits with an excellent sweet flavor. Like the Brandywine, the Cherokee is great for slicing, but is also delicious when roasted. As the name indicates, Cherokee Purple tomatoes are thought to have originated with the Cherokee Nation.

Chocolate Cherry

This flavorful and uniformly round cherry tomato has a brownish color and is perfect for salads. The tomatoes are about one inch in diameter and are produced in abundance. They can be picked before ripe without sacrificing any of the flavor.

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German Pink

This Bavarian heirloom is a plant that produces large, meaty tomatoes. They can be up to two pounds. The texture of the German Pink is very meaty, the flavor is full and sweet, and the skin is very thin and tender. The German Pink fruits are versatile: they can be eaten fresh and can also be frozen or canned.


The Glacier tomato is an early grower and a small plant. It grows well in containers and small corners of the garden. The fruits are two to three ounces with a much better flavor than many other early tomatoes. They are best for eating fresh as snacks or in salads.

Gold Medal

Also known as the Ruby Gold, the Gold Medal tomato is a large, one-pound fruit with a vibrant yellow and red color. This variety comes from Ben Quisenberry of Ohio and has an excellent taste that is good for eating fresh and for canning.

Green Zebra

The Green Zebra tomato is a staple of gourmet restaurants and farmers markets. The medium, green, striped fruits are very endearing and have a zingy and sweet flavor. They are perfect for eating fresh.


This fun-sounding tomato is an orange fruit with red streaks. It has been around in West Virginia since the 1800s and produces fruits with high acid content and a very sweet flavor. They are best eaten fresh.

Hungarian Heart

This tomato comes from a village outside of Budapest, Hungary. The pinkish fruits of the Hungarian Heart are large and meaty. They taste good enough to eat sliced, but they are also excellent for canning and roasting.

Isis Candy Cherry

This bi-color cherry tomato is red with a yellow sunburst on the blossom end of the fruit. It has won many a taste test for its rich and fruity flavor. The plant produces proficient amounts of the one-inch fruits, which are best for eating fresh.

Martino’s Roma

Martino’s Roma is a variety of Roma tomato that creates two to three-ounce fruits with a nice flavor. They are meaty with minimal seeds and little juice. As such, they are perfect for making sauces, pastes, and salsas. They are also good for canning and eating fresh.

Mortgage Lifter

The unique name of this heirloom variety comes from the developer, one Mr. Byles from Logan, West Virginia. He created this tomato in the 1930s to help pay off the mortgage on his home. The Lifter is a large tomato that is sweet and flavorful. It can be eaten sliced and fresh, but it is also excellent when roasted.

Polish Linguisa

These unique sausage-shaped tomatoes are sweet and produce more fruits than many other heirloom varieties. They are large and meaty, with a nice flavor. Use Linguisa tomatoes for making pastes and sauces, and for canning.


The Powers tomato is a yellow paste heirloom. It originated over one hundred years ago in Scott County, Virginia. They are similar to the Amish Paste, except for the yellow color. The plants yield three to five-ounce fruits that have a sweet, tasty flavor and are good for canning and roasting.

White Cherry

These unique cherry tomatoes are sweet and tasty when eaten fresh. Their real appeal, however, lies in their unique coloring. White Cherries range from a pale yellow to nearly true white. The more shade the fruits get in the garden, the whiter they will be.

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