Heirloom Tomatoes

A pervasive chill is in the air. This damp weather sinks in through your layers and clings onto the bones long after you have found that warm dry place to spend your day. On days like these I am dreaming of tomatoes. I think of red, yellow, pink, green, purple, and orange tomatoes all swollen and succulent. Heavy globes on the vine during a humid day.

I remember the first ones of the season when I was a kid. My brother and I would run out into our bean shaped garden after summer rain and sink our teeth into the first tinge of red blush we saw. Even if the rest of was green and not fully ripened. It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes! It did then and does to this day. Ripe tomatoes, fresh like summer rain I always think to myself.

Well the tomatoes are seeded and I am patiently awaiting their arrival into the world during these next few weeks. I wanted to tell you about all the types of heirloom tomatoes you can expect to see at Eastern Market and in your weekly share.

Starting with:

Austin’s Red Pear. I picked this tomato out because it reminded me of my twin brother Austin. I have often said to anyone who would listen that eggplants reminded me of my brother when he was a toddler. I don’t know why but they do. When I saw this little tomato with an eggplant shape named Austin’s Red Pear, I had to grow it!

Blondkopfchen aka Little Blonde German Girl. My heritage is mostly Irish but the German I inherited from my Grandparents Vaughn lets me relate to this Little Blonde German Girl Tomato. This is an East German heirloom obtained by Seed Savers Exchange from Gatersleben Seed Bank. Gut!

Black Krim. Also known as Black Crimea. Seed Savers Exchange found these in Krim, Russia in 1990. Beefsteak fruits are a unique combination of violetbrown and purple-red—they turn almost black with sufficient sunlight and heat. A few years ago I saw these growing in a friends garden in Kirskville, Missouri and knew one day I would grow my own. They have an excellent full flavor.

Ukranian Purple. Also known as Purple Russians. Sounds like a good drink to me! According to Seed Savers Exchange, the original stock of this variety came from Irma Henkel in the Ukraine. These were growing in that same garden in Kirksville as the Krim’s and I’ve been obsessed with Russian tomato varieties ever since.

Nebraska Wedding. The romantic streak in me couldn’t resist the “ultimate love apple” according to Amy Goldman’s colorful story in The Heirloom Tomato. Nebraskan brides reportedly still receive these seeds as a wedding gift. It reminded me of a lot of things. Of that book O!Pioneers by Nebraska native Willa Cather and my two friends Jolene and Erica who have Husker heritage. I plan on saving my seeds this year. So ladies, consider some of these seeds as a part of your hypothetical wedding gifts! And I just love the good state of Nebraska. The literature, the history, the sunflowers, the farms…what’s not to love? I remember telling that to Jolene and Erica when we first met and they thought I was being sarcastic!

Italian Heirloom. An heirloom from Italy sold by Seed Savers. It’s a great slicer and canner. One of the most productive varieties and plants get loaded with fruit weighing up to a pound! I thought it looked delicious.

Cherokee Purple. This  variety was introduced by North Carolina Seed Savers Exchange member Craig LeHoullier in 1991 from seed obtained from J. D. Green of Tennessee. Uniquely colored dusty rosebrown fruits weigh up to 12 ounces. I was living in Western North Carolina and reading a novel by Charles Frazier called Thirteen Moons last fall. It was a tale of war and love threaded with history of North Carolina mostly concerning the Cherokee Nations that lived there in the 1800’s. I liked that part of the country and that book so much I decided to grow this Cherokee North Carolina tomato to remind me of those days.

Early Girl. There is this cafe in Asheville called Early Girl Eatery. They are self described as a: “Farm to table southern comfort food experience.” I like that. And whenever Im in Asheville I like to eat their delicious organic fare. That’s why Im growing this variety of tomato.

Brandywine. This one is straight out of Pennsylvania! The original Brandywine was introduced by Johnson and Stokes in 1889. Named after Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Large vines produce deep red delicious fruits. There are a lot of Lancaster heirlooms that I am doing more research into and hopefully next season will have some more to offer! I like that name: Brandywine. Im going to have to try some of that. Also reminds me of the shire in LOTR.

Roma’s and San Marzano’s. Italian heirloom with pretty rugose (puckered) foliage. Very heavy set of mild fruits perfectly suited for making sauce, salsa, and paste. Tends to fall off the vine when fully ripe. So I’ll be keeping a close eye on these!

Cherry. A very old type, tried and true. Extremely productive plants yield large cherry tomatoes. Great full flavor. Preferred variety for canning whole. A favorite for salads and fresh eating.

Green Striped Zebra. Bred by Thomas Wagner of Tater Mater Seeds and introduced in 1983. Olive yellow fruits with deep green zebra stripes. Sweet zingy flavor. The seeds I have for this wacky tomato are a year old so we shall see. Might fruit. Might not.

So! That is what I have for now. I am sure there will be more varieties out in the field since I plan on trading little plants with area farmers. I will keep you posted, and for now all we can do is dream.

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About cmbrady8

Caitlin Brady is excited for the opportunity to work as the farmer in residence at Heritage Creek Farm this coming season. Caitlin spent her childhood and teenage years on a diversified family farm in Northwestern Missouri. She has worked on a variety of farms, ranging from the bountiful fields of tobacco, grapes, corn and soy in Missouri, to the coffee cliffs of Guatemala, organic heirloom vegetables in Silver Spring, PA, and organic cranberry bogs of Cape Cod, MA. In 2010 she rode the train to Lancaster, PA and witnessed for the first time the rich agricultural heritage this county has to offer. It was love at first sight and in 2011 she settled in among the bountiful farm fields of Lancaster County where she started Blue Rock Farm, an organic vegetable farm and CSA. Blue Rock Farm is committed to being a good neighbor in our community and a careful steward of the land. We grow healthy, tasty vegetables without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Our gardens and greenhouse are Pennsylvania Certified Organic.

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