Big Red Tomatoes
Abraham Lincoln ($5.95)
(HG)80 days. This is the original, luscious, Illinois tomato. Very tasty, sweet, and juicy, with intense old fashioned tomato flavors, this wildly popular heirloom was introduced in Illinois in 1923 and produces big, red, round, scrumptious 1-pound fruits in bountiful clusters of up to 9 tomatoes and has excellent disease resistance. A real classic which grows beautifully everywhere.
(B)This spectacular show-stopper has been a favorite of mine for many years. I've grown it in my home garden since 1999. After rave reviews by friends and family I've decided to offer it for 2012. One of the coolest thing about Aussie is its bountiful production. Some of the heirlooms produce moderately but Aussie pumps out copious harvests of huge red 1 to 2 lb. glossy bright red beefsteak fruits big, bold, scrumptious old-time flavors. With excellent disease resistance and complex flavor, it's a proven winner for your garden.
Bear Claw ($6.25) 75 days
I've been hearing about this extremely rare fruit in heirloom tomato circles--everyone wants it! We've got it! Incredibly high production. From Lisa VonSaunder, "A fabulous tomato in every way you can measure. A huge tomato with some of the most outstanding flavors I've ever known. I never saw tomato plants grow so large so fast. Huge plant with stems like tree trunks. The first tomatoes of the season were one pound, then the fruit started coming in larger and larger and larger until they were the largest of all my tomatoes this season. Fabulous deep, rich, pink fruit that beat all the others in taste.
They grew so large the branches were drooping even with one fruit on them. So, if you want to win first place for size but you treasure flavor above all else, this is the tomato to grow! Do you want to have the most tomatoes ever grown on a vine? Then this is the plant for you!"
Photograph by Lisa VonSaunder of Amishland Seeds, used here with her kind permission.
Beefsteak (AKA Red Ponderosa or Crimson Cushion) ($5.95) (BB) 85 days. Here is the original beefsteak heirloom tomato. Beefsteak will conjure memories of how real tomatoes taste. Huge, fragrant, delicious red fruits, up to 2 pounds, on a big vine, this amazing plant will need extra support to keep up with the giant, juicy, sweet and scrumptious old-time tomatoes. A classic.
Brandywine OTV($5.95) (B) (E) 72 days. A truly marvelous stand-out member of the great family of Brandywines, this one arose in Craig LeHoullier's garden years ago. Big 1 pound red fruits with orange shoulders and complex rich flavors. An outstanding tomato for your garden; it also sets fruit very well during high temperatures and bears all season. A reliable producer, very disease resistant, and easy to grow; OTV stands for Off The Vine, which was a wonderful online tomato newsletter published by Carolyn Male and Craig LeHoullier. They describe this tomato as "the best strain of Brandywine set apart from others by its smooth, creamy, almost buttery texture, and harmonious sweet flavor." It originated from a natural cross-pollination of Yellow Brandywine and an unknown red parent, and was further developed and stabilized by Carolyn Male.
Brandywine Red, Landis Valley Strain ($5.95)
( (HG)(E) 78 days. This old time legendary and very special strain of Red Brandywine is named for Brandywine Creek and comes from Chester County Pennsylvania where it originated in 1885. These big, vigorous vines produce 8 -12 ounce, deep bright-red round fruits in clusters of 4 to 6. Outstanding, prolific, robust, with intense tomato flavor which stands up to its legendary 100 year history. Among my favorites. (This is a different strain from regular Red Brandywine which is slightly larger, later and more ribbed.)
Clint Eastwood's Rowdy Red ($5.95)
(HG)(E) 78 days. From Gary Ibsen, owner of Carmel TomatoFest, "Clint Eastwood's Rowdy Red is a deep-red, round, beefsteak type fruit with a robust unruly tomatoey flavor and firm, juicy flesh that invites tomato feasting and seed-saving. The tall, indeterminate, very disease resistant plant produces loads of 3" to 4", 10-12 oz. fruits. "
"This is one of those big, bold tasting tomatoes that is not for sissies," said Ibsen. "Although it has some of the highest sugar levels I've ever seen from a tomato, the sweetness is in the background and its fruity flavors are balanced beautifully with plenty of acidity, earthy nuances and flavor complexity. It's a perfect tomato for eating fresh, cooking or canning."
"Clint Eastwood's Rowdy Red has proven resistant to several of the most common tomato diseases: verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, nematodes and tobacco mosaic virus."
"Within the hundreds of varieties of heirloom tomatoes I've grown each year has been a selection of previously undistributed, un-named varieties, the seeds of which have been handed down within different families from around the country for generations, then tucked into letters from gardeners wanting to share their legacy with me."
"For years I've wanted pay tribute to our neighbor Clint Eastwood for the generosity he's bestowed upon our Carmel-Monterey community, for his actions to preserve the natural beauty of our coastline and for the years of support he's given to the Carmel TomatoFest," said Gary Ibsen. With Clint's permission I chose to name it 'Clint Eastwood's Rowdy Red', after Clint's character, Rowdy Yates, from the old television series Rawhide."
"The seeds of this variety came from Archie Millett who is now 86 and living in the foothills of the Sierras. Archie was a tomato breeder with the
Universityof California Davissince the early 50's. Following years of crossing thousands of tomato varieties at the university to produce a disease resistant tomato with intense flavor, he retired in 1987 and continued cross breeding to enhance the flavor qualities of his favorite tomato from his small home garden."
"Archie gave me these seeds by pressing them into my palm while we were in his garden," said Ibsen. "He said, "Here
Gary, these are for you. I've only shared these with friends and family. This is the best tasting tomato of my 50 years of growing tomatoes. Name it what you want, share it with others. You are the person I'd like to introduce this tomato to the public."
Gary named this fabulous tomato for his friend and fellow environmentalist, Clint Eastwood.
Gary Ibsen's friendship and encouragement continue to inspire my love for heirloom tomatoes. He has been my mentor and finest inspiration, and his award winning book, The Great Tomato Book, is always nearby.
Archie Millett is a national treasure. If I have a tomato question that even Gary can't answer, he points me to Archie," Time to call Archie..."
I called him with a question one summer. Archie's sweet wife answered and asked me to hold the phone for a moment. She called to him--he was way out in the tomato field. Gracious and kind, this wonderful 81 year old gentleman came to the phone and helped me solve my gardening question.
We are very proud to be the exclusive source for Clint Eastwood's Rowdy Red.
Costoluto Genovese ($5.95) (P-S) (E) 70 days. A big beautiful and classic Italian heirloom, the deeply fluted, ribbed intensely-red 8 oz. fruits are mouthwatering and utterly scrumptious. This stunning tomato has a splendid, complex old-time flavor which makes it a perfect choice for sauce and fresh eating.
Cuostraleé ($5.95) (Koo-struh-LAY)
85 days. Big, hearty, prolific plant, with huge red beautiful beefsteak tomatoes, up to 4 lbs. I have to use both hands to pick them. Gigantic fruits have a superb, classic tomato flavor. Very easy to grow, disease resistant and a reliable producer, in my top 10 favorites. Another hot weather favorite which will grow easily and wonderfully in all gardens.
Druzba ($5.95) This has been a very special favorite of mine which I've grown for my personal stash for a long time.
Because it's such and extraordinary variety,I have sent plants of Druzba as an alternate for Goose Creek when Goose Creek plants were too small to ship.
Soon I began getting calls from customers who liked it even better than Goose Creek and begged me to send them another Druzba! So, I've decided to include it for 2012. I think you will agree that it has a very robust, rich, sweet old-fashioned, concentrated tomato flavor borne in smooth, perfectly round, deep-red, blemish-free 10 ounce fruits with good disease resistance and high production. The name Druzba means friendship in Bulgarian.
($5.95) (Hybrid) 72 days. (D) (E)
As seeds of SunMaster are no longer available I have chosen Florida 91 as the perfect alternate plant for my customers in extreme high heat areas who want to have a plant that keeps producing in high summer heat. This specialty tomato,
has the 'heat gene' and produces delicious, bright red, 10 ounce, rich, sweet full-flavored tomatoes in only 72 to 80 days. A small determinate plant, growing to 2 or 3 feet, this variety sets fruit easily during high heat, when days are up to 97º or hotter and night temperatures are 73º to 82º. Very disease resistant. Ideal for slicing onto sandwiches and salads, these sweet tomatoes ripen to be firm, solid, and resistant to cracking.
a very heat tolerant hybrid variety
Goldman's Italian-American ($6.95)
Due to unprecedented customer requests, I am including this marvelous tomato for 2010. Heirloom Guru Extraordinaire, Amy Goldman, found this delightful full-figured, big-flavored tomato at a roadside stand in Cernobbio, Italy and named it after her father's Brooklyn, NY grocery store.
With very few seeds, Goldman's Italian-American is a terrific choice for cooking--
makes a very silky sauce, creamy paste and adds some magic to soups and stews.
Pear shaped, blood red, juicy and meaty, growing to about 12 to 16 ounces with a beguiling ruffledshape, it is in such high demand that seeds are almost sold out everywhere. I managed to get my hands on 250 seeds only, so please order early!
Photograph of Goldman's Italian-American is the property of
Baker Creek Seeds and used here with
their gracious permission.
NEW FOR 2015
Quoting my friend and mentor, Gary Ibsen of Tomatofest.com, "Early in 2001, while having lunch with Julia Child in Carmel Valley, California, I told her about my having in my tomato seed trials several un-named varieties. I followed by asking her, "If I'm able to grow an heirloom tomato that's good enough to name after you, what kind would you like it to be?" I suspected she would say, "Red", or "Beefsteak", or "Yellow." However, after just a moment's hesitation, Julia looked at me and replied, "Tasty, my dear."
"The tall, indeterminate, potato-leaf plant produces lots of 4-inch, deep-pink, lightly-fluted, beefsteak fruits that have the kind of robust tomatoey flavors and firm, juicy flesh that invites tomato feasting and seed-saving. It's not a simple, sugary sweet variety, but has a bold, straight-forward character in its taste, with more than enough acidity and earthy nuances to balance its sweet, fruity flavors."
Gary selected the best tasting of the un-named varieties.
I have grow Julia Child as a special order for one very discerning customer for several years, and now the plants are available for everyone.
Legend ( $5.25)
(E) 65 days. This very early variety from Dr. James Baggett of Oregon State University grows in abundance on short bushy determinate plants. The 14 to 16 ounce fruits are smooth and round and blemish free. Bright red with delicious sweet flavors that are perfectly balanced with a touch of acid, Legend produces in only 60 days from plant out. Sets fruit easily in cooler climates and shows excellent resistance to late blight. A favorite for salads and canning.
Mortgage Lifter aka Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter
Radiator Charlie and his big tomatoes in
a newspaper photograph from 1964.
This gigantic legendary heirloom from Logan, West Virginia developed by M.C. 'Charlie' Byles in the 1930's, is huge, sweet, juicy, delicious and prolific, with splendid old time tomato flavor. The meaty pink-red fruits weigh at least a pound, averaging 2½ lbs. and reaching up to 4 lbs. A very prolific plant which continues to bear fruit right up until frost, it also keeps very well.
Marshall Cletis Byles, who much preferred to go by MC or just Charlie, owned a garage specializing in radiator repair.
He developed Mortgage Lifter over a six year period by crossing German Johnson, Beefsteak and 2 other really big varieties, all chosen for their huge size and grand flavor. He sold the resulting plants for a dollar each (in the 40's), and was able to pay off his $6000.00 house mortgage in only 6 years with the profit from his plant sales. "I didn't pay but six thousand dollars for my home, and paid most of it off with tomato plants", said Charlie in a tape recorded interview with his grandson which aired recently on National Public Radio.
Charlie's repair shop was at the bottom of a steep hill so travelers whose radiators over-heated during the climb had to coast back down to Radiator Charlie's for repair. Other folks heard about these huge luscious tomatoes and came from hundreds of miles to buy the plant. As my customer John in Virginia says, "It's just not a real tomato garden without Mortgage Lifter." Charlie Byles lived to be 97 years old.
Neves Azorean Red aka NAR. (Pronounced Nehzh Ah ZOR ee uhn) ($5.95) 75 days. Boy are you in for a treat! This terrific, boldly flavored, 1 to 3 lb tomato is produced on a big hearty plant with a large central stem branching out into loaded branches of big beefsteak tomatoes so delicious they have become the talk of the tomato world.
I had been custom growing this variety for certain very discriminating customers for the past few years, and now that the world is catching on to this spectacular fruit, it could become the ultimate sandwich tomato or to show off your special tomato salad. This one packs quite a flavor punch--not for sissies. Featuring great disease resistance and an excellent production right up until frost, we heartily thank Anthony Neves who brought the seeds home with him from a trip to The Azores, a Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic about 900 miles west of the mainland.
Thanks to my customer Renee Machado Berry for the correct pronunciation of Neves. :)
Santiago (Sahn tee AH go) ($5.95) 68 days.
Look at this beauty! At 8 to 10 ounces, Santiago is
ig, heavy in the hand, juicy and sweet, the lightly fluted, deep red beefsteak fruits produce early, continue to produce all season and grow beautifully in hot and cool weather on a big hearty plant. Bound to become a classic choice for the heirloom tomato gardener who grows the very best.
intensely delicious with old time tomato flavors. B
Gary Ibsen's friend, Cooper Scollan, found these tomatoes at a farmers market in Santiago
at the base of 3 volcanoes. The farmer's family had grown Santiago tomatoes for several generations as the only tomato they grew. When you grow it, you'll understand why. It is magnificent. Bearing fruit early in and continuing to bear all season long, this one deserve a special place in your garden
Guatemala which lies
Sunset's Red Horizon
(B) F/C (E) 72 days. This outstanding big, red, ambrosial and glorious fruit is the talk of the tomato world this season and being described as the best tasting tomato in existence. Producing like a champ in cool weather, resistant to frost, it is a splendid producer of big red oxheart shaped, 5" fruits with great old-time intense tomato flavors and a juicy silken texture. Very heavy in the hand, weighing from 10 to about 16 ounces. One of the first varieties to produce, and continue bearing fruit well into November and December in the cooler coastal regions of Washington, Oregon and California, Sunset's Red Horizon will also produce beautifully and reliably in all climates and has proven resistant to frost, blossom end rot and cracking.
Introduced to the west by Nik Peplenov who immigrated to the US in 1999 and brought with him his favorite heirloom seeds from the Rostov Don region of
Russia, it was named by tomato grower Gary Ibsen in 2003 after Sunset Magazine. Sunset's Red Horizon is a spectacular, all-around champion tomato. The fruit in the photograph was picked in our garden on January 27th, 2007.Photograph by Gary Ibsen.
Back: See available varieties