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heirloom tomatoes

Q:   Will you give me a list of heirloom tomatoes to grow in Florida?

A:   A growing number of garden enthusiasts are becoming interested in producing our own tomatoes.  There are several reasons for the increased appeal in gardening which involve food safety issues, reduced cost and better flavor.

According to Taylors Guide to Heirloom Vegetables, a tomato must meet three criteria to be considered an heirloom variety:

  1. the variety must grow “true to type” from seed saved from each fruit
  2. seed must have been available for more than 50 years
  3. the tomato variety must have a history or folklore of its own.

Tomatoes are labeled “IND” for indeterminate or “DET” for determinate.  The indeterminate types are vines which will continue to grow and produce until cooler temperatures arrive making a favorite for many home growers.  These vines will need to be staked or allowed to grow on a trellis.  You may consider growing them from a hanging basket but the larger beef steak varieties may become too heavy.

Tomatoes require about 1-2 inches of water a week, be careful not to overwater them as they can develop a root rot.  Avoid over-head irrigation whenever possible.

There are numerous seed catalogues available for heirloom tomatoes such as Mary Ann which is a classic pink-orange beefsteak tomato, Green Zebra for salads, Nebraska Wedding or Eva Purple Bell.  Look for varieties able to handle heat and humidity in addition to demonstrating disease resistance.  For more information on growing tomatoes in Florida please see the attached University of Florida publication is titled “Tomatoes in the Florida Garden”:  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh028