The Brandywine tomato is one of the most popular heirloom tomatoes grown in the US. It’s a challenging variety to grow and not for the faint-hearted. But it’s clear from online gardening forums that taste is why people plant this tomato in their gardens year after year.
Keep reading to learn more about the Brandywine tomato — you might decide to try it for yourself!
History of the Brandywine Tomato
Brandywine tomatoes first appeared in seed catalogs in late 1800s. Some credit the Pennsylvania Amish with bringing the tomato’s seeds to America, but that seems to be more myth than fact.
Characteristics of the Brandywine Tomato
The Brandywine is an indeterminate, heirloom tomato known for large, flavorful fruit. The plant’s leaves are smooth and oval with pointed tips like potato leaves, rather then serrated like most tomatoes. It’s a low- to medium-yield tomato.
Brandywine tomatoes are late-season tomatoes and take 80-100 days after planting for fruit to ripen.
Sweet, slightly tart, “tomato-y” flavor. Fruits are meaty and juicy and pinkish-colored.
Brandywines produce large, “beefsteak” fruits that are irregular in shape and can weigh up to 2 pounds.
The Brandywine tomato can be grown in zones 3-9. It needs a long growing season and is best started from seed indoors 8 weeks before the last spring frost.
Plants can reach 8-9 feet tall and require stakes, trellises, or cages for support.
Size and Spacing
Brandywine seedlings should be planted deeply with only the top 1-2 sets of leaves showing (after planting, pinch off the others). Moisten the soil prior to planting. Plant tomatoes 24-36 inches apart.
Once planted, tamp the soil gently — don’t compact it. Water your newly planted tomatoes thoroughly, taking care not to get the leaves wet. You may also apply fertilizer at this time.
Brandywine blossoms may need hand-pollination to help with setting fruit, particularly when humidity levels rise.
The Brandywine is considered delicate and more high-maintenance than other tomato varieties. The following sections will provide highlights about tomato care. For a complete guide on optimal tomato plant care, from planting to harvesting and storage, please check out our article on How To Grow Tomatoes: The Complete Guide For the Best Tomatoes. You may also be interested in our blog post on how to grow big tomatoes!
Brandywines are one of the most sun-loving tomatoes. They need a sunny, but sheltered, location with at least 8 hours of sunlight.
To avoid risk of blight, don’t plant a Brandywine tomato in soil where eggplant, potatoes, peppers, or other tomatoes have grown recently.
The soil should be acidic (6.5 pH), well-draining, and amended with compost and decomposed manure to a depth of 24-36 inches.
Spread a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around your tomato plants, but keep the ground clear of mulch three inches around the base of the plant. Water on a regular basis at the base of the plant to keep the foliage dry. Provide an inch of water each week to keep the ground moist (not soggy).
When Brandywine tomatoes are between 1-2 feet tall, use a fertilizer without nitrogen (0-10-10) to discourage the growth of more leaves and direct the plant’s energy into fruit production. Once flowers appear, you may use a 20-00-00 nitrogen fertilizer.
Tomatoes require specific nutrients (such as calcium) to produce their best crops of fruit. To learn how to determine what your tomatoes need and when they need it, consult our ultimate tomato fertilizer guide.
Pruning and pinching are a tomato care technique that can help your tomato put forth its best yield. But you need to know when to do this and what tomatoes need it. To help you with this, visit our pruning tomatoes guide.
As a rule, heirloom tomatoes tend to be susceptible to disease and the Brandywine is no exception. Blight is the most common disease to look for. Remove any foliage touching the ground. To learn how to detect, treat, and take steps to prevent diseases, read our tomato diseases guide.
A Brandywine is vulnerable to all types of tomato pests. Companion plants like marigolds, catnip, fennel, dill, basil, and cilantro repel common tomato pests. Netting helps keep out birds and larger insect pests, but can also interfere with beneficial insects and pollinators.
For information to help you spot, eliminate, and deter 15 different pests, visit our guide on common tomato pests.
When to Harvest Brandywine Tomatoes
It takes a Brandywine tomato 80-100 days to produce fruit. A plant’s fruit ripens within a couple weeks for somewhat short harvest. Expect an average of 10-20 tomatoes per plant under ideal conditions.
Common Uses For Brandywine Tomatoes
While very tasty, Brandywine tomatoes have a short shelf life. They should be stored at room temperature because refrigeration gives them a mealy texture.
What Does The Brandywine Tomato Taste Like?
The taste is described as sweet, a little tart, and very “tomato-y.”
Brandywine tomatoes can be used in all kinds of tomato recipes. Their large size makes them ideal to use for stuffed tomatoes.
Brandywines are a favorite for eating raw in salads, sandwiches, and salsas.
Canning / Freezing / Drying
Because Brandywine tomatoes don’t keep for long after picking, you’ll need to preserve your harvest.
Tomatoes are some of the easiest produce to can. Click here for an article that will tell you everything you need to know to safely can and store your tomato harvest.
Tomatoes can also be frozen although they become mushy when thawed out, so use them for cooked foods. For the best way to freeze your tomatoes, read this article.
Making your own sun dried tomatoes will save money and give you better-tasting dried tomatoes than store-bought. This article covers three drying methods for creating delicious preserved tomatoes.
Health Benefits of Brandywine Tomatoes
Tomatoes are high in vitamins C and K, potassium, and folate. They’re also one of the best dietary sources of lycopene, an antioxidant credited with reducing the risks of heart disease and cancer. Tomatoes aren’t just delicious — they’re healthy too.
Where to Buy Brandywine Tomato Plants or Seeds
Brandywine tomato plants aren’t widely available online. Google to see if local garden centers carry them (be sure to note the leaf shape!). Seeds can be purchased from online gardening retailers or from Amazon.com.
Where to Buy Brandywine Tomatoes
Fresh Brandywine tomatoes aren’t likely to be found in grocery stores since they’re too finicky to be commercially grown. Farmers markets or farm stands for small tomato farms will be your best bet for buying them.
Wrapping Up the Brandywine Tomato
The Brandywine tomato probably isn’t the right choice for tomato newbies — many gardeners find it takes 2-3 years to be successful with Brandywines and yields can be inconsistent year to year. This delicate heirloom requires care and maintenance that usually comes from experience gained by growing other tomato varieties. But it can’t be denied the flavor is why gardeners continue making room for Brandywines in their gardens each summer.
If you’re an accomplished tomato grower who’s up for a tasty challenge, the Brandywine tomato may be just what your garden needs.
Love tomatoes? Then click here to read our other tomato-related blog articles.