The Pleated Zapotec Heirloom Tomato

When it comes to heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, there's an almost endless number of varieties that can be grown. Sure, Brandywine and Cherokee tomatoes tend to lead the pack in popularity, but that doesn't exactly translate to them being the superior heirlooms. All it means is that there's a bunch of lesser known varieties that have yet to be boasted about! With that said, I'd like to share a little information on one variety that has yet to gain the attention it deserves. The Pleated Zapotec Tomato!

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Pleated Zapotec Heirloom Tomatoes.
Pleated Zapotec Heirloom Tomatoes.

Zapotec Tomato Variety -

Commonly known as the "Pleated or Ribbed Zapotec", these tomatoes have origins that locate to Oaxaca, Mexico. It is said that the native Zapotec people were the first to cultivate this variety. The large beefsteak tomatoes grow with a very unique ribbed pattern and turn a deep pink color when ripening. The skin is thin, but contains a very meaty inside. As far as taste is concerned, these tomatoes are out of this world! With a hearty tomato flavor accented with a bit of sweetness, these tomatoes make for perfect salads, tomato sauces and salsas!

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Growing Zapotec Tomatoes -

Pleated Zapotec tomatoes grow large and need proper care to remain healthy throughout the season. Below are guidelines for basic care during each stage of growth:

Although it's a bit of a jungle, the tomato plant reaching above the gutter is a Zapotec Tomato plant. Grown in a container, the plant reached over 6 feet tall!
Although it's a bit of a jungle, the tomato plant reaching above the gutter is a Zapotec Tomato plant. Grown in a container, the plant reached over 6 feet tall!

Zapotec Tomato Planting Schedule -

Time
Action
Special Notes
6-8 Weeks Before Date of Average Last Frost
Sow tomato seeds indoors.
Keep moist and in warm dark place until germination.
Week of Average Last Frost
Begin hardening off tomato plants.
Bring outdoors each day. Increase time outdoors over a period of 1-2 weeks.
1-2 Weeks After the Date of Average Last Frost
Transplant tomato plants to their final outdoor location.
Cut bottom 3-5 leaves from the transplants and bury them deep in the soil.
80-100 Days from Transplanting
Harvest Tomatoes
Ripe Zapotec tomatoes will be a rosy pink color.
  • Germination & Early Care - For the best results, plant Zapotec Tomato seeds indoors approximately eight weeks before you plan to transplant them outdoors. The seeds should be planted about one inch deep in potting soil that is kept consistently moist and warm (70-80°F). After seven to ten days, the tomatoes should begin to sprout. After sprouting, the young Zapotec seedlings should be immediately placed in a sunny windowsill or under strong artificial lighting. Ideally, you'll want to provide at least 12 hours of strong light daily while the young plants grow.
  • Transplanting - Once the threat of frost has passed (roughly two weeks after the average last frost), the tomato plants can be transplanted outdoors. To increase sturdiness and root production, trim off most of the existing branches and bury the tomato plant deep. Leave only the newest growth above the soil. Roots will grow from the spots where the branches were cut off, creating a much sturdier plant overall.
  • Growing Outside - Shortly after the tomatoes have been planted, install your tomato cage. The Zapotec Tomato plants will grow quickly and will need the cage for support. Water only once the top one and a half inches of soil has become dry. This variety thrives in a bit drier of soils, so do not water too often. As for fertilizer, I like to go the organic route and add bone meal to the soil and water with compost tea on a weekly basis. Once they're in the ground, it's pretty much just water, watch and wait! The period from first transplanting until the first ripe fruits is around 80-100 days.
  • Harvesting - Zapotec tomatoes will be ready for harvesting once they've ripened into a deep rosy/pink color. Snip tomatoes from the branch rather than pull them off.

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Tips for Growing Zapotec Tomato Plants -

During the 2013 season, I was able to keep track of four Zapotec tomato plants. One was grown in a container shared with a San Marzano tomato on my patio, while the other three were grown in-ground at two separate locations. Here are some valuable lessons that can be learned about this ribbed heirloom tomato variety:

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Patio tomatoes at the time of transplanting. The Zapotec Pleated tomato is on the left.Full grown, the Pleated Zapotec tomato on the right is quite a large plant. Growing in a container, this plant reached well over 6ft tall.This Zapotec tomato was grown in a separate location. At a month old, this transplant was already larger than the tomato cage. The plant grew extremely large.Unripe green Zapotec tomato.
Patio tomatoes at the time of transplanting. The Zapotec Pleated tomato is on the left.
Patio tomatoes at the time of transplanting. The Zapotec Pleated tomato is on the left.
Full grown, the Pleated Zapotec tomato on the right is quite a large plant. Growing in a container, this plant reached well over 6ft tall.
Full grown, the Pleated Zapotec tomato on the right is quite a large plant. Growing in a container, this plant reached well over 6ft tall.
This Zapotec tomato was grown in a separate location. At a month old, this transplant was already larger than the tomato cage. The plant grew extremely large.
This Zapotec tomato was grown in a separate location. At a month old, this transplant was already larger than the tomato cage. The plant grew extremely large.
Unripe green Zapotec tomato.
Unripe green Zapotec tomato.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Growing Ribbed Zapotec heirloom tomatoes. The same bottom two tomatoes, just fully ripened!
Growing Ribbed Zapotec heirloom tomatoes.
Growing Ribbed Zapotec heirloom tomatoes.
The same bottom two tomatoes, just fully ripened!
The same bottom two tomatoes, just fully ripened!
  • Not suited for container gardens. Although the feat can be accomplished, I would highly recommend against planting this variety in containers. These plants grow extremely large and need ample root space to provide the maximum nutrition. The one plant grown on my patio not only had much smaller tomatoes, but also much less than it's in-ground counterparts.
  • Use the largest tomato cages possible. All of the tomatoes grown easily toppled over the largest available metal cages found at the local garden store. Growing to great heights, these tomato plants would greatly benefit from a 6-8 foot tall cage.
  • Ensure proper ventilation. The Zapotec tomato plants not only grew tall, they also grew in a very dense manner. Towards the beginning of fruiting, the plants had many branches near the inner of the plant that were turning yellow due to a lack of sunlight. It is these branches that need to be trimmed off. This step will reduce the risk of pests and diseases.
  • Have a long season. This tomato plant is not exactly an early producer. All of the plants I kept track of produced tomatoes late into the season, with many not fully ripening before the first frost in early October. In Zone 6A, this tomato variety was barely able to ripen the bulk of it's fruit before the end of the season.
  • Adopt a Compost Tea Regimen. Besides initially amending the soil with compost/aged manure, these tomato plants will also need another source of nutrition. Feed a strong solution of compost tea on a weekly basis. This will ensure that the tomato plants are receiving the nutrients they require. On a separate note, bone meal can be added to the compost tea once the plants begin to flower. This small addition will aid with tomato production.

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This particular Zapotec tomato from the garden was close to two pounds in weight!
This particular Zapotec tomato from the garden was close to two pounds in weight!

Ribbed Zapotec Heirloom Tomato Review -

If you've got the in-ground garden space to grow them, I'd highly recommend you give the Pleated Zapotec Tomato a try! These large beefsteak tomatoes have exceeded all expectations, and have instantly become one of my favorites. The plants grow large and produce ribbed tomatoes at phenomenal rates, but excellent productivity is not all! Their taste and versatility in the kitchen is next to none! Don't just settle for the same old tomato variety next year, give the Heirloom Ribbed Zapotec a try!

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Have you grown Ribbed Zapotec Tomatoes?

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Overall, the Pleated Zapotec tomato should be regarded as one of the tastiest and most rewarding heirloom beefsteaks that you can grow! If you've grown these unique tomatoes before, I'd like to hear about what you think of them! Thanks for reading this growing guide for the Pleated Zapotec heirloom tomato. I hope that you've added another "must grow" to your planting list! As always, please feel free to leave any comments or questions you may have.

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