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Heirloom Tomatoes

Posted: May 15, 2017

Heirloom tomatoes come in almost every color of the rainbow, with subtle variations in color, texture, size, shape and flavors. Each variety of heirloom tomato carries with it a story, one of history and folklore.

With the increased interest in the flavor of heirlooms, you’ll find a large selection of seedlings at local nurseries in the spring. For the broadest range of choices, allowing a perfect mix for your garden, head to the seed catalogs in January and grow your own. Each year I plant several varieties that I haven’t grown before to find new favorites.

Heirloom tomatoes range in size from 1/4” cherries up to 1-2 pound beefsteaks. The smaller the fruit size the more prodigious the harvest. Some cherry tomatoes can yields hundreds of fruits, while larger beefsteak varieties will produce a dozen or less. To maximize the harvest focus on mid-sized tomatoes. Round out your selections with cherry and beefsteak varieties.

Interesting Selections

Cosmonaut Volkov - Red, early, 65 days to harvest, consistent producer even in a cool summer, few blemishes, 8-12 oz. flattened globes have a rich, full-bodied flavor. Great for that first tomato sandwich. Named by Igor Maslov, a Russian space engineer, for his friend Vladislav Volkov, a cosmonaut who died when his spaceship crashed.

Pink Accordion - One the few pinks that I have found with wonderful flavor. Semi-hollow fruit suitable for stuffing, but the stunning ruffled “accordion” appearance is artistry sliced on a plate of mixed colored tomatoes.

Ruby Gold – Beefsteak tomato with pale yellow flesh, streaked with red on the blossom end and through the interior. Meaty, with a mild sweetness and little to no acidity.

Golden Jubilee or Jubilee – Medium-sized, 8 oz. orange tomato, meaty, sweet and most often blemish free. A cross between Tangerine and Rutgers, the classic AAS winner from 1943.

Japanese Black Trifele – A black tomato the size and shape of a Bartlett pear. A Russian heirloom has that rich, subtle smoky flavor. Few blemishes and a good producer.

Tasty Evergreen - Introduced in 1956 by Gleckler’s Seedmen of Metamora, Ohio. Medium-sized beefsteak, prolific producer, sweet, but not too sweet. Ripe when the outer skin turns yellow, but the inside gel and flesh remain a brilliant green. Some fruits have pink striping at the blossom end.

Cream Sausage - The first white paste-type tomato, that presents with a surprising flavor. White to pale yellow when ripe. Fun for adding different colors to homemade salsas.

Contact Information

Barb Kline, Penn State Master Gardener
  • Allegheny County