Heirloom Tomatoes


Heirloom Tomatoes

texax star tomato slicedHeirloom tomatoes have become increasingly popular over the last few years.  A heirloom tomato is simply one which has not been hybridized. There are hundreds of varieties; many of which can be found in your local farmer's market.

In the past I grew varieties most familiar to me like Celebrity, Early Girl, Malata (a pear style tomato) and Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes.  This year we adopted some orphan heirloom tomato plants from a family friend.  Each plant was identified so we were able to look them up online and have some idea what we might be growing.

We have fallen in love with some of these new-old tomatoes and found a few we'll replace with our previous old favorites.

Pictured here is the beautiful Texas Star tomato.  It's so pretty; it almost looks like a peach!  The flavor is delicate but noticeably a tomato (some didn't taste great).  Read more about this variety and several others below.

The orphan tomatoes were a lot of fun and there are a few new varieties to add to my "favorites".  I'll probably continue to grow my old-faithfuls with a sprinkling of some "new-old" tomatoes too.

Tested Varieties

Variety Color Maturity Size More Information
 paul robeson heirloom tomato Paul Robeson Brownish-red 74 days  4" Name after a Russian artist know for his efforts in helping the Black cause. This is a beefsteak tomato that grows to be about 4" in diameter.  The seed hails from Siberia so it grows well in cooler climates.The flavor is very mild.  The color can vary from brownish to black.  A good salad tomato it can be used in sauces as well.
 texas star heirloom tomato Texas Star Yellow w/red 85 days  1 to 2 lb
A beautiful, large variety heirloom from Texas.  This striking tomato can be used to enhance any presentation as well as in sauces and salsas.Our favorite of the heirlooms we have grown. It has a nice sweet, tomato flavor and the color is just amazing.
 zogola heirloom tomato Zogola Red 80 days  1/2 - 1 lb
A nice, red, high producing tomato. Zogola can tolerate a lot of rain or is drought tolerant as well.  A rich flavored tomato that is very versatile and can be used for salads, sandwiches and even sauces.

Favorite Summer Tomato Recipe

Fresh, home-grown tomatoes are so special that I try to make simple preparations that highlight the colors and flavor.  My favorite of all recipe is a simple Bruschetta (pronounced BREW-sket-TAH).  This little appetizer is easy to make and variations abound.  Here is my version.

  • 12 slices sour dough French bread cut into 1/4" slices
  • 2 cups chopped fresh, ripe tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil; jullienned
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
    freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (this is a time to use the good stuff)
  • Additional olive oil for basting bread
  1. Preheat oven broiler to 400F
  2. In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, chopped garlic, basil, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Mix gently until combined. Set aside.
  3. Arrange bread slices on a cookie sheet.  Brush lightly with olive oil.  Take a garlic clove half and rub across the top of each bread slice to infuse the oils from the garlic into the bread.
  4. Place bread slices in oven at least 4 - 6" from broiler element. Broil until slices are nicely browned but watch carefully so they don't burn.

When the slices are browned remove from oven.  Divide tomato mixture evenly and top each slice.  Serve immediately so the "toasts" don't get soggy.

brushetta on plate fresh heirloom tomatoes


Mix up the tomato varieties for fun color variations.

Top each with a small anchovy

Top bruschetta with a small amount of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese then return to broiler until cheese melts.


Heirloom Tomato Seed Sources

Tomatofest.com - Over 600 varieties of organic heirloom tomato seeds.

Burpee.com - Tomato seeds and seedling plants

Renee's Garden Seeds - Always good quality seed.  Sells a selection of other heirloom vegetables as well.

Mariseeds.com -  Heirloom tomato and pepper seeds as well as some plants.

Organicaseed.com - A large variety of organic heirloom seeds.

Too Many Tomatoes?

Here are a couple tips for quick-storing your tomato crop.

  • Clean the surface of the tomato with a damp cloth. Place the whole tomatoes in a plastic freezer bag, then place that bag in a 2nd freezer bag.  Express as much air as you can out of both bags, seal tightly.  You can thaw as many tomatoes as you like and add to soups, stews and sauces.  Once frozen the tomatoes will not hold up to slicing but the flavor will be excellent.
  • Make a simple tomato sauce.  Roughly chop 2lbs of fresh ripe tomatoes.  Place about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan then add 2 chopped garlic cloves (more or less to your taste).  Add the tomatoes and 1/2 cup chopped parsley.  Cook the mixture for about 30 minutes.  Remove and put through a food grinder using the "medium" size grate.  Return the sauce to the pan.  If it needs to be thickened (this will vary depending on the water content of your tomatoes) simple place it over medium heat until the sauce is the desired consistency. Cool and place into serving size freezer containers.  Make sure to date the containers.  Stores well for 6 months to a year.

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.