In the world of heirloom tomatoes, prized by home gardeners and farmers' markets for their flavor compared to modern hybrids designed to be shipped long distances, Brandywine has become a rock star. This pink tomato, more than a century old, has taken on "legendary status due to its potentially superb flavor," writes Craig Le Houllier for Victory Seeds. Gary Ibsen agrees in "The Great Tomato Book" that Brandywine is the first heirloom to achieve cult status.
An 1886 Burpee Seed catalog first described the Brandywine tomato, providing a pretty color sketch of the fruit, according to the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service and Victory Seeds. After a century of obscurity, Brandywine seed resurfaced in 1982 and found its way into the Seed Savers Exchange, an Iowa-based nonprofit seed bank, via seedsman Ben Quisenberry of Syracuse, Ohio. Quisenberry received the variety from Dorris Suddith Hill of Tennessee, who said the seeds had been in her family for 80 years. After word got out of its "supreme flavor," according to Victory Seeds' Le Houllier, Brandywine became the exchange's most popular seed and began to make it into mainstream seed catalogs.
This indeterminate plant, which will grow as high as its stake or cage allows, bears a variable yield of large, meaty pink fruits, some with green shoulders. While regular tomato leaves are serrated, potato leaf tomatoes like the Brandywine feature smooth-edged, thicker leaves. A variation called Yellow Brandywine comes from seed collectors in Ohio via Indiana. A Red Brandywine variety often actually refers to Pink Brandywine by a different name. Seed catalogs may feature additional Brandywine strains.
Brandywine tomatoes mature 80 to 100 days after transplanting outdoors and bear fruit until frost.
Fruits, reddish-pink with a light, creamy flesh, average 12 oz. but can grow to two lbs., Ibsen writes. A single slice of the Brandywine is enough to cover a hamburger bun, retired Arkansas horticulturalist Gerald Klingaman states.
Flaws of the Brandywine tomato include low yield, uneven ripening, green shoulders and cracking, which look like scars around the tomato diameter, and "catface" blemishes: scars and holes at the blossom end, Klingaman notes.
Gary Ibsen writes in "The Great Tomato Book" that in his years of holding tastings for tomato lovers and chefs, Brandywine always places in the top three favorites.