We experimented with several varieties of heirloom tomatoes in our garden this year, and have spent the past few months comparing their characteristics and enjoying each one's unique traits. Here are the official "results" of our heirloom tomato testing. :-)
Beam's Yellow Pear
The production on these plants was simply incredible to behold. They produced, and produced, and produced, and now in October, when all of the other plants are quietly fading away, the Beam's Yellow Pears just keep on producing. They give new meaning to the phrase heavy yield. Good flavor and very reliable-- a tomato plant you can trust. :-)
Not as prolific as the Yellow Pears, but we still had a very respectable yield from the Green Zebra plants. Good quality fruit with very little cracking or blemishing-- just one gorgeous tomato after another. You can't help but love the quirky "zebra stripes" of dark green against the backdrop of the yellow-green undertones. They really spice up the appearance of a salad!
Sometimes tomato plants that are noted for larger fruits are also noted for being less productive, but the Cherokee Purple excels at both-- large, meaty fruits and lots of them. It is for these positive characteristics that we put our praise behind the Cherokee Purples, because otherwise, we might have thought twice about growing them again. Their flavor is... an acquired taste, perhaps? Whatever it is, it isn't a favored flavor among our unbiased panel of testers. On the other hand-- they are the most intriguing shade of deep, dark reddish-brown, and the transformation from green to ripe is truly marvelous to watch.
For those with more traditional tastes (i.e. you like your tomatoes to be red), the Trophies are consistent and flavorful, and ripen a bit later in the season, so they help keep things going after some of the other tomatoes (Stupice, Brandywine) have finished producing. They seem to be more prone to cracking than the Green Zebras, but they are tasty and pleasant and a welcome addition.
These are amazing. For one thing, they are the most gorgeous shade of pale green prior to ripening, then slowly transform to a peachy-pink before ripening to a pale red. For another thing, they are absolutely huge and a beautiful shape. We would grow them again simply for their aesthetic appeal, but they are also very tasty and a quality fruit, so definitely a win-win variety.
Stupice (not pictured)
Weeks before the other plants even thought about producing flowers, the Stupice tomatoes were setting fruit. Although their overall production was lacking as compared to the ultra-prolific Beam's Yellow Pear or even the Green Zebra, the Stupice tomatoes are a worthy choice if for no other reason than that they are ready so early in the season.
Brandywine (not pictured)
Even though they are very well known (almost synonymous with heirloom tomato), we have to admit that we were "underwhelmed" by the Brandywine tomatoes in our garden this year. Their production paled in comparison to that of some of the other "large" tomato varieties we planted (Cherokee Purple and German Pink), and the few fruits that did set were plagued by cracks and other physical deformaties. So, even though we were prepared to like our Brandywines, we were slightly disappointed with them.
For the first few weeks, these little tomatoes were known as the "Wapsi-whatever Peaches," since none of us could remember their strange name. But as they began ripening, and we began eating, it was quickly apparent that these fabulous Wapsi-whatevers needed the dignity of their proper name! In whatever way we might have been underwhelmed by the Brandywines, we were doubly overwhelmed by the Wap-si-pin-i-con Peaches. They are the most delicious, the most flavorful, the most incredible tomatoes we have ever encountered. To top it all off, they are an adorable shade of creamy yellow, with fuzzy skin (hence the "peach" name). We can't say enough good things about them-- we only wish we had planted more.