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The Ferris Wheel Tomato

Can you imagine sinking your teeth into a monster tomato that weighs at least a pound or more? Or holding a tomato that’s bigger than your hand? The Ferris Wheel tomato is just such a tomato.

Read on to find out more about this giant among tomatoes.

Overhead view of large pinkish-red heirloom tomato that resembles the Ferris Wheel tomato.

History of the Ferris Wheel Tomato

The Ferris Wheel tomato was a popular heirloom tomato but its appeal died in the 1940s. In the 1990s, it was rediscovered by writer, Craig LeHoullier and has grown in popularity again.

The seeds for the Ferris Wheel tomato date back to 1894, when they were first released by the John A Salzer Seed Company in Wisconsin. The tomato was named after a great invention at the time — the Ferris Wheel. The size of the tomato is what inspired the name association.

The tomato has also gone by the name “Salzer’s Ferris Wheel Tomato.”

Characteristics of the Ferris Wheel tomato

The Ferris Wheel tomato is an indeterminate plant, with vines that grow vigorously to 6 feet tall. This productive plant produces lots of pink-red beefsteak fruit. It requires stakes, cages, or trellises to keep the weight of the fruit from damaging the vines.

Very large pinkish-red heirloom tomatoes growing on the vine.

Ripening Season

The Ferris Wheel tomato should be germinated inside so that it can be planted out not long after the last spring frost. It ripens through spring and is at its best in mid-summer.

Tomato Qualities

As a beefsteak tomato, the Ferris Wheel is a large, pink-red tomato, with a characteristically ridged shape. Its flesh is meaty and quite solid.

Tomato Size

As the name suggests, the Ferris Wheel tomato produces large fruit. The average tomato ranges from 16 – 24 ounces. The biggest recorded tomato weighed 32 oz, which means this is a variety of tomato to take note of.

Closeup of group of large pinkish-red heirloom tomatoes.

Planting Zones

Larger beefsteak tomatoes, like the Ferris Wheel, grow well in USDA hardiness zone 9, but they also do well in zones 8 and 10. If you live in a higher hardiness zone, you need to pay particular attention to the amount of water the plants get. If the plants are grown in zone 7, they need to be protected in early spring.

Size and Spacing

The tomato plant itself grows to about 6 feet or taller. They should be planted about 24 – 36 inches apart.

Pollination

Tomatoes are self-pollinating and only need nature (bees and wind) for blossoms to pollinate and set fruit.

Plant Care

The Ferris Wheel tomato require the care any average tomato variety needs.

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!

Large pink heirloom tomatoes growing on the vine.

Sunlight

The Ferris Wheel is like most other tomatoes and prefers to grow in full sun.

Soil

The soil that the Ferris Wheel tomato prefers has a neutral pH, but can tolerate a slight shift either way, to make it more acidic or more alkaline.

The soil should be well-drained and fertile. When you plant a Ferris Wheel tomato plant, you should add compost or other organic matter to the soil.

Water

There is no rule for how much to water your plant because this depends on the area, usual rainfall and temperatures. You should aim, though, to keep the soil around the plant damp to about an inch (2.5 cm) below the surface. Don’t over-water the plant, or the roots may develop root rot.

Person watering tomato plants with watering can.

Fertilizer

The Ferris Wheel tomato prefers neutral soil, so any fertilizer you add should either balance the pH, or at least not change it. It shouldn’t be necessary to fertilize your tomato plant more than twice a year – once at the beginning of the season and once at the end of fall.

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

Indeterminate tomato plants, like the Ferris Wheel, send out vines that keep growing. To keep the plant contained and focus growth into the fruit, rather than into growing the stems and vines, you should pinch off the lower shoots when they are small.

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

A disease known as early blight is a common problem with tomato plants. You will notice small dark spots on the lower leaves. If the disease is particularly rampant, the leaves can die and fall off. To keep your plants from being affected by a fungus-like this, you should spray them regularly with a solution made of a teaspoon (5 ml) each of baking soda, vegetable oil and dish soap mixed with a gallon (3.5 liters) of water.

Another common disease that can affect your tomato plants is fusarium wilt, which is soil-borne and gets into the plants through the roots. It blocks the flow of water and nutrients through the plant, causing it to wilt and eventually die. You will see the effects on the bottom leaves first. If your plant is affected, it cannot be treated and should be pulled out and destroyed.

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

Closeup of tomato leaves with powdery mildew.

Pests

One of the most common bugs that infest and affect tomato plants is aphids. These are tiny green insects and gather as an infestation below the leaves. You can pinch off the leaves where they are gathering. If the numbers are huge, then it is useful to wash the plants with insecticidal soap. An even better organic solution is to release ladybugs onto your plants because they ease aphids.

Another pest is the cutworm. They attack the stems of young plants, so you can usually limit their access by using collars around the lowest part of your stems. Make these out of cardboard or aluminum plates.

When your plants are small, you should protect them from flea beetles, which jump from plant to plant, by covering the plants. Dusting the older plants with diatomaceous earth is also beneficial against this pest.


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

When to Harvest Ferris Wheel tomatoes

Ferris Wheel tomatoes ripen through spring into early summer. The longer they are allowed to stay on the plant, the bigger they may grow, but they will also be susceptible to diseases and pests. The best time to harvest the bulk of your tomatoes is in mid-summer.

Closeup of four large pinkish-red heirloom tomatoes on a table.

Common Uses of Ferris Wheel tomatoes

With its firm flesh and outstanding taste, the Ferris Wheel can be used in a variety of ways.

What Doe This Tomato Taste Like?

Intense, mild, slightly sweet and are the words used to describe the taste of the Ferris Wheel tomato. It is a juicy tomato with a complex taste that is one of the favourite amongst beefsteak tomatoes.

Large pinkish-red heirloom tomatoes on a counter.

Cooking

The firm flesh and strong taste of Ferris Wheel tomatoes make them particularly suited to a variety of dishes, both fresh and cooked. They retain their consistency and taste in different dishes and make a great garnish.

Eating raw

This tomato is an excellent slicing tomato and is best enjoyed raw, on its own, or as a feature of salads and a crudites platter.

Overhead view of slices of large pink heirloom tomato on cutting board.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Because it is a beefsteak tomato, the Ferris Wheel has characteristically firm flesh, which makes it particularly suited to canning. As canning is a particular process, click here for a link to a site that will help you can tomatoes successfully.

Recipe Ideas

Caprese Salad

Tomato Salad

Stuffed Beefsteak Tomatoes

Panko-Crusted Beefsteak Tomatoes

Plate of ravioli with tomato sauce and herbs.

Health Benefits of Ferris Wheel tomatoes

Partly because of its size, the Ferris Wheel tomato is one of the best sources of lycopene, which is a natural antioxidant. As such, it is associated with improving heart health and has an effect on lowering the risk of some cancers. Lycopene has also been associated with protecting the skin from sun damage.

Where to Buy Ferris Wheel Tomato Plants or Seeds

You can buy seeds for Ferris Wheel tomatoes online from various online gardening and seed retailers.

Where to Buy Ferris Wheel tomatoes

Ferris Wheel tomatoes are a relatively unusual variety and are not likely to be available at grocery stores. You may be lucky to pick up some locally, but they are usually found at farm stalls or direct from growers.

Wrapping up the Ferris Wheel tomato

Large pinkish-red beefsteak tomatoes on cutting board.

It’s not only the size of Ferris Wheel tomatoes that makes them stand out. They have a particularly rich taste and meaty flesh, both of which make them a popular tomato for many uses. Named for the playground attraction, the Ferris Wheel stands out from other tomatoes as much as the popular ride stands out from the others.

Do you grow these massive Ferris Wheel tomatoes in your garden? If you do, then we’d love to hear about it in the comments section below! There are over 10,000 tomato varieties in the world — click here to read our blog posts about some of them.