Tomato Favorites, New and Old

by Tusha Yakovleva

low-res_green_zebra_tomato_Tomatoes are the it-vegetable of the garden world. Home-grown tomatoes never go out of style for once you taste your first sun-warmed fresh fruit, there is no way back. The delicious experience will haunt your dinner fantasies forever and no sorry supermarket substitute will suffice. Needless to say, here at the Seed Library, we are deeply under the spell of these magical vegetables (well, technically - berries) and continue adding more delicious and diverse heirloom varieties to our catalog every year.

Scroll down to read about new varieties we trialed in our gardens last growing season and loved enough to add to our 2015 Catalog. They make up only about 1/9 of all the tomatoes in our catalog. After you explore our new additions, learn more about our all-time-favorite tomato recommendations for all taste-buds and garden types via these articles:

A contemporary heirloom with beautiful yellow streaking on red fruits, Speckled Roman is the result of a stabilized cross between Banana Legs and Roman Candle. It boasts the typical shape of tomatoes in the "paste" category, long and slender like a horn pepper. Like other good "processing" tomatoes, Speckled Roman has a great, tangy tomato flavor, is on the drier side, quite meaty, with few seeds. Harvesting these is quite a treat and they add a nice touch to other colorful heirloom varieties. Nice yields make it suitable for market growers as well--the fruits are very compelling! Indeterminate. 

Upon seeing the perfectly red, deeply scalloped 10 ounce fruits, most cannot help but declare, "That's a beautiful tomato!" Indeed, Pantanto Romanesco is a pantacontender for the Platonic Ideal of what a red tomato should look like. The flavor is quite nice, acidic and sweet, making it perfect for fresh eating and a very nice cooking tomato. Some years, Pantano Romanesco has the perfect texture of a fleshly beefsteak, in cooler summers though, some fruits can be a touch mealy, but certainly still delicious and enjoyable. Yields are quite good, and the fruits are very high-quality. In two tough summers Pantano has produced loads of unblemished, perfectly attractive fruits, on healthy vigorous vines. Indeterminate. 

Out of a desire to see their family heirloom shared with others, the seeds for Firminio's firmiPlum Tomato were passed to us. An Italian immigrant, Firminio Amitrano was proud of the plum tomatoes he grew in his garden in Middletown, NY. After his passing in 1980 his grand-daughter Marilyn has continued propagating this variety. The original origin is unknown, though the family believes the seeds came to Firminio with olive oil and other things that were sent from the family in Italty to the states. This plum tomato is small, on compact vines. it has a nice tomato flavor and is excellent roasted on a sheet pan with olive oil , salt, garlic and rosemary. The drier texture and full flavor makes it a great sauce tomato. Semi-determinate. 

blushA newer cultivar of tomato classically bred by Artisan Tomatoes. We like to think of it as a contemporary heirloom, with beauty and flavor on one side, and vigorous plants bearing high-quality fruits on the other. Beautiful, elongated yellow fruits have a pearl-like iridescence, are very crack-resistant and have excellent field standing. A real treat to grow, this tomato is also suitable for market growers who wish to add something unique and reliable to their offerings. Mini-saladette fruits are about 2-2.5 inches long, making it perfect in pints. Indeterminate. 

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This variety was a gift from Seed Savers Exchange member Bill Minkey in 2013 out of a desire to see it in wider circulation, and we whole-heartily agree. This potato-leaf dwarf variety yields big quantities of medium-sized pale yellow fruits with a pink star-burst. The excitement doesn't stop there though-the flavor is incredible, tart, sweet, and full. We love what this variety can offer to those with limited growing space! When planted in ground, plants can reach 4' high; in containers about 42". Some staking recommended since the plants get so heavily loaded with fruits. For best production in containers, transplant 1 plant per 5 gallon container in fresh, nutrient-rich soil. A product of the collaborative Dwarf Tomato Project, which aims to breed great tasting, interesting, open-pollinated dwarf varieties.

A note on indeterminate and determinate varieties: Tomatoes are divided mainly into two growth habits. Determinate varieties are bushy: they usually grow to 2 or 3 feet, then slow down and focus on ripening their fruits. Indeterminate tomatoes are vining: they multitask by ripening fruit while at the same time growing taller and taller, stopped only by frost or a pruner. Determinate varieties do better in containers and limited spaces as well as for gardeners looking for one big tomato harvest over two to three weeks. For fresh picked tomatoes, ripening consistently over a few months, indeterminate are best, if you have the space for staking and letting the vines stretch out.

This blog is provided by the Hudson Valley Seed Library, a small group of dedicated growers and plant lovers working to provide good seed to gardeners and small farmers. Your purchases support our work. Thanks!

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