Posted on 11 April 2008 by

Guide to Starting Tomatoes from Seed – Part 1

Tomato SeedsPart One: Heirlooms For Everyone! A Guide to Choosing Tomato Seeds

By Kira Hamman

As much as we all love seed catalogs, they can be a touch overwhelming at times.

Seventy-four varieties of heirloom tomatoes? Really? How can anyone ever choose?

Here’s help, in the form of an annotated guide to six fantastic varieties. Grow one, grow them all, ignore this list completely — the choice is up to you. But place your seed order quick, because it’s time to get started!

1. Brandywine: The Platonic ideal of tomato.
Brandywine tomatoes are huge, juicy, delicious, pest-resistant… basically perfect. If you grow only one variety, this should be it.

2. Yellow Brandywine:
All the class of red Brandywine in a hip new color.
OK, true, it’s not really a new color in the sense of being, you know, actually new. It’s probably almost as old as the red, actually. For the person who wants something different that’s still recognizable as a tomato.

3. Moonglow: Not just a pretty face.
The most beautiful tomato in the world, but, unlike the hybrids, it hasn’t sold its soul for its beauty. A rich, deep, reddish-orange that perfectly complements reds and yellows.

4. Green Zebra: It’s not easy… well, you know.
Green Zebras stay green when they’re ripe, and taste almost just like reds, yellows, and oranges. A little more acidic, maybe. For the person who wants to grow a complete tomato rainbow.

5. Purple Cherokee: Dare to be different.
A flavor that screams summer. They look kind of weird, it’s true – they’re not really purple, but they’re not exactly red, either. But, oh, take a bite and all is forgiven!

6. Black Krim: The black sheep of heirlooms.
This Russian heirloom is not for the faint of heart. If you like opera and/or motorcycles, this might be the tomato for you.

Seeds for all these varieties (and many, many more, but don’t let that scare you) are available from Seed Savers Exchange, an organization “committed to collecting, conserving, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.” You don’t have to be a member to order seeds, but you might consider joining this fabulous organization anyway.

Happy ordering!

Stay tuned for part two of this series: Sowing the Seeds of Love.

14 Responses to “Guide to Starting Tomatoes from Seed – Part 1”

  1. our friend Ben Says:

    Great list, Kira! Not only does ‘Brandywine’ get my vote for heirloom tomato flavor, but my tomato-addicted chickens also prefer it to all others. Let’s not forget the little guys, though–‘Yellow Plum’ and ‘Yellow Pear’ are both fantastic. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has an incredible selection, also–though its proprietor, Jere Gettle, has such great things to say about each tomato he carries that it’s hard not to simply buy the lot!

  2. Nancy Bond Says:

    This is going to be a great “tutorial”!

  3. Kira Says:

    Funnily enough, my chickens adore tomatoes, too! Do you think it affects the eggs? Maybe I’m just imagining things…

  4. Michael Nolan Says:

    Welcome to the TC team, Kira! I’m glad to see another heirloom fan in our midst!

  5. Tomatoes: The Red Harlot Of The Vegetable (Fruit) World « Compostings Says:

    […] to find a full blog entry on this from the folks over at tomato […]

  6. Robert Rogers Says:

    where can we purchuse the seeds of the brandywine tomato’s as we stay in south africa, but the area where we stay is condusive too this type of crop.

  7. Graeme Says:

    Brandywine Sudduth is the variety said to be the King (or, indeed, Queen) of the tomato varieties. Beware of imitations. Seeds can be ordered online from some American seed companies. They are glorious tomatoes but erratic in their production and will not set fruit in extended heat or humidity. I grow them as an autumn crop.

  8. Stephne Trollip Says:

    Please all types of heirloom seeds and also brandywine how can I order – thks

  9. Graeme Says:

    The best and most reliable sources are selected American seed companies.

    Johnny’s Selected Seeds is very good:

  10. Kira Says:

    Stephne: I recommend using a company committed to preserving heirlooms specifically. My favorite is Seed Savers Exchange, at Most of the large seed companies, although they may carry some heirloom varieties, are actually working against biodiversity by doing things like patenting their hybrids and co-opting organic standards for their own ends. Yuck!

  11. Graeme Says:

    As I said, Stephne, “selected” seed companies. Some seed companies might be the devil incarnate but not all.

  12. JoeLarry Says:

    I have grown Pusta Kolox Giant Hungarian tomatoes for three years running by saving seed year to year. They are huge and delish. I recommend highly. Your friends will be amazed.

  13. Evan Says:

    Come stop by our site we love to trade saved seeds! Evan from the

  14. Dennis&Kim Shockney Says:

    Hi, We live in central Florida where it gets very very hot every summer.If you just wanting tomatos to grow from seed try this idea.I went shopping at the local store in 02/2010.

    When I got to my truck i noticed a tomato in the parking lot that wanted a new home.The tomato was soft and beat up a bit. I took the tomato home and Kim said the seeds will never grow. No way she said. I said ok and found a old flower pot with dark soil and stuck a finger into the tomato.I removed the soil a bit and squirt!The seeds filled the top of the large pot. I took the skin and laid it over the seeds and placed the soil over the seeds and skin.

    I made sure to water the soil and let it sit 5 or 6 days .
    I looked at the pot and was in total shock at the amount of small shoots looking at me . We got over 100 plants from that one tomato. I gave lots of them away to friends and neighbors.I did the same thing with cherry tomatos and had the same results .

    I have lots of pics if anyone wants to see them .
    Great site .

    Thanks ,Dennis&Kim

    Seeds w

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