Heirloom Varieties

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences recommends these heirloom tomato varieties for Central Florida.

Among the slowest maturing varieties, Brandywines are beefsteak heirlooms best described as “gnarly.” The sweet yet acidic flavor of their pink flesh offsets their ungainly looks.

Cherokee Purple
Legend has it these dark rose/purple heirlooms originated with the Cherokee Indians. A very large tomato, the Cherokee Purple’s interior is deep red and its flavor is sweet, rich and smoky.

The huge (typically up to 3 pounds), meaty Delicious heirloom was developed by Burpee’s from the “Beefsteak” tomato after years of breeding for smoother fruit. Red, round Delicious heirlooms offer sweet, dense, juicy flesh and are large enough for hollowing out and stuffing. In 1986, a Delicious set the world record for weight, at 7 pounds, 12 ounces.

Eva Purple Ball
The smooth, round deep pink Eva Purple Ball is an all-purpose heirloom that grows well, even for novice gardeners. It features a soft, tender texture, and flavor that is sweetly tangy, with undertones of spice and tropical fruit.

Green Zebra
Distinguished by chartreuse and yellow stripes, Green Zebras have a sweet taste with a tangy bite and bright green flesh. Although technically not heirlooms because they were developed in the 1980s, they’re considered classics of bi-colored and striped tomatoes.

Mortgage Lifter
These gigantic (up to 4 pounds) heirloom beefsteak tomatoes were reputedly developed in the 1930s by a radiator repair shop owner who was facing bankruptcy. Folklore says he cross-bred four of his favorite tomato varieties and came up with this juicy, meaty specimen that became so popular he was able to pay off his mortgage in six years. However it originated, the Mortgage Lifter sports a roasted, fruity and slightly salty flavor.

Tips for saving heirloom tomato seeds:

  • Wash heirloom tomatoes; cut them in half across the middle, and gently squeeze the seeds and juice into a labeled plastic or glass container.
  • Set the mixture out of direct sunlight and let it sit until whitish mold appears on the surface (three to five days). Scrape off the white mold with a spoon, leaving the seeds.
  • Fill the container with water and stir; the good seeds will sink to the bottom.
  • Pour off and discard the floating seeds and pulp. Pour the cleaned seeds into a fine strainer; rinse and drain.
  • Sprinkle seeds onto a plate to dry for up to three days, away from direct sunlight. Stir twice a day to keep them from sticking.
  • Store dried seeds in a cool, dry, dark place in individually labeled, airtight containers until it’s time to plant them.
Categories: Gardening