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Unique Heirloom Tomatoes

Updated on February 1, 2015
CuAllaidh profile image

Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.

Why Settle for Ordinary Tomatoes - Heirloom Tomatoes Are Impressive

The best thing about gardening is you get to grow things you wouldn't normally be able to find in a grocery store. Ok, so really that's the second best thing, the best being tasting the fresh vegetables straight off the plant, but still its fun to grow unique plants.

Tomatoes are a staple, pretty much every vegetable gardener has at least one tomato plant, but why settle for plain ordinary red beefsteak, or cherry tomatoes, there is a host of heirloom tomatoes available for your garden.There are literally thousands of known variety of tomatoes to choose from, not all of these varieties are red. yellow, white, purple, green, and even multicolour variegated varieties. Each variety has its own advantage, platting appeal is the obvious one for any different striking coloured tomato, but it should be noted that almost every variety that does not ripen to a uniform red colour will be much sweeter than traditional red tomatoes,this is because the gene responsible for the deep red colour also inhibits the development of sugars and so the flavour ends up not as sweet.

Image credit: Image is provided by Amazon for Black Man Tomato Seeds available on this lens

Interesting Tomato History

Tomatoes are a new world discovery, they are not native to Europe at all. When Tomatoes first crossed the ocean to come to Europe many Europeans refused to even try to eat them. Tomatoes, you see, are part of a family of plants called nightshade. As a rule nightshades are poisonous, the primary exceptions being tomatoes and potatoes, essentially only some new world nightshades were edible, all European varieties were poisonous. It took much convincing to get European cooks to add tomatoes to their recipes.

When Tomatoes did eventually catch on they did so with gusto. Tomatoes are now one of the most common vegetables served with only Potato beating them out for most eaten vegetable. In short the nervousness Medieval Europeans' had surrounding the nightshade diminished rapidly once people didn't start dropping off from eating them.

Most people are aware there are a wide variety of tomatoes, but I doubt many are aware of how strange and wonderful this variety actually is. Tomatoes can be a wide variety of colours shapes and sizes, each having different flavour profiles. I urge you all to try growing some different tomato varieties in your garden.

Ukrainian Purple Open Pollinated Tomato Seeds

These 80 day variety tomatoes have a wonderful purple colour and great meaty flavour. These unique purple tomatoes originated in the Ukraine and are very similar to standard plum tomatoes except in their striking purple colour.

While not the darkest variety of tomatoes available, they are visually stunning and extremely tasty. A single plant will produce plenty of tomatoes and the 80 growth period means tomatoes can be on you plate in no time.

Black Krim Tomato

These are lovely dark purple tomatoes with a deep red and green flesh. Full flavoured tomato with a hint of saltiness make the black krim an excellent tomato for toasted tomato sandwiches. They grow to 5 or 6 feet and bear fruit that weigh (on average) 10-12 oz. The unique dark colour is a real eye catcher. Last season had a real problem with tomato thieves raiding our garden for tomatoes, they wouldn't touch the black krims though because the never looked ripe from normal standards.

Tomato Tip #1 Companion planting

Carrots, nasturtiums and marigolds planted in close to your tomatoes will actually make your tomatoes more resistant to pests.

Black Sea Man Tomato

The photo of these make it look like a deep purple run with green and pink, but generally the skins are a deep red or brown, none the less they are a striking tomato. The odd brown tomatoes look particularly dramatic when blanched. Like the black krims you are not likely to have a problem with garden looters on this one.

Indigo Rose Tomato

Indigo Rose is not actually an heirloom tomato, but rather a new breed of tomato. The seeds have not been genetically modified, but rather selectively bred to produce these unique looking little tomatoes, they seem very similar to black cherry tomatoes. I haven't grown these yet, but they are high on my list of need to try. They are reputed to be the darkest tomatoes available. They are cherry tomato sized and incredibly beautiful to look at.

Japanese Black Trifele Tomato

This is a dark purple tomato, reputed to be the darkest of the so called "black" tomatoes. It's rich flavour and interesting colour make this a must grow for sure.

These are another one I am dying to try to grow. Such an interesting shape and colour combination.

Tomato Tip #2 Planting Location

Move the location of your tomato plants around in your garden from year to year to avoid exhausting the dirt of nutrients.

Black Cherry Tomato

A black cherry tomato is similar to your standard cherry tomato, but it is much darker in colour resembling a black cherry.

As of yet I have not had a chance to grow these ones, but they, like so many others, fascinate me. I hope to have them in my garden next year.

West Virginia Hillbilly Tomato

This wonderful West Virginian Heirloom tomato has a dazzling orange skin mottled with red flakes and streaks. Its closest kin is the beefsteak and is a wonderful alternative.

I love the bright and vibrant colours on the skin of this tomato, it makes it one of the most striking tomatoes of the entire lot. It doesn't really offer anything in the way of unique flavour however, but its brightness will still make it well worth the time to grow it.

Tomato Tip #3 Pest Control

If you notice harmful pests a small amount of soap diluted in a spray bottle and sprayed on the plant should control most pests.

White Beauty Tomato

This lovely cream coloured tomato would make a wonderful addition to any salad and stand out like no other.

I love the idea of the white tomatoes, they don't look ripe and I think it would be difficult to eat. Your brain would tell you that it's unripe, but the flavours are said to be wonderful.

Humongous Mong Tomato

I know, boring red tomato.... but 2-3lbs monsters certainly count as unique, and since they are rare even amongst their other heirloom bretheren this is one to get.

Mortgage Lifter

There is a great story behind this particular breed. Apparently the first person to create this hybrid spent years developing the hybrid then when people tasted the tomato they loved it so much he made considerable money selling the seeds and tomatoes, he did so well in fact that he paid off his mortgage with the profits. Like the ridiculously named Humongous Mong Tomato this is a large tomato growing to an average of 1lbs.

Tomato Tip #4 The Good Bugs

Be careful not to get rid of all bugs on your plant, some such as lady bugs, and certain parasitic wasps actually help control pests on their own, and bees help pollinate and increase yield.

Big Rainbow Tomato

Another monster tomato for you, weighing in at an average of 22oz. this may not be as big as the Mong, but its big, and beautiful. Lovely yellow skin running with red streaks at the bottom if the size doesn't amaze, the colour will.

Purple Calabash Tomato

This is a pure purple tomato. The deep burgundy colour and interesting ruffled shape make this one of the most unique tomatoes available.

Tomato Tip #5 Climate

Tomatoes love lots of sun and warm weather. Make sure you plant them in a nice sunny location.

Pineapple Tomato

Compared to some of the others on this page the pineapple tomato may seem like a bit of a let down, but it is a very nice heirloom tomato with gorgeous bicolour skin.

Tomato Tip #6 Cages

Tomatoes are a vine plant, which means they prefer a structure to attach to so they climb. Having a stake or a cage will allow your plant to grow larger and produce more fruit.

Speckled Roma Tomato

The Speckled Roma is not an heirloom tomato, but rather a hybrid. Despite it not being an heirloom tomato I included it in the list because of its striking appearance. Red skin with brilliant orange/yellow squiggly streaks resembling flames. Consider this the hot-rod of Roma Tomatoes.

Tomato Tip #7 Starting Seeds

If you are starting your tomato plant from seeds then you should plant them indoors two to three weeks before ideal planting time for your zone and allow for a good strong seedling before transplanting them to your garden. This will yield better results from seed.

Seed Saving

Have you grown a particular variety of tomato that you enjoyed but the seeds are hard to come by, why not save the seeds from your tomato and grow tomatoes from those seeds. To save the seeds take a few tomatoes from a couple different plants if you can and cut the tomatoes in half and gently squeeze the juice and seeds into a bowl.

Each seed will be coated in a gelatinous substance that keeps the seed from germinating in the tomato, you will have to remove this substance. You can simply rinse this substance off, but this is not the most effective method. The best way is to ferment the substance off, this duplicates the rotting process of the tomato and removes any diseases the tomato may have been carrying. The process of fermentation is actually quite simple. In the bowl of juice and seeds add about half as much room temperature water as there is juice and seeds and gently stir. Stir the mixture about twice a day for about three days until there is a nice layer of foam or mold, don't worry about the mold, this is actually good. Double the amount of water and stir vigorously and strain through a cheesecloth so the seeds remain but all the liquid is gone. Rinse the seeds well until they are clean. Set them out to dry in a well ventilated dry area or plant immediately. If you don't dry the seeds quick enough they will germinate and need to be planted right away so make sure the seeds are kept as dry as possible and possibly use a low powered fan to blow over it. Do not oven dry or use a dehydrator, both of these could kill the seeds.

© 2012 Jeff Johnston

What's your thoughts on Heirloom Tomatoes?

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    • CuAllaidh profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Johnston 

      6 years ago from Alberta Canada

      @KimGiancaterino: Why thank you :D enjoy your tomatoes :D

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      6 years ago

      We recently attended a plant sale at the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California and brought home some heirloom tomatoes that we've never tried before. Hopefully they will do well in the garden. We eat tomatoes nearly every day. Love your lens and all the beautiful images!

    • gracyelala profile image


      6 years ago

      @Stuwaha: That is so beautiful! What an inspiring thing to be able to pass on to your children too!

    • gracyelala profile image


      6 years ago

      I would love to try some of these varieties! I have 5 different varieties growing this year, but next year I think I will get some seeds for the West Virginia Hillbilly!

    • CuAllaidh profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Johnston 

      6 years ago from Alberta Canada

      @Stuwaha: good luck :D

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm attempting to grow some Black Russian tomatoes this year which are the grand-babies of 6 seeds that my grandfather has been growing selectively since the 70's. They do look a bit strange but not as spectacular as the tomatoes you've listed here. Not very confident that I'll manage to nurture them into fruit bearing plants but fingers crossed!

    • RadaFrancis LM profile image

      RadaFrancis LM 

      6 years ago

      Wow, so much variety :) thanks for sharing. *blessed*

    • MaureenCee profile image


      6 years ago

      What a fabulous variety of my favourite food, yum! I can remember how great they tasted as a kid and although I now only buy the truss variety as they actually have a tomato taste and smell about them they don't have that luscious taste that lingers in my mind. Thanks so much for this terrific informative lens.

    • Jemjoseph profile image


      6 years ago

      Heirloom Tomatoes would make boring green salads much more appealing to look at.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      We do have tomatoes that are extremely crooked, but I do not know what they are called and they are mostly grown in the provinces.

    • kitchenalia profile image


      6 years ago from Ontario Canada

      Good lens. I have grown most of these varieties and there is nothing like a fresh tomato off the vine...

    • CuAllaidh profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Johnston 

      7 years ago from Alberta Canada

      @MaryThereseBenn: Fingers crossed for you.

    • cstrouse lm profile image

      cstrouse lm 

      7 years ago

      I didn't realize that there were so many varieties. Those salty Russian ones sound good.

    • CuAllaidh profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Johnston 

      7 years ago from Alberta Canada

      @maggie_anne: None that I know of have a real short growing period, but I know people who grow them in Thunder Bay Ontario, and if you can grow them there where there is almost no soil and the longest and harshest winters short of going into the tundra you should be safe to grow some in Seattle.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Love all these varieties! I live in the Seattle area, so I am always afraid to try something new...there is never enough sun here! Know if any of these have a short growing season?

    • MaryThereseBenn profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm holding my breath on the heirloom maters I started too early this year.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting lens. My dad grew tomatoes (though not such exotic varieties!). I love the smell of fresh, ripe tomatoes.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens,

    • microfarmproject profile image


      7 years ago

      I love to grow heirloom tomatoes. Thanks!

    • lilymom24 profile image


      7 years ago

      Another good lens on some uniqure garden favorites. I'm doing regular romas this year but I should try something different next year. =)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Awesome lens - very interesting looking tomatoes! Thanks for sharing! Blessed by a SquidAngel!


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