The award for the most popular heirloom vegetable goes to (insert drum roll here) The Brandywine Tomato!
I know, I know. You say fruit, they say vegetable, but stats are stats and despite being technically a fruit, the tomato is known as a vegetable.
And Brandywine’s are known as the creme de la creme of the crops.
While the history of this popular tomato has been as hotly debated as tomato/tomahtoe/vegetable/fruit, the most common theory is that Brandywine received its moniker from Brandywine Creek in Chester Country, Pennsylvania USA, where the strain traces its origins to 1885.
Brandywine is a bit of a diva.
Newer tomato varieties are bred to be disease resistant, tolerant of imperfect care by their humans, heavy yielding, quick to ripen, thick skinned for transport and to have a long shelf life.
The Brandywine has none of these qualities.
The thin skinned luscious fruits (but a vegetable just the same) can weigh up to 1.5 pounds each but usually average closer to a pound a piece.
Harvest time is 80-100 days. That’s the time it takes from transplanting a seedling outside to the day you pick your first ripe tomato. That makes Brandywine one of the slowest maturing tomatoes on the market.
Maybe that’s why it tastes so good.
Brandywine is an indeterminate, which means it will keep on growing to an indeterminate size if left to its own devices. Most tomato growers eventually “top” the vine to redirect its energy into growing more fruit and less vine. This simply means cutting off the top to stop it from getting any taller.
Brandywine tomatoes have pink flesh with the bold reputation of being the best tasting tomato on the planet.
You can expect to harvest 10 – 15 tomatoes per plant. This is much lower than the yield of more modern tomatoes, but in this case, less is more. More taste, that is.
Because Brandywine takes so long to ripen, it leaves a wide window of time for pests and problems to take over. Planting marigolds or borage nearby will help.
Brandywine’s thin skin make it susceptible to cracking, which detracts from its good looks, but has no bearing on its amazing taste.
Brandywine also frowns on haphazard watering. It doesn’t appreciate its leaves getting wet AT ALL so aim that hose gently at its feet, thank you very much. This helps prevent fungal infections. Water deeply right down to groundwater level and then allow to dry out between drinks, but not to the point where where the plant is parched.
As with all indeterminate types, provide a cage or trellis for support, nip out the suckers and cut the top when it gets to the height you want.
While this all may sound a bit daunting, it really isn’t. Many embrace it as a challenge with its own succulent reward. Better yet, once you master growing Brandywine, you will be able to grow any tomato to perfection.
If you are interested in general tomato growing tips be sure to check out this video from Roots and Refuge Farms. It is one the most informative clips I have ever watched. Once you’re done watching it you will feel ready to become a tomato farmer. A Brandywine tomato farmer even!