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Picking Heirloom Tomato Varieties to Rescue

Picking a Winning Tomato to Rescue

Picking the tomatoes to try to rescue is an involved process. I have worked to save several cultivars and in doing so I am blown away by the variety out there. Tomato alone are said to have over 10,000 varieties and more are crossed, hybridized and evolve all the time. Many disappear without a trace but for the memories of a taste, yield, or the yarns of family stories.

Many people know me from Victory Gardeners and the Ivan Tomato Rescue Project where I have worked for three years to save the Ivan Tomato, a Mid-Missouri heirloom.  I sell seeds online and market plants in the Mid-Missouri area.

Helping save rare seed varieties is a central premise of what I do. I sell seeds and plants that cover the normal to the rare, but the ones I put extra energy into are local heirlooms that have great yields and are sustainable in our micro-climate.

This year we are adding several new seeds to the market and are so excited about them.  These plants all satisfy the requirements of being great producers and having some capacity to make it through Missouri’s irrational weather. We get hot, dry, wet, windy, cold, and high humidity sometimes all in the same week. So here are the ones I have deemed as worthy of some extra effort to Rescue.

The Pink Sweet:

Came to us via a farmer in the Salisbury Missouri Area. He gave us the seeds in the fall of 2016 and we planted them in the spring of 2017. They were the largest of our starts with big wide leaves. People pick them up quickly from our market booth and we planted a bed of them in our suburban garden.

They grew fast, putting on vegetation and early tomatoes. The tomatoes were like grapes hanging in clusters of ovals just over 1” long. They turned a lovely dark pink and ripened rather quickly putting out a very large yield. They did take a hit during a ridiculously hot week, but came back for a second showing later in the summer.

The bowls in this picture shows you how many there were at once. We were very happy to get that kind of productivity the first year out. The flavor was sweet and juicy, winning a place in my garden and in my list of must haves. The Pink Sweet satisfies the need for a sweet cherry. It outperformed all other cherries we grew.

The Balkonzauber:

The Balkonzauber came to me by way of a customer in Germany. I sent her the Ivan seeds and she sent me back some of her favorite tomatoes. I did not know what to expect. I put it in a spot in the middle of a bed and waiting and watched. It produced the cutest small plant that did not get over 2 feet tall. It took up a nice small spot and produced a lot of these medium, round tomatoes. They were a dark red and yummy and rather early.

It is hard to get an early tomato with full favor. Sometimes the heat is needed to really put the sweetness in your tomatoes. But the Balkenzauber did just fine early on. It is a determinate tomato, so it gave me a large yield of early, yummy tomatoes and then died off.  Balkonzauber means Balcony Magic in German.  This tomato would be ideal for containers and porch growers and earns a place in my garden as an yearly high yield yummy tomato.

The Fred:

The Fred came to us by way of a fellow market vendor at the Columbia Farmers Market in Columbia Missouri.  The Farmer said he had been growing this tomato since the 1950’s and had loved the flavor and used it for canning. He said it produced larger than normal roma/oxheart type tomatoes with little seed and lots of meat. 

We tested them in the summer of 2017 and found them to be a very unusual plant. The plant was large and lanky with these slim leaves and branches that looked like they could hardly support the tomatoes.  The tomatoes were large, meaty and great for canning.  They did not have a lot of seed and were everything the farmer told us it would be.  The Fred is an indeterminate tomato producing a little later than some.

The story behind the Fred is that it was developed in 1950’s by a Missouri Outreach and Extension Officer that was looking for a tomato that could withstand Missouri weather changes.  The Fred was named after the agent that developed the cultivar.  The tomato still exists today because of the family that continued to grow in and passed us the seeds for posterity. 

We have several that we are testing this summer and if they produce well they may join our rescue program for next year. So, when picking tomatoes to save you have to ask yourself… are all Tomatoes created equal.? The answer is not really. They will vary in resilience and in yield and you must find the best ones for your needs, gardening sytle, micro-climate and taste buds. 

Published on Apr 18, 2018
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