Friday, August 14, 2009

Dreaming in Pink

I suppose it’s too late now to research the heirloom tomato, Brandywine, but what the heck…I did it anyhow. This spring I planted one Brandywine tomato in a container that sits in full sun on my patio. As I wait for my first ripe bite, I’ve become curious about the variety and I’m hoping the fruit of the vine holds up to the stellar reports that precede it. I'm having my doubts as I dream of biting into a luscious pink tomato. My first clue that maybe Brandywine’s would be less then pure should have come when every nursery and garden center started selling Brandywine plants.Paul's Brandywine, a healthy green tomato
Come to find out…it’s become such a popular tomato variety that there’s reason to believe that seed saving and sharing has developed sub-strains of Brandywines that may be less flavorful. Well…that’s what I get for waiting too long.

I started reading about heirloom seeds many years ago, but never took the next step, purchasing seed from the Seed Savers Program. When I lived on a farm with acres of tillable garden space, I was too busy raising herbs, flowers, vegetables and kids to delve into heirloom seeds. The PC and its quick research tools were in the future, so I read about heirloom seeds in garden magazines. The photos of black, pink, and orange tomatoes delighted my sense of color and I imagined tomato juice in deep, dark purple, whole pink tomatoes canned and standing on the shelf in the cellar, and slices of orange tomatoes for sandwiches and eating out of hand coming from my rainbow tomato garden.
Fast-forward a few hundred years (just kidding) and I have my first heirloom tomato, only to learn that it may not be the true, authentic, one and only Brandywine. Insert bosom heaving sigh here. My plant in a pot doesn’t look as good as my brother’s. His stands 8 feet tall, covered in green tomatoes getting bigger by the day. In comparison, my plant has about nine tomatoes developing. If I get nine tomatoes off that plant that taste as good as the marching band that goes before claims, I’ll be as happy as a plump, bursting with flavor, pink tomato on a healthy vine in August.Pauls Brandywine above the rail of the deckMy sickly looking Brandywine
I discovered while researching the history of the Brandywine tomato that Seed Savers acquired the heirloom seed from a fellow in Ohio…Ben Quisenberry Mr. Quisenberry, now deceased, received seeds from Doris Sudduth Hill of Tennessee who claimed the seeds had been in her family for over 80 years. Sometime in the future I’ll do more research on Mr. Quisenberry and his Big Tomato Garden in Syracuse, Ohio. If you’d like in-depth history of the Brandywine tomato, check out Craig LeHoullier’s article on the Victory Seed Company’s website.

Lately, I feel like Linus in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to make his appearance with one difference, I’m dreaming in pink and waiting for my Brandywine tomatoes to turn red… I mean pink.
Quick Update: Paul's Brandywines are turning pink.... mine are still


  1. Thank you for this lovely tour around your garden- enjoyed it so much!

  2. Nice plot.
    Congrats on the tomatoes !


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