Pink brandywine heirloom tomato

I tend to be a bit obsessive about tomatoes. In my summer garden, they are allotted the most space, the sunniest spots, and the beds with the fluffiest soil. And, inevitably, I run out of good garden spots before I run out of tomato plants that need to be planted (this is not how one should plan a garden. It makes sense to have spots for all of the plants you are going to grow. I forget this rule every year when seed buying/trading time arrives.) The result is that I usually have a half-dozen (or more…) tomato plants that need to be planted in pots every year. Here are some of the varieties that have worked well for me, as well as recommendations from other garden writers.

1. ‘Japanese Black Trifele’

‘Japanese Black Trifele’ is tied with ‘Brandywine’ for my favorite tomato. The fruits are slightly pear-shaped, and turn a gorgeous mahogany color at the shoulders when ripe. The flavor of this heirloom tomato is sweet, complex, and a little smoky — just delicious. The fruit color makes this a nice ornamental as well, and the plants are well behaved as well — one strong stake will support the plant well.

2. ‘Sungold’

While my garden generally belongs to heirloom tomatoes, I do plant hybrid ‘Sungold’ tomatoes every year. The little orange cherry-type tomatoes are sweet and plentiful. One plant will keep a family in cherry tomatoes through most of the summer. They are not hug, sprawling plants, either, so they have done well in containers for me.

3. ‘Wapsipinicon Peach’

If you’ve never grown ‘Wapsipinicon Peach,’ you’re in for a real treat. These heirlooms are yellowy-orange, much like a peach, and the skin is fuzzy like a peach. They are sweet and delicious — definitely something a little different! The plants are well-behaved and I usually end up growing them in containers in my garden to save space in the beds. The color and fuzziness of the tomatoes also makes this a nice ornamental plant.

4. ‘Stupice’

If you live in a cooler climate, ‘Stupice’ is a tomato you should definitely be growing. The taste is nothing phenomenal (neither sweet nor particularly acidic) but this is one of the earliest-yielding tomatoes I grow in my Detroit-area garden. The plants are compact, with potato-leaf foliage. The red fruits are about two inches in diameter, and it produces well all season long.

5. ‘Black Krim’

In her book Grow Great Grub, garden writer Gayla Trail recommends this heirloom variety for containers, and I second the recommendation. ‘Black Krim’ produces very attractive, large, purplish-red fruits that turn violet-brown at the stem end as they ripen. The flavor is full and complex. I grow these every year and they are a huge hit.

6. ‘Silvery Fir Tree’

This is another variety that Gayla Trail recommends for containers, and I plan on growing mine in containers this years as well after growing them in my raised beds last year. The plants are quite compact, so take well to container culture. And as an added bonus, the plants are also quite ornamental — the feathery, silvery gray-green foliage is unique, and the round red fruits make for a beautiful contrast with the foliage. This is a determinate variety, so you’ll get a harvest over a period of a couple of weeks about 58 days after planting.

7. ‘Brandywine’

My favorite tomato, and one that I always end up growing in containers because I’ve started too many plants (and because I want to make sure that I have plenty of ‘Brandywines!’) While the plants are rather large, a couple of strong stakes and regular pruning or a strong cage will keep them in line. The large tomatoes are flavorful — this is generally considered to be one of the best-tasting tomatoes in tomato tastings across the country.

8. ‘Riesentraube’

I have not grown this one yet, but it’s definitely on my list. My colleague, About.com Container Gardens Guide Kerry Michaels recommends this variety, saying that it is “incredibly tasty and prolific.” ‘Riesentraube’ forms clusters of 20 to 40 grape-sized tomatoes.

9. ‘Cherokee Green’

This is another recommendation from container gardening expert Kerry Michaels. She says that “these medium sized green tomatoes are easy to grow, tasty and very cool looking.” I will have to try them.

10. ‘Polish Linguisa’

‘Polish Linguisa’ is my favorite paste tomato — perfect for making into sauces or for drying. They are flavorful, less prone to blossom end rot than other paste tomatoes I’ve grown, and the plants are very well behaved. I usually grow mine in a row of five-gallon buckets along my fence — one stake in each container keeps the plants well in line.

Tips for Growing Tomatoes in Containers:

  • The bigger the container, the better. Tomatoes have large root systems, and you want to plant them deeply at planting time. A large container will prevent the soil from drying out too quickly during the heat of summer as well. Something 12 to 18 inches deep is a good size.
  • Water regularly. Containers dry out more quickly than regular garden beds, and tomatoes are more likely to develop issues such as blossom end rot if they get uneven watering. A self-watering container is a great option.
  • Fertilize with compost tea or manure tea monthly during the growing season.

What are your favorite tomatoes to grow in containers?

Browse all of our tomato content for mouth-watering tomato recipes, savvy tomato growing tips, and up-to-the minute tomato breakthroughs.

Growing Heirloom Brandywine Tomato Plants

Brandywine and Other Heirloom Tomatoes

Check out our best tips for growing Brandywine tomato plants when home vegetable gardening.

Brandywines come in many delicious and colorful varieties, including red, pink, orange, yellow and black tomatoes.

Design Your Own Vegetable Garden Layout Using our Free “Vegetable Garden Planner” Software!

Learn how to plant, care for, and harvest this delicious heirloom tomato in your backyard or container garden.

Known as one of the most popular heirloom cultivars in home vegetable gardens throughout the USA, the Brandywine has a luscious taste and eye appeal as well.

  • The large sized fruit ripens in 90 days.
  • It is one of the longest-growing to maturity tomatoes on the market.
  • The indeterminate vine plant has potato-leaved foliage and grows an average 3 to 9 feet tall.
  • The red, orange, pink, yellow or reddish-black Brandywine tomatoes the plant produces can weigh up to a pound and a half each.
  • The Brandywine is sought after for it’s flavor and texture, rather than it’s durability or being able to withstand long-distance shipping.
  • The Brandywine tomato is among the largest of cultivated varieties of tomatoes.

Tomato Trellis for Growing Heirloom Tomato Plants

Simple Wire Tomato Cage

Ready-made tomato cages can be purchased at any garden center.

Or you can make your own:

Support growing tomatoes on trellises constructed using sturdy wire strung between posts.

Plant on one side of the structure and weave binder twine through the wire to tie up the stems as the plants grow.

Pruning is recommended for a few vines in a small vegetable garden.

As in quality versus quantity, you may get fewer tomatoes this way but the ones that are produced are much nicer.

The extra work of trellising is always worth the effort because it decreases the incidence of splash-borne blight diseases and it increases the attractiveness of your growing Brandywine garden beauties.

Tomato Corrals for Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Growing Brandywine Tomatoes

Cut back on staking and supporting time by corralling your tomatoes if you have a great deal of plants to stake.

Begin by setting stakes every 10 feet along the row where you plan to plant tomatoes. Then set out plants two feet apart down the row.

Rather than tying the plants to the stakes, rope them in using rolls of seam binding that you can purchase from a sewing supply store.

Baler twine or old torn sheets also work well for roping in the tomatoes.

As the season progresses, add layers of binding higher up on the stakes to keep Brandywine tomato plants erect as they grow taller.

Here is a step-by-step for corrals:

  • Tie the roping material of your choice onto the first stake in the row.
  • Extend it down the row on one side of the plants to the next stake.
  • Wrap the rope around the stake, leading it out on the opposite side of the plants.
  • Continue extending the rope down the row on this side of the plants to the next stake.
  • Keep going in this serpentine pattern to the end of the row.
  • Make the return trip back up the row, working on the opposing sides so that the plants are enclosed on either side.

Brandywine Tomato Seed Saving

Brandywine and Other Heirloom Tomatoes

Seeds that are enclosed in fleshy pulp like tomatoes need special treatment to dry and store.

The pulp needs to be separated from the seeds by fermenting the fully ripe vegetables.

Since you will want to share Brandywine seeds with your neighbors to help preserve heirloom seeds, we included a tip for drying and storing seed properly.

  • Slice the tomato down the middle.
  • Scoop out the seeds and pulp.
  • Put them into a clean wide mouthed glass jar.
  • Add about ¼ cup of water to the jar.
  • Let the jar sit in an out of the way place for a few days at an ideal room temperature of 80 to 90 degrees F.
  • Stir the mixture a couple of times daily.
  • When you see bubbles rising or when most seeds have settled to the bottom, stop the fermentation process by adding water to double the mixture.
  • Stir well.
  • Good seed will sink to the bottom. Rinse the seeds and place them in a glass dish or window screen to dry.

The warm wet conditions present after fermentation are perfect for sprouting seed.

If you ferment too long, you will end up with sprouted Brandywine tomato seed!

By saving seeds from your best crops season after season, you develop a productive new plant that is well adapted to your local conditions.

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CC flickr photo courtesy of Chiot’s Run

The Brandywine varieties are some of the most popular heirloom tomatoes grown in North America. They are known for their huge size, great taste, and pumpkin-like ridges. Many color options are also available in the Brandywine family, including red, pink, orange, yellow and even black tomatoes. Their distinctive potato-plant-like leaves set them apart from most other varieties of tomato.

There are both determinate and indeterminate varieties, but most people associate Brandywine with the indeterminate, vining heirlooms. It’s not known exactly how old these heirlooms are, but it’s believed they came to America with the Amish and are some of the first types to appear in seed catalogs.

Best Soil for Growing Brandywine Tomatoes

This variety prefers slightly acidic soil at a pH of around 6.5. This is difficult to maintain in some areas, so it’s important that the soil be at about this level for a period before planting so as to be sure it can be maintained. More important, however, is the proper amount of nitrogen and to know when to “starve” the plants of it in order to encourage more fruiting.

Proper Care of Brandywine Tomatoes

Unlike other, more common tomato varieties that are more fruit-bearing and less demanding, the Brandywine requires detailed care and maintenance. Watering through ground moisture is important (rather than getting the leaves wet with spray) because it not only feeds the plants with more water, but it eliminates the chances of many types of parasites that can affect this delicate plant.

Normal soil fertility (balanced nutrition) is needed for the beginning stages. Once the plants are established and have grown to a foot or two in size (they will be heavy with leaves and you’ve hopefully been pinching off early suckers), adding fertilizer with no nitrogen (0-10-10 or similar) will lower the N value of the soil and discourage more green foliage growth. This stunting of the rapid growth of the foliage will mean that the plants will become less bushy and bear more fruit instead.

Maintain this nitrogen starvation until fruits have appeared and are established. Then feed a balanced 10-10-10 to begin raising nitrogen levels again. This keeps foliage green, encourages larger leaves, and keeps the harvest getting larger.

Like most tomatoes, Brandywines will also require staking, trellising, or large hoops to hold the plants upright (they can get as tall as 8 feet in some varieties).

When to Harvest Brandywine Tomatoes

Harvest quickly, as soon as the tomatoes are ready. They will likely ripen within the same couple of weeks on any given plant. Tomatoes are ready when they have reached their full size (which can be quite large), full color, and are beginning to become slightly soft to the touch. Delaying the harvest can mean split tomatoes and heavy bruising as the big orbs fall from the plant. Most Brandywine varieties take 90 days or more to reach full ripeness.

Saving Brandywine Tomato Seeds

Seeds can be saved from all heirloom varieties of Brandywine. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop the seds from the centers. The rest of the tomato can be processed or eaten. The seeds should be cleaned of their filaments and residue and then dried in a hot, relatively dry location.

Direct sunlight is OK for two or three hours a day during this process, but more than that can cause the seeds to dry too quickly and die. Leaving them exposed to predators (birds and the like) is also asking for losses. In warm climates, it will take 2-3 days to dry enough for storage.

Pests and Diseases of Brandywine Tomatoes

Brandywine’s are susceptible to many pests and diseases. Because they take so long to ripen and are not particularly hardy or disease-resistant, they can be afflicted by nearly all tomato pests. Watering at the ground eliminates most of the fungal infections, while encouraging plants like Marigolds and the like around the tomato patch can keep many bugs at bay. Netting is popular as a preventive against birds, bugs, and beetles, but can mean beneficial insects like bees, wasps, and other pollinators and bug eaters are also kept out.

How to Prepare Brandywine Tomatoes

Brandywine’s are the most-favored table tomato of all time. They are sweet, large, and pleasing to taste, though not always perfect-looking. They do not have a long shelf life, however, so canning, pickling, saucing, and drying are also recommended. Dried Brandywines retain a sweet flavor and can be sliced into large, pretty cuts for aesthetic appeal as well.

Tips for Growing Brandywine Tomatoes

Novice gardeners probably should not attempt to grow these as their only variety. Most gardeners require two or three years’ of attempts before they are successful with Brandywine crops. These plants require a lot of tender care, so be sure to have the time to devote all that TLC to them for the entire season.

Want to learn more about growing Brandywine Tomatoes?

Check out these helpful resources:
University of Missouri – Growing Home Garden Tomatoes
University of California – Heirloom Tomatoes

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