The Benefits of Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Ever eaten one of those supermarket tomatoes?

You know the kind.  The ones that even a goat wouldn’t eat.  The type that you could drive a Mac truck over and it would still look and taste the same.  Grown for transportation and long life, not for taste.

Well dear reader, look no further for a solution.  Heirloom tomatoes (also known as Heritage in the UK) just the fruit for you, and the great news is that you can grow them yourself.

This year I didn’t need to buy tomato seeds, as I saved them from the previous year’s crop, however I did use some that I had previously purchased from Diggers Club and Eden Seeds.

I planted Tigerella, Tommy Toe, Mortgage Lifter, Thai Pink Egg, Broad Ripple Yellow Currant, Elfie, and Black Russian.  All the seedlings grew well in the greenhouse.

Heirloom tomatoes are easy to grow, and you will get a crop between 120 – 150 days depending on your climate.  They need warm soil to germinate, so if your climate is a bit cooler, start them off in seedling punnets indoors or on a germination pad, or in a greenhouse or cold frame.

In our area I plant the seeds in August and harvest in Late January/Early February.  Further north the season is from March to June/July, but can only grow fruit fly resistant cultivars.  We have no such fruit fly problem in Melbourne, fingers crossed.

When planting your tomatoes, choose the strongest looking ones, and plant the seedling in well composted soil.  I also a few big handfuls of dynamic lifter or seasoned chicken manure from the girls.  Tomatoes enjoy slightly acidic soils, so they don’t mind used coffee grounds, or used tea leaves under mulch.  Mulch the plants well, and water regularly to ensure that the soil is moist.

I usually try and stake each plant, but this year they just got away from me.

It looks like a bit of a mess, however I have noticed something interesting.  Because the fruit are not on display due to the lack of staking and training, two really good things have occurred   During the extremely hot weather we have had, I have not lost any fruit due to cooking on the vine (they turn white and then rot if too hot), and because the ground-cover is dense, the birds don’t like getting into the matted vines and eating the ripe fruit.

Anyway, back to the tomatoes.  Here are some that I harvested today (click to enlarge).

They all have different, subtle flavours and are delicious in salads, or sandwiches.  The varieties that I grew this year are not particularly suited for making Passata.  The best cultivar for sauces is the Amish Paste, Brandy wine, Roma, or any of the oxheart types.

So, heirloom tomatoes are wonderful to use because of their colours, unusual appearance and the good strong flavours. Your veggie garden is a much more interesting place when you grow your own food, and many of these varieties are beautiful to look at.  The perfect summer fruit.


  1. says

    We have verticulim wilt in the soil here, so heirloom tomatoes are very difficult to grow. I keep trying though! This year I am going to try making my own potting soil and growing them in pots.

  2. says

    Tomatoes–The best thing about produce gardening. I absolutely adore them. In all varieties. And you’re right, supermarket tomatoes are evil.

    This year has been bumper for us, however, they’re taking their time to rippen. Having said that, we’ve been in the little fellas since Christmas time.

  3. says

    Have just started picking my Brandywine tomatoes and they are fabulous. Absolutely the best taste and full of “meat” and not many seeds – just the kind I like. Must look into more of the varieties you mentioned. They sound like they are excellent.

  4. says

    “…cooking on the vine (they turn white and then rot if too hot)”

    So *that’s* what happened! I grew several varieties last (very dry and hot) summer, Mortgage Lifters among them. Most did well except the ML’s. Almost all of them turned “white” – well, pale – and rotted. It’d be a strange thing indeed if climate change means we will have to eventually grow even tomatoes under shade cloth.

    Unfortunately, I have no choice but to stake or cage my tomatoes to keep them off the ground. When I’ve left them to their own devices, the voles and squirrels have a field day because the tomatoes are all at ground level. They ruin *all* of them. It’s at its worst in dry weather, when the critters are after the moisture inside. Sigh.

  5. says

    We have a great crop of Tomatoes at home…Apparently. I’m just not there to enjoy them at the moment :(

    I did get two before I left for Timor and I love the local Timor Tomatoes. They are really, really good if you take care selecting them.

    Timor is awash with fresh fruits and vegetables. But even here, you can get caught out. I bought some from a local mini- supermarket, thinking that I was buying local only to discover, after I was disappointed with the flavour, that they were imported!

    So it’s back to the local markets :)


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