Posted on 11 July 2008 by

My Favorite Heirloom: Old German

By Vanessa Richins

On the first night of my Master Gardener course, we had a tomato sampling feast. (Lucky me!)

We went out to the experimental tomato patch and were able to try many different varieties of tomatoes.

The one that I was most impressed with was a heirloom named ‘Old German.’

The fruits were huge and the flesh very sweet. I felt like stealing the plate so I wouldn’t have to be polite and leave the rest for everyone else.

We have Old German thanks to a 19th century Mennonite (a religious sect that is somewhat like the Amish) group in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

Actually, several of the heirlooms we have today (such as Mennonite Orange, Tiffin Mennonite, and Large Mennonite Heritage) are still around because of Mennonite efforts. The Amish were also responsible for preserving many other heirloom varieties.

Old German is of the indeterminate variety, meaning that it will not stop growing until it killed by frost. You will definitely need to provide a cage or a staking system. It also means that it will continue fruiting throughout the whole growing season, unlike a determinate variety.

You will need to make sure that Old German is watered regularly, as it is not drought-tolerant.

Old German tomatoes are ready to harvest after approximately 75-85 days. It may not be the most prolific producer, but the fruits are 1-2 pounds of sweet decadence. They are also very pretty, as they are yellow streaked and spotted with red.

When you are planting next season, be sure to add in at least a plant or two of my favorite heirloom – the Old German tomato.

18 Responses to “My Favorite Heirloom: Old German”

  1. Anna Says:

    This is a great site. I had heard a lot about you mostly from Aunt Deb–and good to finally see your place. It’s witty and informative. I look forward to reading more. I worked at a garden center for years and we sold a lot of German Johnsons. They tasted good too and all the old timers came to purchase it. I’ll try this one you suggested too.

  2. our friend Ben Says:

    Thanks, Vanessa! It’s on my list.

  3. Amy Says:

    I’ll have to look this one up next year.

  4. Tory Says:

    I had some Striped German tomatoes this summer…and they were heaven! 🙂 The two varieties must be related or something.

  5. Brian Says:

    Great recommendation. I am giving this variety a try, however it may not be well suited for my area (San Carlos, California, between San Jose and San Francisco). So far the seeds I have planted are growing very slowly. Has anyone else in Northern California given these a shot?

  6. Carol-Anne Says:

    is the German tomato a hertiage tomatoe?

  7. RAW Says:

    I have 4 Old Germans growing right now. 2 in 7 gallon plastic pots and 2 in the ground. the 2 in pots are about 2-3 ft tall, while the 2 in the ground are over 5 ft and very bushy. They all started the same date. Overall they are out growing all of my non heirloom varieties. Cant wait till they fruit.
    Central Valley California.

  8. new to gardening Says:

    I have one old german that is taking over my little veggie garden. I gave up on the stakes and am now proping it up with tree limbs and the biggest sticks I can find. I’ve never seen anything like it. My problem is it’s covered in green tomatoes that aren’t ripening before they bust open. They just grow and grow till they pop without even blushing.

  9. tony Says:

    hello, i have recently started growing heirloom tomatoes. i have the old german, ananas noir, black zebra, and purple calabash. i’ve have had some nice size delicious tomatoes this summer, however many of the fruit have had cracks near the stem end and shoulders of the fruit. does anyone know what could be the cause of this, and what i can do?

  10. Barbara Says:

    I have my first Old German plant and I just noticed that all the bottoms of the tomatoes are black! does anyone know what this is from?

  11. Nathan Says:

    I’ve got one growning in Minnesota. The plant looks healthy, but I am not getting any fruit. In fact the flowers never really seem to blossom. Are they supposed to be tiny tiny flowers? It might just be that it has been a strange summer, lots of temperate weather, not enough sun… but I wonder if there is anything I can do to help it fruit?

  12. Dean Says:

    I have the exact same problem but I have no idea why. My five other varietals have produced a bounty so I know it isn’t weather or lack of bees in my case. Help anyone?

  13. Nicole Says:

    I have six old german’s growing and this is the first year that I have planted a veggie garden. Your page is very interested and I agree, I am very happy with this type of tomato plant! My first tomato will be ready to pick any day now and I am extra excited to taste it after reading this page!

  14. Cherie Says:

    I, too, am a huge fan. I grow only heirloom tomatoes, all of which I grow from seed. Black Krim was huge but very mushy (I think I know what I did to cause that, but a disappointment.) Polish Linguisa is a great roma variety and has produced well and is not mushy. Neither are the Old German. Gorgeous and great flavour. I’ll try Black Krim again next year but will not put it in the same bed as the others. It seems to need much less water. Old German is not fussy, apparently, in my garden.

  15. Ron Says:

    I grew several German striped up here in northwest montana in both 2007 and 2009. They can indeed grow to up to 2 lbs each, and the flavor is delightful. I have made tasty sandwiches cutting thick slices, and have also made pesto-tomato tarts with them. The flavor from this heirloom is unbelievable, and beats ANYTHING you can buy at the supermarket!!!!!

  16. Katie Says:

    First time with tomatoes bought this variety from school fundraiser both plants grew 3 ft tall and tiny tiny flowers but no fruit. It is almost August and I got them when they were almost a foot tall back in April. Has been very hot in Nebraska but I have been watering and they look good otherwise.

  17. Jen Says:

    I am growing a garden in MD for the first time and planted 1 german queen to see how it did along with some others. The plant shows exponential growth, but now at the beginning of September all I have is big, green tomatoes. Anyone know the longest amount of time it could take to fully ripen for these beauties?

  18. Rocky Says:

    I love heirloom tomatoes, and the Old German is one of my favorites. Keep in mind that they take a while to ripen. I live in a short season state, and i don’t start getting ripe Old Germans ’till late August or early September. If you like Old German tomatoes, another one to keep in mind is the Ping Pong tomato. It is the size of a ping pong ball and the flavor is to die for. Bradley and Mortgage Lifters are very good too.

Leave a Reply

Recent Comments