Love the sweet, tart taste of a fresh tomato? The old German tomato is wonderful for its characteristics, growing, and eating. It’s been around for quite some time and has proven to be one of the top tomatoes in consumption and growth.
If you’re a fan of heirloom tomatoes, you might know this one. But if it’s new to you, keep reading to learn all about it and how to grow it in your garden.
History of the Old German Tomato
The old German tomato can be traced all the way back to the 1800s. They were grown in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia by the Mennonite community.
The community enjoyed them as home-grown tomatoes for over a century. It wasn’t until 1985 that they were first produced for commercial distribution.
These jumbo tomatoes are known for their large size. They often need to be held in both hands for a full grasp. The giant fruit typically weighs over a pound per tomato.
German tomato plants are indeterminates, meaning they’re tall, long plants that grow straight up during their lifetime. Often trellises are needed to hold up these lanky plants so they don’t fall over under the weight of the large tomatoes.
This beautiful tomato has a mix of red and yellow colors on its skin. This blend makes for a variety of color mixes.
The old German tomato has a wonderful flavor that is on the sweeter side of tomatoes. It is a great slicing tomato used mostly for sandwiches and adding to any dish.
As we mentioned, the Old German tomato is an heirloom variety.
An heirloom plant is one in which the seeds are harvested each year and saved, also known as open-pollinated seeds. They can be passed down from generation to generation and replanted each year.
In passing down the seeds this way, it keeps the plant’s genetics true to the type of the plant. These seeds are purer, and while they may produce smaller yields, the fruits are more nutritional than commercially produced or hybrid fruits.
To learn more, read our blog post on Harvesting Tomato Seeds!
Growing Old German Tomatoes
Ever wondered if growing tomatoes is difficult? Here’s how to do it in a few steps!
Starting From Seed
Start seeds indoors a few weeks before the last frost of spring. You can start them in a seed starter kit or biodome.
Planting them in the starter kit will guide you on how to plant. If you are starting them on your own in little pots, you will want to plant the seeds about 1/4″ down and about 1″ apart from each other.
Place them in a sunny area, such as a window, to keep them warm and help the seeds germinate
An alternative is to purchase UV lights to place over the plants to help them stay warm and grow
It’s important to keep the soil moist to assist with the germination process.
After some time, little plants will break free of the soil! (This is one of the most fun parts of the process!) Once the plants have some leaves on them, it will be time for their first transplant.
Transplant the seedlings into their small pots so they can continue growing and flourishing indoors. They will stay in these pots until they go outside.
Our comprehensive guide on Planting Tomato Seeds will go into more detail about starting healthy tomato seedlings indoors.
Planting Your Tomatoes
After the last frost, it will be time to start checking the ground temperatures. Once the ground temperature reaches the mid-70s, it is time to transfer the plants to their permanent home. They can also be transferred to bigger pots if you prefer a container garden.
To transfer, dig a hole approximately 1 1/2x the size of the container it is already housed in.
Pull the plant out of the pot and gently break up the soil around the roots of the plants. This allows the plant’s roots to be freed up to grow and spread in the ground.
Fill the hole halfway with water. This makes sure the soil in the ground is moist and ready for the roots to start growing as soon as they are planted.
Place the plant in the hole and cover it with dirt.
We’ve just covered the basics here, but our post on How to Grow Tomatoes will tell you all you need to know.
The tomatoes are planted! The next step is to decide what kind of support system to choose for the tomatoes.
Since the old German tomatoes are indeterminate fruit, they will need something to support their long vines and large fruits.
The most recommended structure is a trellis. A trellis provides a flat, tall, often crisscross support system for the vines to interweave onto. It is sturdy and is a great option for the old German tomato.
Not sure where to start? Get inspired by our post on Tomato Trellis Ideas, then check out our recommendations for Best Tomato Trellises.
A tomato cage is a great option as well. A cage provides protection and supports all around the plant.
The cage doesn’t have as many places for the plant to anchor to it and can often be a little too flimsy to hold the heavy fruits, which can be a drawback.
Where to Buy Seeds
Have we convinced you to add Old German tomatoes to your garden this year? If so, we highly recommend the Old German tomato seeds sold online by one of our favorite seed retailers, True Leaf Market.
One of the best feelings is eating produce grown in your own backyard. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Besides chopping up the tomatoes and putting them in a salad or on a sandwich, what are some ways to enjoy them? Here are two recipes to enjoy sweet fruit.
There’s nothing like homemade tomato sauce. Old German tomatoes are great for whipping up the staple ingredient for any Italian night.
Look no further than the tomato bisque during those cooler days when all you want is a nice bowl of soup. This seasonal favorite is elevated with the use of old German tomatoes.
Make This Heirloom Your New Garden Trend
The old German tomato is a unique fruit with bold colors and an impressive weight. It has a rich heritage and pure roots.
The tomato is a wonderful fruit for snacking, eating on sandwiches/salads, and using in recipes as well.
Whether you are interested in growing the tomato or buying it from the market, it is well worth trying the old German tomato. To learn more about tomatoes, visit the Tomato Plants page on our website. You’ll find blog posts on more than 70 tomato varieties and a wealth of growing guides and gardening ideas.