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The German Johnson Tomato

The German Johnson tomato is an heirloom variety that comes in a lovely pinkish-orange shade. Weighing in at over one pound each, these meaty, flavorful tomatoes are some of the very best for making delicious sandwiches and for homemade juicing. With an average of 40 fruits per plant, you’ll be sure to have plenty to enjoy and even share!

If you love heirloom tomatoes, but haven’t had luck growing some of the fussier varieties, then keep reading about the German Johnson tomato. It may be just what your garden needs this summer.

Closeup of a single German Johnson tomato.
The German Johnson tomato may be the variety that makes you a fan of growing heirloom tomatoes.

History of the German Johnson Tomato

The German Johnson tomato’s origins are unknown, but they can be traced back to North Carolina. Thought to have come from a variety of Bavarian tomatoes further back, they are similar to Brandywine tomatoes.

Ripening Season

German Johnson tomatoes are mid- to late-season tomatoes, requiring about 78 days to produce fully ripened fruit.

Tomato qualities

These are very large, beefsteak-type heirloom tomatoes. They are a bit heartier and higher-producing than Brandywine tomatoes, and they have the signature acidity characteristic of heirloom tomatoes.

Tomato size

These tomatoes are quite large, weighing in at as much as 12-24 ounces by the time they are fully grown.

Closeup of a hand holding a large heirloom tomato.

Planting Zones

German Johnson tomatoes can grow and thrive in zones 2-12, but can only survive winters in zones 10 and 11.

Size and Spacing

These plants grow as much as eight feet high and should be spaced at least three feet apart to prevent competition for soil nutrients and sunlight.

Pollination

German Johnson tomatoes are open-pollinated plants. This means that their seeds are the result of naturally pollinated parent plants. Pollinators such as bees and birds are required in order for plants to successfully set fruit.

Plant Care

Sunlight

These tomato plants require full sun. This means 6+ hours of sun per day.

Heirloom tomatoes ripening on the vine.

Soil

Well-drained, nutrient-rich soil is required for these plants.

Water

For German Johnson tomato plants, the soil should be kept moist regularly.

Fertilizer

Use a fertilizer that is specifically made for tomatoes. Adding a slow-release fertilizer to the soil around each plant just when the first fruits begin to appear is the best way to fertilize German Johnson tomatoes.

Pruning/Pinching

Pinch off any blossoms that appear before the plant is 12 inches tall. Once it reaches this height, allow blossoms to bloom and begin producing fruit.

If you choose to prune further in order to encourage larger tomatoes, wait for the two leave to sprout at the growth tip. Leave the two leaves there to protect the growing fruit beneath them from too much direct sun, but prune away the growth tip extending past the two leaves.

This will encourage your plant to send nutrients into creating larger tomatoes rather than more branches.

Disease

Fusarium Wilt is the most problematic tomato disease for German Johnson tomatoes. This is a fungus that enters the plant through any wounds on the stem or in the roots and climbs up into the rest of the plant. It makes it difficult for the plant to take in sunlight like it should.

Pests

Tomato Horn Worms

These bizarre-looking green or blue caterpillars with a reddish, horn-like tail are the larvae of a kind of moth and are one of the greatest enemies of tomato growers. They grow unbelievably fast and go through an unfathomable amount of leaves, stems, and tomatoes to get there. A clutch (group of eggs) of them can destroy a whole tomato plant in just a few days.

It’s best to get rid of these guys if you find them hanging around.

Slugs

Slimy and worm-like, these bugs love tomato plants. They don’t grow as fast as tomato horn worms, but they are still a formidable force when it come to raising tomatoes.

Closeup of a slug on a tomato fruit.

Pill Bugs

Also called rolly-pollies, these little, grey bugs enjoy nibbling on tomato plants and fruit and should be removed when found.

Closeup of pill bugs in garden soil

Aphids

Aphids can usually be found on the underside of tomato leaves. They are very small, whitish bugs that multiply quickly and can take out a plant virtually overnight. If you find eaten leaves and stems and can’t seem to find what’s eating them, look on the underside of nearby leaves for the presence of aphids.

These bugs can be difficult to get rid of, but are a favorite food of ladybugs. You could consider purchasing ladybugs from a grower and releasing them around your tomato plants to encourage them to snack on those troublesome aphids.

Rodents

Mice and rats are usually worse pests indoors, but they can come after your tomato plants. Especially the nearer they are planted to your home, a garden shed, or another structure that they may be taking up residence in.

Setting mouse traps or rat traps will help with these pests. There are live traps that will not harm the animal if you would rather catch it and release it somewhere else than kill it. Be sure to use something like peanut butter though, rather than cheese, as rodents tend to pick up on that aroma and be tempted by it more readily.

Closeup of a mouse in a garden.

When to Harvest German Johnson Tomatoes

It takes about 78 days from the time the plant is transplanted into the garden to the time that the first fruits are ripe. This tomato plant variety will continue to produce more and more tomatoes throughout the year until cold weather hits.

Common Uses For German Johnson Tomatoes

What Does This Tomato Taste Like?

The German Johnson tomato is creamy, juicy, and pleasantly tangy.

Cooking

These giant tomatoes — regularly exceeding 1lb in weight — are an excellent sandwich tomato. They also mix wonderfully into sauces and salsas, and are a tasty addition to diced veggie salads.

Eating raw

It is perfectly safe to eat these tomatoes raw. Many people would tell you that’s the best way.

An heirloom tomato sliced in half next to whole tomatoes.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

While the flavor tends to be the best fresh at room temperature, all of these methods work well to preserve German Johnson tomatoes.

Recipe Ideas

Spicy Peach Salsa

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Rosemary

German Tomato Soup

Health Benefits of German Johnson Tomatoes

German Johnson tomatoes are rich in vitamin C. They also contain a lot of potassium, which can lower blood pressure and may decrease the risk of having a heart attack. And they only contain about 27 calories per cup, which makes them an excellent addition to a meal or a delightful low-calorie snack on their own!

Where to Buy German Johnson Tomato Plants or Seeds

To buy German Johnson tomato plants, you’ll need to check your local farmer’s markets or garden stores. Seeds may be found locally or can be ordered from online retailers.

Where to Buy German Johnson Tomatoes

German Johnson tomatoes can sometimes be found in grocery stores. But the best place to look for them, especially if you’re looking for organically grown specimens, would be your local farmer’s market.

Wrapping Up the German Johnson Tomato

Pile of picked heirloom tomatoes that closely resemble German Johnson tomatoes.

This enormous and scrumptious heirloom tomato remains one of the most delightful choices for sandwich tomatoes, and it makes an excellent addition to many cooking recipes as well. Since, with proper pruning of the plants, German Johnson tomatoes can reach weights of one pound or more, they are certainly some of the biggest around. Their massive size makes growing them an especially enjoyable and rewarding process for fans of tasty heirloom tomatoes.

If you have a tip about growing German Johnson tomatoes or a favorite recipe for enjoying German Johnsons, leave it in the comments section below!

And for more tomato reading, click here for our other blog articles about tomatoes.