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The Dester Tomato

What would you do with a tomato weighing in at 1.5 pounds? Eat it raw, surely, or perhaps canning is an option. The Dester tomato is perfect for both.

In fact, read on to find out just what it is about this tomato that makes it stand out.

Closeup of pink tomatoes on a plant resembling the Dester tomato.

History of the Dester Tomato

Originally, Dester tomatoes were grown in Germany and were brought and were brought to the US by the ancestors of Dr. Dester, after whom the variety is named. He gave some seeds to his housekeeper, an Amish lady called Anna, who worked for them in the 1970s. She gave some of them to a farmer in Missouri, who cultivated them. After the Dester tomato plants were established, it was entered onto the Seed Savers Exchange and recognized as an heirloom variety.

Characteristics of the Dester Tomato

The Dester is a beefsteak tomato, which is indeterminate. It has a regular leaf that spread out from the stem. It needs to be staked or trained to grow along a trellis.

Young tomato plant fastened to a bamboo stake with wire twists.

Ripening Season

The Dester tomato has a late maturing season, which means the fruit is ready in late spring or even into summer.

Appearance

The Dester tomato is a large, pink tomato. It is not round and smooth, but has the characteristic deep stem spot and ridges of any beefsteak variety. It also has quite thick flesh, with few seed pockets.

Size

The Dester tomato is one of the heirloom varieties. It is quite a large tomato, measuring about 16 to 24 ounces (400 to 700 grams). They can measure up to 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter.

Closeup of a pink tomato on the vine.


Planting Zones

The Dester tomato prefers to grow in warmer climates, which means that it does best in hardiness zones 8 and above. Although the plants are quite adaptable, they do not tolerate frost well.

Size and Spacing

As an indeterminate tomato plant, the Dester tomato produces vines that, theoretically, can go on growing through the season. The plant is big and can grow to about 6 feet (1.8 m). There should be a good flow of air between the plants, which means that they should not be planted too close together. This translates into about 2 feet (60 cm) between plants. This will also be useful in stopping diseases passing between plants.

Pollination

Dester tomatoes have what is called open pollination, which means they rely on outside agents to move the pollen from the stamens to the pistil. These are in the form of insects, birds, wind, animals and man.

Plant Care

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!

Closeup of pink tomatoes next to other produce.

Sunlight

All tomatoes grow best in full sun and the Dester tomato is no exception. This means the plants need at least 6 hours of direct sun a day. They can grow in semi-shade for a part of the day, but the plants may become spindly and not bear good fruit.

Water

In order to grow proficiently and to produce vigorously, Dester tomatoes need sufficient water. This means that the soil around the stem should be kept damp. Don’t over-water, but check after each soaking that the soil is damp to about 1-2 deep.

Drip line watering tomato plants.

Soil

All tomatoes thrive in rich and fertile soil. This means that the soil should have a lot or organic matter. You can add compost to the soil to make it richer. The soil also needs to be well-drained.

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/Pinching

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.

Disease

The most common disease to be aware of is Fusorium Wilt. This is caused by a fungus that enters the plant through any openings in the stem. The plant wilts and the leaves turn yellow. They do not always die, but the growth and yield will be reduced.

You should remove the plants that are affected to try to stop the spread of the disease.

To learn how to detect, treat, and take steps to prevent diseases, read our tomato diseases guide. 

Tomato leaves with powdery mildew.
A tomato with powdery mildew.

Pests

Aphids are one of the most common pests to attack tomato plants. You will recognise them as clusters of tiny green insects. They can usually be washed off with insecticidal soap, but you can also introduce their natural predator, the ladybug, onto your plants to help contain the infestation.

Another common pest on tomato plants is the hornworm. These are bright green worms, with a spine sticking up from their backs. They can be treated by spraying the plants with a mixture of liquid soap and water.

For information to help you spot, eliminate, and deter 15 different pests, visit our guide on common tomato pests.

When to Harvest Dester Tomatoes

The Dester tomato matures relatively late in the season, so is best harvested in late spring or early summer. The fruit can be left on the vines, but then becomes a target for pests and susceptible to diseases. Like any tomato, you can pick this variety green and keep them at room temperature to mature.

Pink tomatoes on display at a market.

Common Uses of Dester Tomatoes

What Does This Tomato Taste Like?

The taste of a Dester tomato is described as being rich and sweet. This is in relation to other tomatoes, that are essentially acidic. This means that the Dester is not as sweet as a fruit like peaches or apples, but tastes sweeter and has more variety of taste than some other tomatoes.

Cooking

Because of the solid flesh, Dester tomatoes slice very well and keep their shape and consistency. This makes them good for cooking in the form of thick slices, which can be eaten plain, or on top of a dish like macaroni cheese. They can also be chopped up and used in stews and soups.

Eating raw

Beefsteak tomatoes are big, juicy and quite solid. Dester tomatoes have all the qualities and a rich flavour, which makes them a very good choice for eating raw.

Pink tomato half on pile of pink tomatoes.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Because they are a beefsteak variety, Dester tomatoes are very good for canning. The thick flesh will not break up when it is prepared, so the tomatoes can be kept fairly intact when they are canned. To make sure you can the tomatoes correctly, click here for an explanation of how to do so.

Recipe Ideas

There are some lovely recipes in which you can use Dester tomatoes:

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Tomato and Basil Pasta

Tangy Tomato Chutney

Tomato bruschetta.

Health Benefits of Dester Tomatoes

Like other beef steak tomatoes, Dester tomatoes contain Vitamin A, C and K. They are also a good source of potassium. These vitamins and minerals are beneficial in helping to boost the immune system and cell growth.

Tomatoes are also a very good source of lycopene, which provides a degree of natural protection from the sun, adds to the health of the heart; and helps to lower the risk of some forms of cancer.

Where to Buy Dester Tomato Plants or Seeds

You can buy Dester tomato seeds online from:

Baker Creek heirloom seeds

Victory Seeds

Totally Tomatoes

Where to Buy Dester Tomatoes

If you have a supermarket or grocery store that has special tomatoes, you may be able to find some Dester tomatoes there. Heirloom tomatoes are usually only available from farmers’ markets, or other organic outlets.

Wrapping up the Dester Tomato

Three pink tomatoes on a table.

Big, firm and tasty, the Dester tomato is truly one of the ‘big guns’ when it comes to heirloom tomatoes. You will find it gratifying to grow your own and spend most of the spring and summer picking (and enjoying) the fruit of your labors.

Do you grow Dester tomatoes in your garden? If so, tell us about your experiences with this tomato in the comments section below! If you enjoy reading about unique and interesting tomatoes, click here for other other tomato blog posts.