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Connecticut Garden Journal: Hybrid Heirloom Tomatoes

Mar 1, 2018

It's March and time to start thinking about tomatoes.

If you're growing tomatoes from seed indoors and under lights, you should be starting them about six weeks before your last frost date. Depending on where you live in Connecticut, that would be sometime this month.

While we all love the old fashioned heirloom varieties such as Brandwine, there are some new hybrid heirlooms on the market. It sounds like an oxymoron to have a hybrid heirloom, but these new varieties have the look, taste, and appeal of heirlooms, but with better plant growth, earlier production, and disease resistance. Here are examples to try.

Cherokee Purple is a tasty, large-fruited purple heirloom. Manero is a new hybrid that looks and tastes like Cherokee Purple, but has better wilt, rot, and virus resistance and produces fruits earlier in summer.

Striped German is a tasty yellow heirloom with red streaks. Margold is a new version with the same coloring, taste, and soft skin, but has good resistance to leaf mold, mosaic virus, and wilt diseases.

Brandyboy looks like the classic Brandywine tomato, but it's actually a cross between Better Boy and Brandywine. It has the delicious taste and coloring of Brandywine, but it includes the disease resistance and earlier yielding production of the classic Better Boy.

If you like brown skin colored cherry tomatoes such as Black Cherry, you'll love Black Pearl for its higher production and stronger growing vines. The only downside of these newer hybrid-heirlooms is the cost of the seeds. But if you're game, give them a side by side comparison and see if the flavor and production stands up in your garden.

Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about corydalis. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.