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Giants of the Tomato World-
The Sandwich/ Slicing Tomatoes
The tomatoes in the photo above starting from the top left and moving clockwise are Pineapple, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Mortgage Lifter, Red & Yellow Stuffers, Black Krim, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Big Rainbow, Green Zebra and Great White. All are heirloom varieties. All produce sandwich-sized tomatoes. All are DELICIOUS!
We know that most tomato gardeners will grow a few cherry-sized tomato plants, maybe a few paste tomato plants, but for tomato gardeners, their passion is the sandwich/slicing tomatoes, and we would be remiss if we did not dedicate a newsletter to these wonderful fruits.
Sandwich/slicing tomatoes do not occur naturally. They are the result of traditional breeding practices that began more than 1000 years ago. The original primitive tomatoes were the small, cherry-sized tomatoes that still exist today. When mankind fell in love with this fruit and began to cultivateand nourish individual plants, tomatoes began to get larger. Along with variations in size came variations in color, shape, flavor, etc. Sandwich/slicing tomatoes have existed for more than 600 years. In fact, some of the tomatoes that the Spanish originally brought back to Europe in the early to mid-1500s were sandwich/slicing tomatoes.
This newsletter describes some of Harvesting History’s favorite sandwich/slicing tomatoes. These selections are some of our favorites because of flavor, vigor, productivity and the fact that seed is always available, year-in and year-out. Unless you save your seeds every year, what is the point of falling in love with a particular tomato variety if you can’t obtain seed for this variety each year? The seed for the tomatoes lovingly discussed in this newsletter is alwaysavailable. Hurray for that!
The Heirloom Slicing Tomato, Black Krim
To Purchase Heirloom Black Krim Seeds Click This Link
The “Black or Purple Tomatoes” have an interesting story. Most “black or purple tomatoes” originated on the Crimean Penninsula located in the Ukraine, Russia, Europe. During the Crimean War (1853-1856), Russian soldiers from the more northern regions of Russia discovered these delicious and oddly colored tomatoes on their campaigns to subjugate the Ukraine. Many of the soldiers carried seeds back to their families when the war ended, and thus, the “black or purple” tomatoes proliferated throughout the eastern sections of Mother Russia.
Black Krim is from Krim, Russia. According to Amy Goldman, from her extraordinary book, The Heirloom Tomato, seeds for Black Krim arrived inthe US in 1990,
“…via Lars Olov Rosenstrom of Bromma, Sweden, who could grow the blackest Krim in his heated greenhouse.”
Amy’s description of this extraordinary tomato is the best I have found, so I will share it with you here. She writes,
“Black Krim should be welcome in every garden. I was sold even before I bit into it: The violet brown and raspberry red are amazing technicolors. The flavor is exotic and musky; the fruit acid hits me in the roof of my mouth and tickles my tongue. Others describe Krim as “very intense,” “smokey,” “salty,” or even like downing “a good single malt scotch” – and that, I assume, is before fermenting it for seed-saving purposes!”
Black Krims are very large tomatoes, 20-30 ounces – the largest tomato we discuss in this newsletter. The vines are indeterminate so they DEFINITELY need to be staked. We have found that these tomatoes do best if they are harvested before they are ripe and then allowed to ripen in a sunny window or outside in the sun on a porch. Amy also alludes to this peculiarity when she recounts this statement,
“CR Lawn of Fedco Seeds advocates harvesting Krims as soon as they
are half-green and still firm but before they ‘disintegrate like a chunk
of road kill’”.
The Heirloom Slicing Tomato, Kellogg’s Breakfast
To Purchase Heirloom Kellogg’s Breakfast Seeds Click This Link
I LOVE this tomato! I love its extraordinary orange color. Both the skin and the flesh are intensely orange. I love the incredible tomatoey flavor – rich, strong and only slightly sweet. I love the fact that Kellogg’s Breakfast is reliably very prolific, actually unusually so given the 1-2 pound size of the fruit (about thesize of the Black Krim’s). I love the fact that it is fairly vigorous. When just about every other tomato vine in the garden has succumbed to blight, Kellogg’s Breakfast is still producing. It is not resistant to blight, but it is one of the last varieties to be defeated by this blasted spore borne disease.
Finally, I love its history. Like Mortgage Lifter, Kellogg’s Breakfast originated in West Virginia where it was collected by a seed saver, Darrell Kellogg, of Redford, MI. Darrell shared seed with famed heirloom tomato grower, Bill Minkey, (the same Bill Minkey who popularized Aunt Ruby’s German Green tomato) of Darien, WI. Bill then introduced it to The Seed Savers Exchangeof Decora, IA, and it rapidly became a favorite with Seed Savers members.
The Heirloom Slicing Tomato, Great White
To Purchase Heirloom Great White Seeds Click This Link
“The name Great White understates the case: this white is the greatest. Unsurpassed in beauty and flavor – better than all the other whites combined. It makes heavenly slices like angel food cake, and holds its own with great tomatoes of all colors.”
This is a quote from a woman who knows tomatoes better than just about anyone on this planet, Amy Goldman, and she rarely expounds like this, so you know that this tomato is really superlative.
In her book, The Heirloom Tomato, she traces Great White’s history to Glecklers Seedsmen who in 1991 introduced this tomato. According to George Gleckler, the proprietor, the seeds for this tomato were given to him by oneof his customers eight years earlier. That individual had been breeding yellow and orange oxhearts when Great White resulted. In Amy’s words,
“…it is unclear whether Great White was the result of chance variance from mutation, a natural outcrossing, or some sort of mix-up.”
What is clear is that Great White is an extraordinary tomato. The indeterminate vines produce 1-2 pound tomatoes. The flavor is very, very sweet, so you might want to think of it as a dessert tomato or in a sweet salad with fruit like apples, grapes or pears. In The Heirloom Tomato, there is a recipe for Galette of White Peaches and Tomatoes (essentially a tomato tart) where Great White would be the perfect tomato to use. Though I am not a fan of white tomatoes, I grow this tomato every year because of its stunning flavor. It is worth saving a place in your garden for this one.
The Heirloom Slicing Tomato, Aunt Ruby’s German Green
To Purchase Heirloom Aunt Ruby’s German Green Seeds Click This Link
Aunt Ruby’s German Green – DON’T DISREGARD THIS TOMATO BECAUSE ITIS GREEN!! I grew up south of the Mason Dixon Line in and around Baltimore. As a child, we survived, in the summertime, on a diet of fried green tomatoes for breakfast, tomato sandwiches for lunch and BLT’s for dinner (you had to get some protein in your diet). All green tomatoes in my diet eventually turned red, so about 20 years ago, when I encountered my first honestly and forever green tomato I was very, very suspicious and, quite honestly, from the start, I was predisposed to dislike them
The first green tomato with which I fell in love was Green Zebra, but the second green tomato that astonished my taste buds and persuaded me to love it was Aunt Ruby’s German Green. This tomato is full to bursting with rich, intensely tomato flavor. It is considered to be the most popular green-when-ripe tomato grown. Amy Goldman, in her wonderful book, The Heirloom Tomato, describes the flavor as “fruity”, “grapey” and “spicey” and tells Aunt Ruby’s story this way:
“Aunt Ruby’s is one of Bill Minkey’s finest acts in a long life of fine acts…Bill obtained seed from Ruby Arnold of Greeneville, Tennessee, via Ruby’s niece Nita Hofstrom (who lived in Bill’s hometown of Clinton, WI). Ruby called it German Green – the seed had been handed down from her German immigrant grandfather – but granted Bill permission to rename it. So the tomato bears Miss Arnold’s name and, in many examples, her mark: a star ruby at theblossom end.”
The plants are indeterminate, so they need to be staked, but they are also very prolific for big tomato vines and do not succumb easily to most of the diseases that plague tomatoes. The fruit averages about 10-12 ounces. It is the star ruby, however, which appears on all of the fruit that I have grown that is most dear to me, because as I slice the star off the fruit I cannot help but be thankful for all of the remarkable people who have saved, for the rest of us, such garden treasures. Thank you, Bill Minkey and thank you, Ruby Arnold.
The Heirloom Slicing Tomato, Pineapple
To Purchase Heirloom Pineapple Seeds Click This Link
Without a doubt, the most frequent tomato question we get at Harvesting History is “What is your favorite tomato?” I do not have A favorite tomato. I have a favorite slicing tomato, a favorite paste tomato, a favorite cherry tomato, a favorite red tomato, etc., but I can tell you that if there were nomore tomatoes to be had ever, the tomato I would miss the most is Pineapple.
For me, Pineapple is as close to the perfect fruit as it gets. The plants are indeterminate, and so they need to be staked. They are quite prolific, and they are vigorous, though not immune to blight and some of the other tomato diseases. I think they are the most beautiful tomatoes available. Pineapple is a bi-color usually red and orange, but sometimes red, orange and yellow (which technically would make it a tri-color). When sliced, at the center of each slice is a Rorschach Ink Blot-like pattern in bright scarlet. This scarlet design is then surrounded by orange and yellow. The overall effect is dramatic. Arranged on a bed of salad greens, the slices are absolutely stunning.
And now let’s talk about taste. This tomato has magnificent flavor. It is notjust sweet. It is truly fruity – a complex combination that is hard to describe in words, but oh so marvelous to taste. I always add several Pineapple tomatoes when I am making sauce and this coming season, I am thinking about making a paste purely from Pineapple tomatoes. Very little is known about the history of this tomato. It has been around for at least 20 years, probably longer, but not even the Seed Savers Organization in Decorah, Iowa seems to know its origins. If you don’t know this tomato and are looking for one to try, this would be my top choice. It is simply magnificent.
The Heirloom Slicing Tomato Triplets, Mr. Stripey,
Big Rainbow, & Pineapple
To Purchase Heirloom Slicing Tomatoes Seeds Click This Link
For many years, I believed that these three tomatoes were essentially thesame fruit, and I was so confounded by the fact that no one I talked to could definitively describe the differences that 8 years ago I decided to grow allthree of these tomatoes.
Even though they appear to be very similar in the picture above (Clockwise from top left: Pineapple, Mr. Stripey, Big Rainbow) and in real life, these three tomatoes are actually three different tomatoes with quite different personalities, but let’s discuss their similarities first. All three tomatoes are produced on indeterminate vines that require staking. They are all approximately the same size – 1-2 pounds. They are fairly good producers, but they are not extraordinarily prolific, and they are all considered bi-colors. This is where their similarities end.
We have already discussed in great detail the Pineapple tomato in thisnewsletter. Of the three it is the sweetest with a complex fruity flavor and,perhaps, the most prolific.
Mr. Stripey is the most controversial of the three and the most savory in flavor. Though it retains some sweetness, the strength of this tomato lies in its rich tomato flavor. Unlike Pineapple and Big Rainbow, which are essentially yellow-orange tomatoes with red blushes, Mr. Stripey is a red tomato with fairly well-defined orange-yellow stripes. It is often confused with a much smaller, British heirloom known as Tigerella, but it is not Tigerella and they are, in fact, two different tomatoes.
Mr. Stripey was discovered by Wayne Hilton, the former owner of Totally Tomatoes. He is believed to have found it somewhere in Georgia. I feel that, of the three, Mr. Stripey makes the best tomato sandwiches, but then I prefer high acid tomatoes for my tomato sandwiches.
Big Rainbow is essentially a yellow-orange tomato with a large red blush at its blossom end. According to Amy Goldman, this tomato closely resembles a tomato introduced by J. M. Thorburn and Company in 1893 known as Thorburn’s Lemon Blush Tomato. It was developed by Elbert S. Carman, the editor of the Rural New Yorker.
In Goldman’s book, The Heirloom Tomato, she credits seed saver, Lloyd Duggins, with sharing seed of Big Rainbow (then unnamed) with his friend, fellow seed saver, Dorothy Beiswenger. Goldman states,
“Dorothy recalls,” “When I grew this one, it surprised me so much that I namedit Big Rainbow because of its beauty, and size, and hope.””
Goldman, herself describes the tomato in this way:
“It’s as breathtaking and dear to me today – even after sampling dozens of others – as it was nearly twenty years ago. When sliced and diced, the yellow flesh overspread with red reminds me of cut yellow peaches stained with red from the pit.”
Big Rainbow is a lovely tomato, not as sweet as Pineapple, but with an intense and unforgettable flavor.
You really do not need to grow all three of these in your garden, but it is nice to alternate these varieties each year. Each of you, I suspect, will fall in love with one and that will be a mainstay of your annual garden, but it is nice to know their differences.
The Silvery Fir Tree Tomato
To Purchase Silvery Fir Tree Seeds Click This Link
Silvery Fir Tree is a very unusual tomato. It makes an excellent container tomato plant. Silvery Fir Tree is a natural dwarf tomato – the plants rarely reach a height of 36 inches. The leaves are very distinctive. They are highly serrated and very feathery. This tomato was introduced into the United States from Russia in 1995 by Kent Whealy, one of the founders of the Seed Savers Exchange. Kent had been given seeds for this variety by Russian tomato officionado, Marina Danilenko.
Since that introduction, Silvery Fir Tree has become a favorite with gardeners in Zones 1-4 because it is truly a cold tolerant tomato. It will set fruit with great regularity when the night time temperatures fall below 70 degrees Farenheit. But, Silvery Fir Tree can also flourish in the cooler months in Zones 8-10. Itproduces an abundance of medium-sized, scarlet, slicing tomatoes which have a mild tomatoey flavor.
If you are going to grow tomatoes in containers, there are a few rules you should follow. Tomatoes should be grown in 18 inch diameter pots that areat least 14-16 inches deep: ONE PLANT PER CONTAINER. Most tomatoes require staking, so plant the stake when you plant the seedling.
Also, on the day you plant the seedling, place a generous ring (1/2-3/4 cup)of bonemeal around the seedling, approximately 6 inches from the stem.The ring of bonemeal will be approximately 12 inches in diameter. If you are growing Heirloom Tomatoes, you will have to apply the bonemeal ring every two weeks for the first six weeks. Heirloom Tomatoes are very susceptible to blossom end rot which is a calcium deficiency. The bonemeal very effectively cures this problem.
Container grown tomatoes must be fertilized at least every other week withfull strength fertilizer that is rich in phosphorus. Tomato plant food does agood job. Plants that are not fed in this way will have limited fruiting.
In the Black Hawk region of South Dakota, near Rapid City, lives a group of the most dedicated Zone 3-4 gardeners in the world – Cathie Draine and her friends. They have been growing Silvery Fir Tree for years, and they will tell you it is a wonderful cold tolerant tomato. Gardeners in Zones 8-10 take the advice of these South Dakota gardeners and plant some Silvery Fir Treetomatoes in your winter garden.
The Costeluto Genovese Tomato
To Purchase Costeluto Genovese Seeds Click This Link
Cherry tomatoes are the best choice for gardening with children, but if you want to introduce children to the diversity of tomatoes, we suggest youconsider Costeluto Genovese, because of all the slicing tomatoes that weknow, this one, in my opinion, is the most beautiful. Its shape, its ribs, butmost of all its lavishly scarlet color together contribute to making this oneof the most stunning of the heirloom tomatoes. Also, because of its ribs,it looks exotic. It looks like an heirloom tomato.
The tomato’s beauty will please and intrigue children, but learning of thistomato’s extraordinary history will also excite them. According to Amy Goldman, from her book, The Heirloom Tomato, Costoluto Genovese is a very old variety – one of the first to be introduced into Europe from South America. The word, costoluto, means ribbed. Ms. Goldman writes that the ribbed red tomato of Oellinger described in 1553, the Pomo amoris fructu rubro of Besler described in 1613, the common Large Red described by Burr in 1863 and the RougeGrosse of Vilmorin described in 1869 were all, probably, Costoluto Genovese. This tomato was brought to the US around 1985 and introduced by Le Marche Seeds International and Redwood City Seed Company.
Costoluto Genovese is both beautiful and delicious. Unlike many deeply ribbed tomatoes, the skin is not too thick and definitely not bitter. The flesh is rich and savory. The plants are indeterminate, meaning they grow quite tall, and the individual fruits average about 10 ounces.
Teaching children about their agricultural heritage is as important as teaching them how to garden. Amy says,
“I adopted this tomato in 1989 and havemade it mine, too. I put the precious scalloped slices on everything fromsandwiches…to pizza…knowing I’m eating a bit of history”
I would add –a delicious bit of history.
As we finish this newsletter about sandwich/slicing tomatoes, we remind youto be aware of the following. The flavor, shape, size, color, productivity andvigor of all tomato varieties are dependent upon and intimately affectedby weather and soil conditions. Tomatoes are incredibly sensitive toenvironmental conditions, especially cold temperatures. Don’t plant yourseedlings too early – cold nights, even though there is no danger of frost,can compromise the flavor of the fruit. Stress caused by drought can diminish the size and productivity. Excessive heat (nighttime temperatures in the 90s) will drive the plants into dormancy. Despite these issues, keep in mind themagnificent flavor that tomatoes offer and relish the experience that onlya BLT sandwich can evoke.
This season our newsletters will focus on three types of gardeners:
Traditional Heirloom Gardeners,
Teachers Who Inspire Children to Become Gardeners and
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