TOPMOST HEIRLOOM TOMATOES
Consult our 2017
Heirloom Tomato Plant List for this year’s plant
offerings. The greenhouse will
open for plant sales on Saturday May 7 and will be open Thursday,
Friday and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm through July. We do not ship plants. To be
assured that your favorite variety is available, you may reserve
plants by email. Cost is $4.75 each. We never knowingly purchase GMO
seeds, and whenever possible we purchase certified organic seed. Our
plants are grown without chemicals or pesticides in McEnroe Organic
The term “Heirloom” defines plants that have a
history; those that were popular before the industrialization of
agriculture. They are all well known for their superb flavor, rather
than perfect appearance and the ability to withstand the long trip
to the supermarket.
The colonists brought tomato seeds to the New World, and Thomas
Jefferson grew them in 1781, but Americans did not embrace the
tomato as food until the 1800s. Seed for the ever-popular Brandywine
appeared in Burpee’s annual farm catalog in 1888, along with another
yellow slicer called Golden Queen.
We owe much to patient and diligent home growers, who have saved and
shared tomato seeds from season to season, and also to seed saving
companies that promote open-pollinated varieties and refuse to sell
genetically altered seeds (GMOs). In a time when species of animals
and plants are being lost at an alarming rate, they are all helping
to maintain genetic diversity and promise fruits with astounding
While you are holding history in your hand, you may also want to
continue the tradition, assured that any seeds you save from your
heirloom tomato plants will grow into a true copy of its parent.
This does not happen with hybrids and genetically modified plants.
The term “open pollinated” means that their pollination depends on
natural factors, such as beneficial insects.
Tomatoes are classified as determinate or indeterminate - most
tomatoes are indeterminate, which simply means the plant keeps on
growing until frost kills it. By the end of August most new flowers
should be removed, since they will never have enough time to mature
into tomatoes, and the energy is better used by the plant to ripen
the green tomatoes already on the vine. Determinate plants will grow
to a particular height, produce its total crop of tomatoes and die.
These smaller plants are usually best suited for container growing.
The very top of a tomato is referred to as its shoulder, and the
term “catfacing on the shoulders” just means that the top of the
tomato has not-so-pretty striations that are brown and dry.
Certainly not harmful, and some heirloom varieties are prone to it.
There are differing opinions on the disease resistance of heirlooms.
Some claim that they are often more susceptible to diseases, others
say that generations of growing have produced plants highly
adaptable and disease resistant. Crop failures can be attributed to
many factors; under- or over-watering, excessive heat or cold, poor
soil fertility, and my favorite – the whims of nature.
Planting and growing advice is available on our
Tomato Tips. Tomato plants
are often prone to many diseases, some of which prove fatal, while
others may simply slow fruit production or occur at a time when
fruit is already ripened. Best information is usually found at
university websites. Excellent information and photos of the dreaded
Late Blight (phytophthera infestans) which caused 2009 to be our
summer without tomatoes, is available on the
University of Maine website.