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The Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa Tomato

Every garden needs a standout tomato that has it all and the Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa tomato fits that description.  It’s a true heirloom tomato that’s still popular after more than 130 years after its release.  Growers appreciate how easy it is to grow and love the tasty pink beefsteak tomatoes they’re rewarded with.

If a low-maintenance tomato that yields big, beautiful, delicious fruit is what you’re looking for, keep reading to learn about the Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa tomato.

Overhead view of three large, pink heirloom tomatoes similar to Henderson's Pink Ponderosa tomatoes

History of the Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa Tomato

The Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa tomato was introduced in 1891 by Peter Henderson of the Henderson Seed Company.  The tomato was likely grown by the Henderson family in LeMars, Iowa for decades before the company released it.  

The 1903 Henderson Seed catalog had this description for the Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa: “Quality Beyond Praise, Rich and meaty-sliced. Thick and delicious canned.â€

This is the tomato that set the standard for all pink tomatoes!

Characteristics of the Henderson’s Pink PonderosaTomato

The Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa tomto is an indeterminate heirloom with vines growing 6-8 feet long.  It produces a moderate to heavy yield of pinkish-red, beefsteak-sized fruit growing in clusters of 3-5 fruits.  It requires staking, cage, or trellises to prevent the weight of the fruit from damaging vines.

Pink tomatoes on the vine.

Ripening Season

This is a mid-season tomato, with fruit maturing 85-90 days after transplating.

Tomato Qualities

A Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa tomato has smooth, bright pink skin and a market-quality appearance.  The flesh is pink, meaty, and juicy, with a creamy texture and few seeds.

Some growers have reported fruit cracking under certain growing conditions.

Tomato Size

This tomato is oblate-shaped and weighs 12 ounces on average, but can grow to 1-2 lb size.

A pink tomato on the vine.

Planting Zones

Coming from Iowa, the Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa is a good tomato for northern climates.  Growers should know that extreme temperatures can affect the fruit’s shape.

Size and Spacing

Plant young Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa tomatoes 36-48 inches apart and provide support structures for future growth.

Pollination

Tomatoes are self-pollinating and only need the assistance of nature.  If you have bees and wind, those get the job done. 

Plant Care

Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa tomatoes aren’t fussy and require average tomato 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!

Person planting tomatoes in the garden.

Sunlight

Tomatoes need 6-8 hours of sunshine a day.

Soil

The ideal soil conditions for tomatoes are well-draining, loamy, slightly acidic (pH 6.2 – 6.8), and amended with compost.  Adding crushed or ground eggshells to the soil prevents blossom end rot.

Water

Tomatoes need soil that’s consistently moist, never soggy.  If soil dries out between watering, the fruit cracks.  To retain soil moisture, 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. Most tomatoes need an inch of water each week.

Garden hose sprayer watering young tomato plant.

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

Most tomatoes produce their best crops of fruit when they’re pruned. Lush, bushy tomato plants won’t give you much, if any, fruit. 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

Gardeners know that all tomatoes are susceptible to diseases like blight, fusarium wilt, Septoria leaf spot, Verticillium wilt, and Southern bacterial wilt. Keeping the foliage dry by watering the base of the plant and removing any foliage in contact with the soil are your best defenses against tomato plant disease.

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

Closeup of tomato plant with powdery mildew.

Pests 

The ugly truth is that growing tomatoes means dealing with pests. Aphids, whiteflies, tomato hornworms, slugs, pill bugs, stink bugs, and rodents are just a few to look for. Companion plants like marigolds, catnip, fennel, dill, basil, and cilantro repel common tomato pests. Netting keeps out birds and larger pests, but can 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 Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa Tomatoes

Start checking your plants for ripe tomatoes in July.  

Ripe Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa tomatoes are dark pink and will “give†when gently squeezed.  They can be picked when there’s minimal blush on the fruit and they’ll continue to ripen on a counter, windowsill, or under newspaper.

Picked tomatoes should never be refrigerated.  They’ll keep for several days at room temperature.

Market display of picked pink heirloom tomatoes.

Common Uses For Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa Tomatoes

A Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa is an all-around tomato suitable for various uses – fresh, cooked, and preserved.

What Does This Tomato Taste Like?

A Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa has a classic heirloom tomato taste.  It has complex sweet and tangy flavors and low acidity.

Cooking

Use them in sauces, chili, soups, stews, and casseroles.  Especially large ones can be used for stuffed tomato recipes.

Baking dish of two large stuffed tomatoes.

Eating Raw

Slice them for sandwiches, burgers, and tomato platters.  Dice them for salads, salsas, relishes, bruschettas, tacos, wraps, or pita pockets.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa tomatoes are productive and their fruit is large so you’ll need to preserve your harvest.  Can, dry, or freeze them for later use.

Recipe Ideas 

No-Cook Tomato Sauce (apparently, this is a real thing!)

Vietnamese Tomato Salad

Roast Chicken With Tomatoes

Picnic Tomatoes

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Pink tomatoes don’t just look pretty — they’re healthy foods!  All tomatoes are high in fiber, vitamins C and K, potassium, and folate. They’re also one of the best dietary sources of lycopene, an antioxidant credited with reducinetg the risks of heart disease and cancer.

Closeup of tomato slices.

Where to Buy Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa Tomato Plants or Seeds

Starter plants aren’t easy to find for these tomatoes.  Nurseries and garden centers in the cooler garden zones may carry them since they perform well in northern climates.  Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa tomato seeds are more widely available and can be purchased from online retailers (such as Amazon).

Be aware that this tomato is sometimes called “Pink Ponderosa Tomato.â€

Where to Buy Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa Tomatoes

While these are market-quality tomatoes, they’re still heirlooms and not likely to be found in most grocery stores.  Contact specialty produce stores or visit farmers markets to ask if they carry Henderson’s Pink Ponderosas tomatoes.

Wrapping Up the Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa Tomato

Two large pink heirloom tomatoes.

Easy to grow and providing lots of large, tasty fruit, the Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa tomato is a star both in the garden and the kitchen.  You’ll want to brush up on your canning and drying skills to be able to enjoy these mouthwatering tomatoes long after summer has ended!

Are there Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa tomatoes growing in your garden in the summer? If so, tell us about them in the comments section below (or share your favorite recipe)! We have lots of information about different tomato varieties on our website — click here for our other tomato blog posts.