Most Productive Heirloom Tomato You've Grown


I’m not against hybrids, I just don’t like the idea of being dependent on a seed company to grow my favorite variety years down the road. I’m turning into a seed-saving nerd, but if I was going to go through all the effort to stabilize a hybrid, I would rather it was an intentional cross I made myself.


Chocolate Cherry has been the most productive and disease resistant heirloom for me. We’ve grown it for the last 5 years, and am growing this year. It can become a huge plant.Great taste profile, sweet, tart and smokey. I’ve tried lots of purple/black toms and it’s the only one that’s worked for me in my climate.

Orange KY beefsteak is a good tasting yellow, pretty productive, and quite a large plant.

Jaune Flammé is very prolific, makes a lot of sweet/tart golf ball sized gold gems.

Gordost Sibiri and Watermelon are pretty good red beefsteak types for us.

Even though Brandywine’s have been stingy producers in the past, we had good luck with Pink BW last year, so we’re trying them again, along with yellow BW, which is a great tasting yellow, and black BW this year.

San Marzano is prolific, but a disease magnet here. Maybe because of its compact bush type habit that contributes to that.

Our tomato growing has always been a hit or miss endeavor, it’s a battle between deer, weather and disease. So, I’m still on the lookout for one that can at least deal with the last two issues. That’s why I tend to try several new varieties every year.

This year our new ones are: Sister Miriam, German Strawberry, Hillbilly, Omar’s Lebanese, and Azoychka. And even though it’s a hybrid we’re trying Better Boy, want to see how it compares to the heirlooms disease and production wise.


I’m kicking myself for forgetting to plant out a Kellogg’s Breakfast this year. It’s on my next years list, and with all the love SOTW has been getting it’s going to get a tryout too :sunglasses:


Yellow pear is by far my favorite cherry.

I’ve reached the point where I don’t even bother getting transplants anymore, unless I want fruits earlier than the self-seeded ones that I always get. What is better than a tomato one doesn’t even need to plant?

I’ve had luck with Prudens Purple and Black Krim in the past, but I didn’t plant any this year, though here my last frost date was only a couple weeks ago and I have a guy locally who grows and sells heirloom plants and i’ll hit him up in the next week. Last year I tried a Japanese variety (whose name I do not recall right now) and it was undoubtedly forgettable.



I’ve got one Azoychka this year as well, although I started it way later than my other tomatoes. It seemed to get mentioned repeatedly at Tomatoville when people asked about productive varieties.


I usually try at least two of a new variety, but only got one Azoychka to germinate. I’ve also heard a lot about it as well, so had to try.

I’ve tried quite a few other Russian varieties, the other one that’s done well for us is Siberian Pink Honey. It’s a oxheart type fruit, and prolific. It has a weepy type growing habit but is still pretty disease resistant. But, we’re not growing it this year.

Other Russians we’ve tried are Siberian Black, Black Krim, Paul Robeson, Japanese Black Trifele, Karol Sibiri and Mischka. All but the last two are purple tom’s, I tried BK and PR for three years, and could never get any to ripen properly before disease took them out. KS is a yellow oxheart, and grows like Pink Honey, but didn’t get many samples of it, either. Mischka is a large red cherry type, and did well, but haven’t grown it in 3 years.

Three years ago I planted out 70 tomatoes, which was insane, but didn’t get a good crop because of poor soil, and disease took out a lot. This year we “only” planted out 38.


Which of course is avoidable the same way it is with an heirloom. The seeds are seedlings and not protected by patent. Just isolate a plant whose seeds you want to use. It doesn’t have to be very far from other tomatoes- certainly 50’ will assure you that most seeds will be true to parent.

I often save tomato seed by keeping plants less far apart than this. Some patented varieties are very expensive and very good, like Sun Chocolate tomato and Carmen red pepper. The seedlings are very similar if they are mostly self pollinated.


I read an article (I think from UNC) that if you grew out seeds from a self pollinated F1 hybrid that in the F3 generation the genetics expressed would be all over the place, with only 25% being the same size/weight as the average of the original crossed parents. Another article I read said one tomato breeder made sure to grow at least 64 seeds/seedlings in the F3 generation to insure that one of them displayed the combination of genetics he desired. Have you ever grown a Brandyboy seed line out to F3? Trying to stabilize homebrew hybrix is on my bucket list, but it will likely turn into a 10 year endeavor.


Honestly, I usually just buy seeds, but I’ve saved tomato and pepper seed enough times to believe they tend to come close to type. If some varieties don’t, I’m not experienced enough to have discovered it.

Mostly, I’ve only done it for a single season.


It was intended to redirect the conversation away from the hybrids (Big Beef and Celebrity) mentioned above and back to heirloom and/or open pollinated varieties. I’ve grown Opalka numerous times and am well aware that it is not a hybrid.

This thread illustrates an effect that often occurs where one person has grown 3 or 4 or even a dozen varieties and then responds to a question about “best flavored” or “most productive” with the best tomato they have personal experience with. This tends to skew the responses in favor of commonly available varieties while leaving exceptional varieties unnamed. For a comparison point, I’ve grown well over 3000 varieties of open pollinated tomatoes. This does NOT mean I know much about tomatoes. Perhaps I have an idea what I don’t know about tomatoes. If I ask a question about the “best peach”, you can bet I value the opinion of a person who has grown 400 varieties as compared to someone who has a dozen trees in their yard.


3000 varieties and you are asking about advice about most productive. If you had started the topic with that info, I wouldn’t have wasted your time answering. I grow about 40 varieties of peaches and doubt I’ve grown many more types of tomatoes than that, and certainly not heirlooms.


Actually I started the topic. Fusion was responding. I’ll take input from anyone that has had a good experience with one or more heirlooms. Of course I’ll give a little more weight to someone that has grown hundreds or thousands of varieties (I hope they are good note takers). @Alan your experience with hybrid seedlings is still encouraging. Now I’ll have to try to collect some pollen tonight and try to make a few crosses before work in the morning.


If you want to try breeding something new, I suggest you use some pollen from Country Taste, which is advertised as a disease and crack resistant variety with heirloom taste… not quite.

It isn’t the most delicious tomato I grow but it is consistently the producer of the best red tomatoes late in the season when most beefsteak types and all the heirlooms I grow have given up the ghost or only have cracked fruit with some rot by the time they are ripe. It is early and it is late and at any point during the season it is the most productive tomato I’ve ever grown.

It certainly has better flavor than many modern varieties.


I grow a large variety of heirlooms and if you have great weather, rich soil, adequate water and low disease pressure for them, the issue of best production is easier to define. Druzba, Stump of the World, Black from Tula and a chance cross that I’ve kept going (Prudens Purple crossed with something else) are all great tasting with really good production for me when conditions are right. Last year was my first year growing Cherokee Green and that was very productive (for an heirloom) as well. Opalka is productive for me, but in my garden it gets pretty bad BER. I’m growing some others, such as Brandywine Suddath and Morado de Fitero that are much less productive but I’m growing them just based on being worth it for the taste. But all of these have good and bad years depending on what diseases hit them, etc.

With hot humid summers, lots of disease pressure including soil based diseases that can take out a plant almost overnight, I’ve learned to care mostly about lifetime production of the plants which means keeping them alive and producing until frost. For example, two years ago I had a Druzba just loaded with fruit in early June, more fruit than I’ve ever had at once on an heirloom. Unfortunately, it was dead before it matured a single tomato. So while it was super productive potentially, the actual production was zero.

For me, improving productivity in a limited space has been less a matter of variety than of how I’m growing the plants - grafting the heirlooms on vigorous, disease-resistant rootstocks and growing them all as single vine plants. Now instead of 3 plants in a 9X3 raised bed getting all big and dense, I grow 9 grafted tomatoes pruned to single vines and trained up a trellis. They are planted about a foot apart and planted about 6 inches from the back of the bed. This lets me grow more varieties and also means if I loose one it isn’t such a big hit to overall production. Growing them as single vines means much better airflow and getting foliage away from the soil faster which seems to reduce the foliar diseases. I grow peppers, onions, greens, etc. in the front of the beds with the tomatoes along the back. No space is wasted. One of the unexpected results is that some of the more vigorous rootstocks do a great job of keeping fruit size up all season long. Before grafting I used to get nice big tomatoes in the first flush, but fruit about 50% smaller by the end of the season.

Of course the rootstocks aren’t heirloom or open pollinated, but I’m hopeful an OP option will be produced since I see more people turning to grafted plants in challenging locations. I wonder if it might actually be easier with a rootstock, since you are mostly worried about maintaining the disease resistance and general vigor, not so much the delicate flavor profile of the fruit.


My trick is to grow them next to my asphalt driveway in spots that get the earliest morning sun. Here good eastern exposure is very helpful. Dry the dew- repress the blight.

Given how my apricot trees do growing against the south side of my white house, I suspect something like that would help keep toms healthful as well. The apricot trees I grow out in the open get too hammered with bacterial spot to produce much fruit. The light bouncing off the walls and keeping the trees in a 2-D shape close to it has made those trees the most productive of any I manage including sites much more favorable for them then on my own property.


My Cherokee Purple last year grew into a very large plant and keeped producing tomatoes more than we can eat.I don’t eat processed veggies so I have to let them drop in ground naturally. I am afraid of growing it again this year. Although if I found some seedlings pop up and have room left in the garden, I might let it grow one or two plants just to see how it performs this year.


Cherokee Purple seems to be one of the few varieties that get really varying reviews. A few people will say it gave them a ton and another person in a similar climate in the same year will report getting one tomato from eight plants. I’ve got one CP growing and a nice sucker rooting in water as a back-up. It’s the only tomato variety I picked purely on taste. I’ve never tasted one, but I want to see what all the fuss is about.


I tried Cherokee Purple and Cherokee Chocolate and neither were productive for me.

Generally I found few heirlooms to be productive in my heat and humidity. Good to see the lists above for some more fodder for future years!


Well, I am not very impressed by the taste of Cherokee Purple, otherwise I probably will continue to grow CP this year. My favorite heirloom is Kellogg’s breakfast for fresh eating. I like less acidity and sweet type of tomatoes


Cherokee purple was not very productive for me either. In fact, it was probably even less productive than brandywine. I grew Big Rainbow last year and it was really tasty and productive. Very similar to Mr Stripey only a bit more yellow.