Each of these tomatoes can handle the sticky, humid summers and unpredictable winters so prevalent in the Hudson Valley. If you are looking for the flavor only an heirloom tomato can deliver, without all the problems you’ve been lead to believe heirloom tomatoes suffer, try one or two (or three) of these beauties.
Don’t be fooled by the wispy vines. Anna may be Russian, but she holds up to hot weather too. No vapors for her. Many of the oxheart tomatoes share the“feature” of flimsy foliage. Maybe they are holding all their reserves to make wonderfully sweet tomatoes. However this is a workhorse plant that handles cool temps and heat, with blemish-free fruits that resist cracking. These tomatoes are surprisingly good and full flavored for early season tomatoes.
‘Anna Russian’ seeds were given to Craig Lehoullier, the famed South Carolina Tomatoman, by a woman who had gotten the seeds from her grandfather, who had gotten the seeds from a friend from Russian. Typical story of how someone brought the seeds with them when they immigrated and how something so delicious gets passed around and enjoyed by others. (Determinate)
Aunt Ruby’s German Green
Ruby Arnold of Greeneville, Tennessee, discovered this amazing, plump tomato. Ruby is no longer with us, but seeds of her discovery are well maintained. This is a good sized tomato, with fruits averaging up to 1 lb. and growing in clusters of 2 – 3. What’s especially great about this tomato, besides its flavor, is the way the vines stand up to humidity. They have good disease resistance and keep setting fruits, even in the sticky days of summer.
Green tomatoes, tomatoes that do not turn red, even when ripe, tend have a fruity flavor. ‘Aunt Ruby’s German Green’ has a juicy balance of sugar and acid, which gives the fruity flavor a hint of spice.
It’s a little tricky judging when green tomatoes are ripe and ready to enjoy. Most will start to pick up some yellow shading. They also get a little softer to the touch, with a little give when you press gently with your thumb, and the wonderful fragrance gets stronger as they ripen. As always, the best test is to bite into one. Although Aunt Ruby will remain green on the outside, there’s a definite blush to the inner flesh.
‘Aunt Ruby’s German Green’ has good resistance to fungal diseases and does well in our humid summers. (Indeterminate)
This is yet another of Craig LeHoullier’s fantastic finds. There ought to be some kind of medal of honor for people who add so much to the food supply. It was originally a cross between yellow Brandywine and something else – a mystery. But LeHoullier and later tomato expert Carolyn Male, stabilized the variety we enjoy today. OTV stands for Off the Vine – as it should be.
This beauty weighs in at about 1 lb. Red orbs, often with orange shoulders. The flavor is indescribable, imagine a melt in your mouth sweetness with just the right balance of acid kick and juicy fruitiness. You really have to try one.
Since Carolyn Male did her work near Albany, you can bank on this tomato doing well in our area. They are very disease resistant and dependable. (Indeterminate)
The black tomatoes originated in the Crimean area of the Ukraine, where they have baking, hot summers. The skin on the outside darkens as a way to protect the inside flesh and the heat concentrates the sugars. So you get a multi-sensory, synergy of tart skin and sweet flesh, kind of like a plum. That’s what gives black tomatoes their unique flavor combination.
‘Cherokee Purple’ is even more colorful than some black tomatoes, with purple skin, red flesh and green seed gel.
‘Cherokee Purple’ is said to have been grown by the Cherokee people and has been in cultivation for over 100 years, although it only received it’s current name in 1990, not surprisingly from North Carolina Tomatoman Craig Lehoullier, when he was given some seed from a neighbor who’s family had passed them down for the 100 years we know of.
This tomato is one of the least fussy, in my garden. It has good disease resistance and fairly uniform 12 oz. fruits. (Indeterminate)
There are many great black tomatoes to try growing.
❦ ‘Black Krim’ is a little smaller, but also does great in hot summers. (75 days) 4 – 6 oz.
❦ ‘Black From Tula’ is probably the heftiest of the black tomatoes with 12 – 14 oz. fruits. Some gardeners prefer the flavor over ‘Cherokee Purple’, but I don’t find they grow quite as well in my garden, sometimes cracking before fully ripe.
❦ ‘Black Prince’ This one is from Siberia. It’s a bit less smoky and more true tomato flavor. Great for cooking with. 6 – 8 oz. (70 days )
❦ And ‘Paul Robeson’, shown below.
‘Druzba’ isn’t a hug tomato, at a respectable 10 oz., but the fruits have the flavor most people think of when they imagine a fresh form the vine tomato – hearty, concentrated tomato goodness, with a fragrance to match. They are great for fresh eating and also add great flavor for sauces, especially when used for a quick, barely cooked sauce. ‘Druzba’ has excellent disease resistance and high yields. (Indeterminate)
Matt’s Wild Cherry
Sweet and early. This hardy plant come from Hidalgo, in eastern Mexico, where they say it grows wild. The “cherry” refers to the size of the fruits, although they are extremely sweet. Its not quite as prolific as modern hybrid cherry tomatoes, but it still produces by the dozens.
The fruits are soft and will crack if left too long on the vine, so snack away. This is a long season tomato, so don’t be shy about harvesting all you can. It should keep setting fruit right up until frost. And it’s early blight resistant. (Indeterminate)
When you think of great paste tomatoes Poland might not be the first country that comes to mind, but once again, it is an Eastern European tomato that triumphs in Hudson Valley gardens. These are determinant plants, which mean the set and ripen their fruits over a short period of a few weeks. Not ideal if you want tomatoes the whole season, but perfect for making sauce, when you need a lot all at one time.
‘Opalka’ sacrifices nothing for it’s quick ripening. These are dense, meaty, oblong fruits with intense tomato flavor that grow in clusters of 5 or 6. I do have problems with the vines in humid summers – and when aren’t they. They eventually succumb to some sort of leaf spotting, but not before they are able to ripen and sweeten the fruits. After that, they can be pulled out to make room for a fall crop. Although they are good for fresh eating ‘Opalka’ shines as a paste tomato. (Determinate)
This is the perfect tomato for impatient New Yorkers. It’s an early starter, even if the summer starts off cool. The tomatoes aren’t large, coming in at about 4 – 6 oz. each, but they grow in clusters. You won’t go away hungry.
This is a beefsteak variety and the flavor is sweet and slightly acidic, with meaty flesh. The plants show good resistance to both blossom end rot and cracking, which is good news for those of us who are infrequent at watering.
Although they do start producing early in the season, because they are a determinate variety, they don’t have a terribly long season. However by the time your New Yorker plants have given out, the rest of your tomatoes will just be coming in. (Determinate)
This tomato was named for the singer/actor and equal rights activist. Robeson’s activism got him blacklisted during the McCarthy Era and his activities often raised eyebrows. His fondness for the Soviet Union did not help his career in the U.S., but his affection was returned by the people of the Soviet Union and this dusky tomato from Siberia bears his name.
As with so many of the black/purple tomatoes, ‘Paul Robeson’ is excellent at setting fruit in areas where summer temperatures may or may not heat up. The fruits average 7 – 10 oz. and don’t be surprised if the shoulders remain green. Rest assured the flavor will still be sweet and complex. (Indeterminate)
I found out about this tomato when I was exhibiting at Adam’s Garden Day, in Kingston, not far from the hamlet of Stone Ridge. Larry Fuscher, who gave seeds of the ‘Stone Ridge’ tomato, his family’s heirloom, to the Hudson Valley Seed Library just happened to stop by my table. It wasn’t on my display of heirloom tomatoes and he said it certainly should be. So I grew it that summer and I would grow it again, for its beauty alone. The meaty, full flavor is a big bonus though. As far as I know, the Seed Library is still the only source for seed, as supply is still low. Get in on a good thing early and maybe even help increase the stock of seed. (Indeterminate)
Here’s another Eastern European tomato that can more than handle our climate. I’ve always been told it is pronounced Stoo-PEECH-ka , but I’ve also see it as Stoo-PEETS. It’s from Czechoslovakia and whatever you call it, this is a delightful tomato that is early enough for the patience challenged among us, even in the northeast. It’s not a large tomato, but it’s bigger than a cherry. Count on fruits larger than a golf ball, but smaller than a tennis ball, at about 3- 4 oz.
Stupice has several things going for it. First, it doesn’t seem to notice the weather. Hot, cold, wet, dry, it just chugs along. It starts churning out tomatoes in July and keeps going to frost. And it is sweet and juicy and delightful. I think the later in the season, they better tasting they get. (Indeterminate)
It’s seems this is the tomato everyone’s Grandmother grew. I wonder why people ever stopped growing them. I was surprised at how long a season they need to really start producing, but despite the bite-sized tomatoes, these are large plants that need time to grow. Once you do start getting fruits, you’ll get clusters of mild, sweet, bite-sized golden fruits that are hard to stop snacking on. They also are great in preserves.
There are several small, pear-shaped tomatoes, including red pear. Yellow Pear owed its popularity to its mild tomato flavor, which made it popular for snacking on fresh. If you want more tomato wallop, Yellow Submarine has a similar shape and size, but more beefy tomato taste. (Indeterminate)