Appalachia Gardening

Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

We usually have a bumper crop of tomatoes. Maybe it’s the area, the dirt, the weather, maybe it’s because we stick to heirloom varieties, or maybe it’s because we start our seeds in the greenhouse.

I was worried about our tomato plants this year. They started off so s-l-o-w. But they finally came through for us and we ended up planting almost a 100 plants.

Sow True Seed, sponsors my garden, and they have the heirloom tomato varieties we love: Cherokee Purple, Mountain Princess, Black Cherry, and the list goes on and on!

Over the last few years, we’ve tried to trim down the tomato varieties we grow-just to simply things. Knowing someone else is paying for your seeds (thank you Sow True Seed!!) makes it awlful tempting to try every variety they have!

  • Cherokee Purple is always a must-they are great producers with an excellent taste.
  • Mountain Princess is a non-stop producer. The last 2 summers I’ve filled my canning jars with their medium size tomatoes. I was heart broken when I discovered Sow True Seed was out of Mountain Princess seeds when I sent them my order back in the winter.
  • I have a love hate relationship with Brandywines-yellow and pink. They taste so good! They used to be dependable producers for us-but the last 2 summers they’ve been a disappointment in the production department. I made The Deer Hunter promise he would never let me grow brandywines again…unless they produce better this summer.
  • Cream Sausage is a small yellow sausage shaped tomato that tastes good enough to eat out of hand standing in the garden-and it produces an unbelievable amount of tomatoes. We’ve grown it for a good 5 years-saving the seed each year. But somehow I didn’t start any this year. Sigh…I guess I overlooked the seed.
  • We discovered Black Cherry tommy-toes last summer-and I’m positive we’ll plant them every year now. They are so good! After I took them to lunch a time or two- I had the girls at work asking me to bring them their on brown bag of Black Cherry tommy-toes.
  • We planted Green Zebras last year-but weren’t too pleased with them. We’re trying them again this year-keeping our fingers crossed they do better than last season.
  • The only new variety we’re trying this year is one to replace the Mountain Princess: Principe Borghese. According to Sow True Seed Principe Borghese is an Italian Heirloom. I’ll let you know how it does.

Come back in a day or so and I’ll tell you about how we plant our tomatoes. And please leave a comment and tell us about your favorite tomato varieties.


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  • Reply
    Patti Tappel
    May 31, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    100 PLANTS! That’s a lot of BLT’s!!

  • Reply
    May 31, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Jim-last year was the first time we grew the Black Cherry. As you know we had above average rain all summer long. I didn’t notice much splitting-on the tommy-toes except for the ones that stayed on the vine to long.

  • Reply
    Granny Norma
    May 30, 2014 at 1:08 am

    Years ago I grew hybrids (thank you Burpee) because that’s what was available, or so I thought. Once I discovered the heirloom varieties I was hooked. I also like to try newer stable crosses.
    I save seed from year to year with good results and have found that if you group same variety plants and separate them from other varieties by a barrier like trellised beans or a row of okra for example, your seed will likely come true. Also, I’ve saved seed for several years with good result.
    I’m not growing Cherokee Purple this year, though I will again. I have a tendency to overdo it; sometimes I can’t plant everything I’ve started — trying not to do that this year.
    Back again are:
    Mr Stripey (very tasty & productive)
    Mortgage Lifter (huge beefsteak)
    Blue Ridge Mountain (great flavor, not so productive)
    Indigo Apply (stable cross from Wild Boar Farms — black on top, rosy on the bottom, very productive)
    Black Icicle (paste type with pointed end)
    Pink Brandywine (great taste)
    New this year:
    Burgess Triple Crop
    Mountain Gold (Yellow)
    OSU Indigo Rose (purple parent of Indigo Apple)
    Grapefruit (pink & yellow beefsteak)
    Solar Flare (orange & yellow said to have a great flavor)
    White Giant (supposedly tastes like pineapple — we’ll see)
    Black Krim (they say it tastes salty — just testing)
    I rarely grow cherry tomatoes and tend toward beefsteak types. We eat the best and can the rest.
    Best tip: mulch like crazy and you won’t have to water so much.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2014 at 7:00 am

    The ground here is kinda clay mixed years ago I guess all the top soil washed down the hill, so 2 words for good tomatoes and plenty in the hole “Miracle Grow” potting mix in the hole makes a lot of difference.. our ground is so bad we started planting in 55gal plastic barrels works good and you don’t have a problem with weeds just take a little out each year put in another barrel and add new to what you took out…

  • Reply
    May 29, 2014 at 1:50 am

    I usually only plant Romas and cherry tomatoes. Actually, we’ve always had cherry tomatoes volunteer in our mulch bed from those few we tossed in there for that purpose at the end of the season the year before, but none came up there this year, we’re thinking because of the weird repeated intermittent snows we had this spring, so we’re going to have to watch for seedlings to plant, I’m thinking maybe yellow grape tomatoes. We’ll see if I can find them. If not, I’ll settle for what I CAN find, because there are many pasta and salad recipes I love using the small tomatoes in, and I also like sitting out in the garden on a lawn chair snacking on them too. ;o)
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    May 28, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    My favorite tomato is Better Boys, the
    German Johnson Pink and just any deep
    Red Tomato. I’ve grown the Cherokee
    Purples, but they’re not a favorite for me. One year I grew Tommy Toes in 5 gal. buckets. I gave shoe boxes full away, never seen so many Red and Yellow little fellers. Only problem was I had to water ’em every day or they’d start to wilt. But just about any kind of home grown tomato is so much better than what the stores carry…Ken

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    May 28, 2014 at 10:01 am

    OH!!!! You are makin’ me so jealous! We just don’t have enough sun to grow tomatoes. We’ve tried time and time again, but just can’t get enough sun in our woods. This year, I’m hoping all the farmers in the area planted bumper crops because I’ll be hitting the farmers’ markets every weekend and stocking up. Nothing like a tomato sandwich to say “SUMMMER!!!”

  • Reply
    May 28, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Cherokee Purple are our favorite and we also like the huge beefsteak slicing tomatoes.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 28, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Tipper–I’ve been in the tomato growing (and eating) business for most of my years. In fact, one of the first big infusions of “cash money” I got as a boy was one year in the early 1950s when Daddy managed to have tomatoes when everyone else lost them to blight.
    A store owner down at the foot of the hill we lived on took all there were to spare at a whopping 15 cents a pound.
    I used to swear by Rutgers and Marglobe, while Daddy was partial to Better Boy. Nowadays I feel there is nothing in the class of Cherokee Purples. I planted two flats of them (72 plants) and one of Lemon Boy. I don’t know if the latter is an heirloom or not, but they are prolific, low in acid, and have little in the way of a core. I planted 36 of them.
    Add another flat of mixed heirloom varieties and that comes to a gross (144) plants. I reckon that will be enough for the two of us, most of the neighborhood, Ann’s Monday supper club, a local foods restaurant that will take any and all surplus, and more.
    The one problem I have with all heirloom varieties, never mind that most if not all of them are indeterminate in nature (most hybrids are determinate), is getting them to continue growing and bearing up to frost. My usual solution is to root some suckers for a second planting, but maybe I ought to just sow seeds for late plants.
    I’ll have to try some of the Black Cherry tommytoes. One question on them–are they prone to split in periods of lots of rain? Most tommytoes are.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    May 28, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I love the Cherokee Purple. I planted one plant three years ago and I was hooked. I didn’t find a plant this year, but I will dream about owning one. I only did one orange and one purple bell pepper plants this year. I don’t have room for a special garden, but I love hearing about the success of others.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 28, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Good Wednesday mornin’ to you! Accordin’ to my “list of days”, today is not a good day to plant tomatoes! My better-half is going to put in four more plants today just because he said SO! “Alrighty, then”, I said..”We’ll see!” We have way too many planted for just us. What is your companion plants for your tomatoes..Do you plant, the Italian supper combo..Roma tomatoes, Peppers (maybe giant Marconi or Gypsy), onions, basil, oregano etc..for a quick grab of freshness for a pot of spaghetti? With maybe a zuchinni thrown in for a grated salad?
    We were “told and sold” a yellow small tomato, (plant) when we visted the Pickens flea market a few weeks ago..She just swore by it and I think that was all she was sellin’ (pushin’) our way! They were beautiful plants..sooo we bought one. “Just (1) one”, we said. Tucked with the other stuff and tried to get it home without breaking it…It broke! The top! We planted it anyhow. It is now the largest plant in our garden. A monster, with itty bitty tomatoes and more blooms on it and you can’t tell it was ever topped out! No, we did not sucker it because of breaking the top out..It sure heard me sayin’, “Don’t toss it!” “It’ll make a few tomatoes, maybe.” It did look pitiful by the time we got it in the ground. It has grown passed other tomatoes we had planted before we bought this one. It set blooms way quick and tomatoes..Oooooo, spooky! look out!
    No, I don’t know the name..Yes, it was bought from a little ole (witchy)lady and Roy said she did have other tomatoes that she did’nt have tagged either, she would just call them a name as she sold them. She just grew them from seed and thought she would sell some. They were beautiful plants, in little odd containers, paper cups, plastic, coffee, etc. I hate we didn’t write the name on something when we bought it. In my mind I am now thinking it might be something like…”Which-Whitch Yeller” or “Tall Yeller-toes” or “Look-out Mountain-Tower Yeller Guard”, with instructions to break the top out, let it wilt before planiting..I digress..I will let you know how this witchy-almost-dead plant revives and the tomatos it produces???…
    Love your plants..
    I have green tomotes on my Roma’s and Patio’s, but the patios don’t count..Our “Super Fantastics” (home-grown seed) a little slow this year, sweet i00’s are doing good, we love to eat these when prowling the garden…
    We have a new small tomato we haven’t tried “Husky Cherry Red” we couldn’t find any good looking Cherokee purple plants this year. We love them too…
    We need rain, I mean real rain…a soaker…or we will not have good crops this year.
    Love my “Love Apples”…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 28, 2014 at 7:27 am

    I love the heirlooms, the flavor is outstanding. You can save the seeds too. We have a tomato here that is an heirloom and one of the few native’s to FL. it is called Matt’s tomato. They are about the size of a blueberry and are so sweek you can eat like candy.
    I have been known to bring seeds of our FL natives to NC for my friend Dave to grow. I brought several varieties of peppers and tomatos to him just after our season was over, he planted and next trip we brought the fruit back with us.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 28, 2014 at 7:12 am

    Tipper, my favorite slice and eat tomato is the Cherokee Purple. I usually get some from you and I have a place to buy them here in Black Mountain.
    Your little Black Cherry Tommy-toes were wonderful last year. I’m glad you are growing them again this year.
    I don’t do grow but I do a great job of eating!

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