Most Productive Heirloom Tomato You've Grown


We actually conducted a trial last year with 10 different paste/sauce varieties. All in raised beds, 7-8 hours of sun, 6’ trellises, and a constant supply of water via ollas. It was not a perfect growing year because of the overly wet weather, and we had space for only one plant of each variety.

Here’s the total harvestable weight we measured per plant in order from best to worst: Mortgage Lifter VFN - 11.5 lbs, Blue Beech - 10.8 lbs, Amish Paste - 9.8 lbs, Dester - 9.1 lbs, San Marzano Redorta - 8.3 lbs, Opalka - 6.6 lbs, Rocky - 6.1 lbs, Long Tom - 5.1 lbs, Federle - 2.5 lbs, San Marzano 2 - not much.

Mortgage Lifter VFN, Amish Paste and Dester were very productive early. The other varieties hit peak production about two weeks later. We’re going to trial the top five again this year but I think Mortgage Lifter VFN and Amish Paste have the inside track with their early production. Blue Beech produced very high quality tomatoes which may keep it around as well. Dester was productive but the tomatoes tend to crack quite a bit.

As far as cherry tomatoes go, Mexico Midget has been the most productive and best tasting. Sweetie was our go to for years and productive as well, but we would lose a much higher percentage to splitting.


My most productive tomatoes have been Russian Queen, Blue Pear, and Big Cheef. Russian Queen is the most productive tomato I have grown out of 40+ varieties. The latter two though have particularly good taste! Big Cheef is like an improved Cherokee Purple.

I have 10+ new varieties growing this year and hopefully I can report back on having another tomato producing machine!


How were you pruning them on your trellises? Single stem?


The trellises are actually vertical 50” wide cattle panels. Two plants per 50”w x 72”h section, with multiple stems per plant confined to about 25” of space, and branches weaved throughout the grid.


A variety that puts out a ridiculous amount of fruit. While larger than a common cherry tomato, it’s still no slicer so it’s a good thing you’ll swim in them.


I am making a list of some of all the member suggestions . . . to try next year. This is a great topic. Thanks.

What a great name for a tomato! And glad to hear that it tastes terrific. I have a very small vegetable garden - and won’t waste the space on anything that doesn’t taste great. Thanks.

I’m with you . . . I doubt I’ll have the same results as these others. When we lived in Louisville, we grew the BEST DAMN TOMATOES I’ve ever tasted. The soil was red - and the tomatoes had great flavor. That region has the best soil for a tasty tomato!
Here in VA . . . so so. And I never get the bumper crop I hope for.
The tomatoes I buy in Costco taste better, some years! . . . But it’s still fun to grow my own.


One of those interesting things to know about tomatoes is that they really benefit from being grown in fertile red clay soil. Piennolo del Vesuvio is an Italian storage tomato that can hang for up to 9 months in a basement or cellar. If I grow it in my normal garden area, it is relatively bland, but if I grow it in a small area of red clay soil behind my house, the flavor goes up to top ten range. Tomatoes also benefit from having a large amount of compost in the soil. What do I mean by a “large” amount? About 20 pounds per plant is what a large indeterminate tomato plant can use.

Several years ago, I had access to a rabbit barn to bring loads of manure and spread on my garden. I unloaded a trailer with about 2 cubic yards at the end of my garden. A cherry tomato plant volunteered in the edge of the manure and proceeded to spread across the top of the pile rooting everywhere it touched the manure. It spread and sprawled crawling on top of my cabbage, on top of a row of peas, and started to cover up my sweet corn. I could stand in the middle of it and could not be seen because the vines had gotten so tall. There was a bird nest in one of the branches. I finally got fed up with it and used my tractor and chisel plow to pull it out by the roots. It left a layer of cherry tomatoes 2 inches deep and about 25 feet across on the ground. It took several years before the volunteer plants quit growing in that area.

The most productive tomato I have ever grown was a numbered line from Randy Gardner at NCSU. He crossed one of his disease resistant tomatoes with a selection I sent him of an F4 cross between Big Beef and Eva Purple Ball. When I grew the plants in my garden with no special care other than what the rest of my plants receive, I picked over 80 pounds of tomatoes per plant. This is a 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes piled up as high as you can get and still carry by the handle twice. Two buckets of tomatoes from a single plant is a LOT of tomatoes. Do I have any open pollinated varieties with similar production? The only candidate is the BBXEPB cross that I sent Randy. It is phenomenally productive and tends to make phenomenally productive hybrids.


I second that . . .


I agree about Russian Queen, very prolific, pretty Roma type striped fruit, and one of the biggest plants I’ve ever grown, almost 7ft tall a couple years. Wanted to try it again this year, but chose mostly beefsteak types.

Re Cherokee Purple, I like the flavor, but it’s been a stingy producer for me. Tried it for three years, and because of that trait, it gets tossed from the rotation.


I grew one German Johnson tomato plant, along with my usual ‘Better Boy’ and ‘Big Beef’ tomatoes. It is a bit too crowded - and would probably produce more if it had more room. But, the taste is phenomenal. I am going to grow some again, next summer.


One of our German Johnsons. They are a little funny looking and the stems are solidly stuck to the tomato and have to be cut off with a scissors or a knife! But, BOY ARE THEY GOOD! A quarter wouldn’t do it justice . . . so I used a dollar bill ! LOL.

Many of you commented on Cherokee Purples. I had absolutely no luck with this variety - in 2016 and 2017. Gave up.

After reading about all the tomato possibilities, I ordered some seeds from the Tomato Growers Supply Company.
Brandywine Sudduth’s Strain.
Box Car Wiilie.
German Johnson Regular Leaf.
Black Krim.
Virginia Sweets. (Never heard of these before . . . but I’m in VA - so why not?)
And I could not resist the tomato many of you grow . . . with the craziest name I’ve ever heard! - Stump of the World !!!

I can’t start them now, of course - but I will in March . . . and see what happens.
I think I have grown my last ‘Better Boy’ - ever. There are just so many more interesting varieties out there. Thanks for all the advice.

I had good ‘home hobby gardener’ results this year, with my tomatoes and cucumbers, especially. But, I know that I am cramming too many plants in too small an area. I think that next year I’ll try the method that @zendog uses - the single vine.

There seems no rhyme or reason as to why we had horrible tomato results for the past 3 or 4 seasons . . . and this year they went BONKERS! I did get them in the ground earlier . . . and maybe that helped them? Who knows. Thanks for all the shared wisdom. :heart_eyes:


My best performer among older open pollinated cultivars here in zone 6b Kentucky is Arkansas Traveler, a pinkish red slicer. It’s dependable, productive and disease resistant, and we’ve been growing it for several years. Am also growing the Missouri heirloom Ivan this year—and it seems very similar to Arkansas Traveler, though a different hue of red.

Of course, most cherry or “tommy toe” varieties are productive, but they usually split badly—at least in our climate; and as the season rolls on and I get busy with other things, I can never keep up with them and many inevitably rot on the vine.

I enjoy dark tomatoes, but most are not very reliable here. They’re either not productive or they’re disease-prone—or both. Russian and Ukrainian heirlooms are especially poor performers in this area. Cherokee Purple, probably because of its origins in the southeast, did better than most, but last year it was outperformed by Carbon, which was the best-producing, hardiest black I’ve grown to date. Will probably try it again—and keep intending to try Blackberry, which originated not too far from here.

One heirloom yellow beefsteak that has performed pretty well for me in the past—and tended to be quite productive—is Hawaiian Pineapple.


I’m in NE KY and I have the same issue. The only reliable dark tom for us is Chocolate Cherry, just about all other dark beefsteak like varieties have been a bust. Until this year. We have two Black Brandywine plants and they have been very productive and had pretty good disease resistance this year. Now, it’s been a very dry and warm summer, normally it’s pretty wet and humid. But, BBW has been very good for us. Unlike most BW’s it has regular leaves and has been a good producer.

I tried that here for three years, and it never did well, usually the fruit was very small and the plant wasn’t productive. Orange Kentucky beefsteak has been stellar here.

Gordost Sibiri, a pink beefsteak, and Russian Queen, a striped Roma type variety has done very well here. So has Siberian Pink Honey, an oxheart variety. We’re growing GS this year. RQ makes for a huge plant, over 6ft tall most years. SPH has a very weepy looking foliage, but still produces well.


Thanks, Bob. Will definitely look into Black Brandywine and some of the others, too. Was thinking about trialing a “True” Black Brandywine—but it’s a potato leaf-type, and those never do well for me for some reason. Would certainly rather grow the regular leaf BBW. The only Russian ones I’ve tried have been black, so maybe I’ll have better luck with some other colors.


Yeah, we’ve grown yellow and pink BW, which are potato leafed, but they are shy bearers. Tasty, big fruit, but stingy.

Is my BBW a real Brandywine? I don’t know for sure, but it’s good enough for me. The fruits run about 12-16 ounces and are very tasty.

I’ve tried Paul Robeson and Black Krim, both dark Russian varieties, and they’ve been busts here.

Not trying to push a certain vendor, but has sold all of these varieties and more, and are very reasonably priced. They’ve been my vendor of choice for tomato seeds for years.


For Siberian and Russian types, Black from Tula has done well for me for a black tomato, but the standout this year among several Siberian, Russian and Ukrainian tomatoes I’m trialing was Biskaya Roza. This large pink tomato has had great production and was one of my earliest, plus great taste.

In Virginia 7A, most of the darks have been just okay for production, but Barlow’s Best Black has been my most productive dark tomato this year, followed by Brad’s Dark Heart. Even though I’ve grown several darks and many varieties, this is my first year trying Cherokee Purple and it has actually been a relatively low producer and had several tomatoes with rot issues. I’ll have to try it again, since it is just one plant and it could be other variables effecting it.


@PomGranny if you single stem your tomatoes next year make sure you have room to do it. I single stemmed most of mine this year to squeeze in more varieties and over a half dozen of my vines are 9 feet tall right now. Add that to the raised bed they are in and I’m having to do acrobatics on a ladder to tie them to the extensions I had to add to my trellis.

@JeremiahT I grew one Arkansas Traveler this year, and it has perfect looking tomatoes with a good tomato taste. If I was growing for selling at the market I would have a bunch of them. It hasn’t been a standout for me so far. I’ll probably grow one next year just to see if it pumps out more than this year.

I’m wondering if certain varieties do better single stemmed vs multi stemmed and vice versa. For example, my one original Cherokee Purple has been very stingy single stemmed. I rooted a sucker off of it and multistemmed it and the multistemmed CP has set 3-4 times as many tomatoes as its single stemmed clone has.


The one that has been the most productive for me every year I’ve grown it is Broad Ripple Yellow Current. I got the seeds 20+ years ago and have saved them ever since. The fruit are small even for a cherry tomato, but the plants are huge and very generous. I love the flavor, too! I’m in a humid climate and always get disease pressure on my heirlooms, but this one will put out healthy growth at the top even when it’s looking scraggly at the bottom (like now!) I pretty much always keep picking these until frost. The one negative is that a few will split as you pick them (they hardly ever split on the vine, just when I pull them off). Here’s a picture with some Sungold and Black Cherry:


Bob, I’ve grown both Black Krim and Paul Robeson.
Was happy with Black Krim….although the number of fruits wasn’t that prolific. In Pulaski, Rockcastle and Madison counties. Haven’t grown it in a few years, though. Lost seed.


How did PR do? I have seeds to that and Black Krim if you want to try them next year. But they are about 3-4 year old seeds.

How’s the Chocolate Cherry plants doing?