Old Tomato Varieties

Many old tomato varieties are referred to as heirlooms. Fine Gardening magazine states that not all old varieties are heirlooms, but that all heirlooms are varieties that are open-pollinated with at least a 50-year history. Old tomato varieties usually have thinner skin and are more likely to crack than commercial tomatoes, but are usually more flavorful. Because many old varieties of tomatoes are indeterminate, they may need additional staking. Explore the many varieties and continue the long tradition of heirloom tomatoes.

Aunt Ginny's Purple

Originating in Germany, Aunt Ginny’s Purple tomato plant was introduced into the United States by Rick Burkhart of Indiana, who had grown the variety for 25 years. The plant is indeterminate and yields large quantities of dark pink beefsteak tomatoes weighing up to 1 lb. each. Aunt Ginny’s Purple tomatoes are known to be flavorful and juicy, with little cracking. Eaten fresh, this tomato is useful in salads and sandwiches. Tomatoes are ready for harvest in 85 days.

Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter

The Tomato Fest website states that this tomato got its name from M.C. Byles, known as “Radiator Charlie.” In the 1930s he developed Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter by cross-breeding large tomatoes to create this stable variety. He sold his individual plants for $1 and paid off the mortgage on his home in six years. Thus, the Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter was born. This meaty, nearly seedless tomato can weigh up to 3 lbs. It is an indeterminate variety that is ready for harvest in 82 days.


The Hillbilly tomato plant is an indeterminate variety that originated in West Virginia. It produces bi-colored fruit that is yellow and orange with red streaks appearing on the inside of the tomato. Known for it is sweet-fruity flavor, it is low in acid. These tomatoes can weigh up to 2 lbs. and are ready for harvest in 85 days.

Cherokee Purple

The Cherokee Purple tomato plant was developed by a Native American Cherokee tribe. As its name describes, the tomato is a sweet purple fruit with a brick color interior. Highly productive, this tomato plant produces large beefsteak tomatoes weighing up to 1 lb. each. The Cherokee Purple tomato is perishable because of its thin skin and soft fruit. The plant is indeterminate and tomatoes are ready for harvest in 80 days.


The Rutgers tomato plant is a determinate variety that was developed by the Campbell’s Soup Company in the 1920s, reports Tomato Fest. It was a cross between Marglobe and J.T.D. tomato varieties. In the 1940s the tomato plant was refined further at Rutgers University. Rutgers tomato plants produce juicy red fruit that weighs up to 8 oz. and is crack-free. Because it is a highly productive plant, Rutgers tomatoes are ideal for canning. Tomatoes are ready for harvest in 75 days.

Keywords: heirloom tomatoes, old tomato varieties, open-pollinated tomato varieties

About this Author

Elaine Bolen graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor of arts degree in graphics. She has a 20-year history of writing fiction and nonfiction, and is an avid reader of the written word. Her work appears on eHow, Pluck on Demand and Garden Guides.