Think of a fresh, ripe tomato that is sweet, meaty, and juicy. Such a tomato will be ideal for your sandwich or for fresh eating. If you love such tomatoes, then brandywine can be an excellent option. It is one of those classic heirloom tomato cultivars, that are usually not available in the supermarkets. Some of the local markets may have these tomatoes for sale.
Growing Brandywine Tomatoes
- Seeds or Seedlings: If you plan to use seeds, sow them indoors (¼ inch deep), at least six weeks before the last frost. As these plants are sensitive to frost, wait to transplant the seedlings, till the soil gets warm, or the temperature raises above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you buy seedlings, get healthy ones without any spots or blemishes on the leaves.
- Soil Preparation: The location for planting them must have at least eight to 12 hours of sunlight. Remove the weeds and other debris before tilling the soil. You may mix equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and compost, with the soil. Once done, water the soil thoroughly. At this stage, apply a balanced starter tomato fertilizer (if there is no compost).
- Planting: Plant them at least 15 inches apart, and if there are more than one row, make sure to keep a distance of three to four feet between the rows. Another point is to plant the seedlings a little deeper, so that the plant develops a strong root structure.
- Watering, Mulching: Once planted, water them thoroughly throughout the growing season. You may also water the plant thoroughly once a week, instead of daily watering. Mulching is also beneficial to retain moisture of the soil, and to prevent weed growth.
- Plant Support: After three to four weeks of transplanting, you have to provide support to the plants, using trellis or stakes. This is very important, as these plants are vines. You may also use homemade tomato cages for this purpose. Before flowering, you may prune the plants, so as to encourage growth of new shoots.
- Feeding: As the plants start flowering, use a fertilizer that is rich in phosphorous and potassium, once in two weeks. You may do away with fertilizers, if you add compost while planting them. Once the fruit gets ripe, harvest them at the earliest, so as to avoid cracking.
Facts about Brandywine Tomatoes
Unlike regular tomato plants, a brandywine cultivar plant has oval-shaped leaves with smooth edges. In case of regular tomato plants, the leaves have serrated edges. They are slow-growing plants with the fruits taking up to three months for reaching maturity. The ripe fruits are pinkish-red in color, and are large. Some of them can be around a pound in weight. The fleshy and juicy fruits are said to have a distinctive sweet taste and is preferred for eating raw. These tomatoes are beefsteak-shaped, and may have pronounced ribbing on them. Brandywine tomatoes have numerous compartments for seeds. Even the fully ripe tomatoes of this cultivar have green shoulders.
You may come across yellow or red-colored brandywine tomato varieties, but the classic type is the pinkish one. This type is also referred to as Sudduth's Brandywine or Quisenberry's Brandywine. It is said that this brandywine cultivar, introduced in the 1890s, was considered extinct, till Mrs. Doris Sudduth Hill of Tennessee gave the seeds of this plant to the tomato collector Ben Quisenberry of Ohio, during the early 1980s. Thus, this cultivar was once again revived, and is now one of the most popular tomato varieties. However, these tomatoes are not cultivated commercially, as they are slow growing, and are not considered suitable for mechanized cultivation. Even the fruits do not get ripe at the same time.