This year I planned to grow only heirloom tomatoes (Brandywine, Green Zebra, and Eggyolk), but in a crazed moment (what if the heirlooms don’t produce this year?) I picked up some Early Girl transplants at the garden center. So, I have two orange tomatoes ripening in the garden right now, Brandywine and Early Girl.
The Early Girl tomatoes (picture on the right) look beautiful – deep orange, blemish-free, uniformly round, and you expect they’ll be delicious. The Brandywine tomatoes are not so pretty (the picture on the left). They’re deeply ribbed, often cracked, and randomly shaped. Folks that haven’t experienced heirloom tomatoes go straight for the Early Girls.
But beauty doesn’t create a great tomato. The Brandywines are deeply flavorful and melt in your mouth; the Early Girls are firm and lack intense “tomatoey” flavor. Randy doesn’t think he likes tomatoes on their own, but that’s because he’s eaten so many hybrids. After tasting Brandywine, he promptly decided it was great all by itself.
It’s another case where we’ve “improved” the original by hybridizing for speed, beauty, and transportation; but lost what made them great - flavor and texture. And although the Early Girls are supposed to ripen in 69-80 days versus a minimum of 80 days for the Brandywines, they’re both ripening at the same time in our garden. So there are dozens of Early Girls and Brandywines ripening, and nobody wants to eat the Early Girls. The “improved” hybrids turned out to be a waste of time and money.
The moral of the story – I’m not going to waste my time on hybrid tomatoes again. Grocery stores may need firm, beautiful, speedy tomatoes; in my garden we need flavorful, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth tomatoes with character. Two years ago I grew Brandywines, last year Mortgage Lifter, and next year I’m thinking about Hillbilly, Cherokee Purple, Red Zebra, Black Pear, Purple Russian, San Marcano, or Large Italian Plum.
What heirloom tomato do you think is best? Share comments on the best heirlooms!