The average American consumes more than 23 pounds of processed and fresh tomatoes per year. They are the most popular vegetable to grow in the home garden, and 95 percent of home vegetable gardens have them.There are many tomato varieties that have German names and origin stories. To be considered an heirloom tomato, it must grow true to type from saved seed, the seed must have been available for 50 years and it must have a history or folklore.
Tomatoes plants originated in Peru. They were carried to the Old World by Spanish conquerors returning home from Central America in the 15th century. Although they became popular in Spain and southern Europe, tomatoes were viewed with suspicion in Germany and England. German folklore associated tomatoes with the deadly nightshade family of plants, which also have small round fruits on vines. Nightshade was thought to belong to witches and werewolves. German botonist Carl Linnaeus named the plant Solanum lycopersicon, which means "wolf peach of the nightshade family."
Old German is a Mennonite heirloom tomato that comes from Virginia. It grows 2-pound tomatoes that are yellow with red and pink stripes. Aunt Ruby's German Green Tomato can often be found in garden centers because it is a popular heirloom variety. Its 14 oz. tomatoes have a spicy sweet flavor. Eva Purple Ball comes from the Black Forest region of Germany and it has medium-size pink-purple tomatoes.
German tomato plants have the same growth habits as other tomato plants. They are either determinate or indeterminate; which means they are a bush type that has controlled growth habits or are a vine that grows to 10 feet or more. Heirloom tomatoes are most often indeterminate types with strong growth habits. Big Rainbow is a an indeterminate-vine German heirloom tomato that turns from gold to red at maturity and has 1- to 2-pound fruit.
How to Plant
Tomatoes of all varieties do well in a garden area that receives six to eight hours of sun per day and is near a water source. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and thrive when grown in well-composted soil. German tomato plants do not need to be compost-fertilized after the fruit begins to set. Compost at that time encourages excessive vine growth at the expense of tomato development. Sucker growth at the juncture of the main stem and vine can be pinched to prevent too much horizontal growth.
The University of Florida Extension report on German and other variety heirloom tomatoes states that they are a "flavorful alternative to the standard garden tomato." Heirloom German tomatoes are not available in most supermarkets but can often be found at local farmer's markets. They are also easy to grow at home.