The state of Texas covers four USDA hardiness zones, with Amarillo in the north in zone 6, Lubbock in zone 7, Dallas and El Paso in zone 8 and Austin, and San Antonio and Houston in 9. Picking recommended heirloom varieties takes on added importance given the high heat and risk of fungal wilts for tomatoes, “which can be a major problem in zones 7 to 10,” writes Carolyn J. Male in “100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden.” Various sources have tested recommended cultivars for these non-hybrid heirlooms that predate World War II.
Texas A&M recommends nearly a dozen varieties of large heirloom tomatoes, including the red varieties, Beefsteak, Bush Beefsteak, Black from Tula and Red Brandywine, as well as unusual pink, purple, orange and yellow tomatoes, such as Cherokee Purple, Golden Jubilee, Kosovo, Persimmon, Ponderosa, Prudens Purple and Taxi. Mother Earth News magazine recommends Arkansas Traveler and Creole for the Gulf Coast zones of Texas as well as Red Oxheart.
Porter and Valley Girl makes Texas A&M’s list of medium-sized recommended slicing tomatoes. The best cherry tomatoes for Texas, where cherry heirlooms do well, are Gold Nugget, Red Alert and Yellow Pear, and the recommended paste tomato heirloom is Amish Paste.
Black Beauty, introduced by Burpee Seeds in 1902, dominates market eggplants today and makes Texas A&M’s recommended list.
California Wonder, a blocky green sweet bell pepper, and California Wonder Gold, its golden version, work well in Texas’ climate.
Willhite Seeds in Poolville, Texas, recommends the Cinderella pumpkin, a French heirloom with brilliant reddish-orange skin measuring 15 inches across and only 6 inches high and weighing up to 25 lbs.
Willhite also recommends the Bushel heirloom gourd, which weighs 25 to 50 lbs. and grows 3 to 5 feet in diameter.