'Brandywine' tomatoes are one of the most highly touted varieties grown worldwide and few tomatoes can rival the Brandywine family for popularity. Brandywine is an old heritage variety grown since 1885 and is often reported to be an old Amish heirloom. It is legendary for its very exceptional rich, succulent flavour and creamy flesh. Brandywine tomatoes can bear fruit up to 0.7 kg (1.5 lbs), requiring 80 to 100 days to reach maturity, making it among the slowest maturing varieties of common tomato cultivars. Its fruit has the beefsteak shape and pinkish flesh, as opposed to the deep red of more common store bought varieties. Even when fully ripe, the tomato can have green shoulders near the stem. The Brandywine tomato plant also has potato leaves, an unusual variation on the tomato plant whose leaves are smooth and oval with a pointy tip, instead of jagged and fjord-like the way "normal" tomato plant leaves are. Brandywine tomatoes are the most classically tomato-flavoured and the hardiest of commonly available heirloom varieties. For that reason they are relatively widely available. Don't worry about grooves and bumps, Brandywine tomatoes are notoriously oddly shaped. Brandywines are not cultivated commercially, they are slow growing and the irregular fruits do not ripen at the same time, they are also said not to be suitable for mechanized cultivation, but what may be problems for commercial operators are often the reason why such crops are perfect for the home gardener. Like many old-time tomatoes, Brandywines are rambunctious growers with some shortcomings. The fruit are likely to be ribbed rather than smooth, and with soft skin some of them may crack. Most growers consider these problems trifling, since a well-grown 'Brandywine,' one picked fresh at the peak of ripeness, tastes so good that it may well set the standard for what a tomato should taste like.
Origin: There are many questions as to the origin of the Brandywine cultivar. Burpee reports carrying it in their catalogue as early as 1886, and references to it older than that. By 1902 Brandywine tomatoes were being sold in multiple seed catalogues around the world. However, they soon disappeared from commercial sales altogether and were replaced by perfectly uniform shiny red round tomatoes. All the experts agree that the 'Brandywine' Tomato has been around for more than 100 years. But exactly where it came from has yet to be resolved. Currently, there are three theories. The one heard most often is that the 'Brandywine' is an old Amish introduction. There is a Brandywine River in the state of Pennsylvania and the Amish did live there, however no documentation exists to absolutely confirm that the tomato has Amish origins. A second theory is that Johnson & Stokes, a Philadelphia seed company, introduced this tomato in about 1889. While it is entirely possible that they were the first to sell it, this theory seems to beg a rather obvious question--Where did Johnson & Stokes get it? Did they develop it themselves or did they get it from the Amish? The third theory about where the 'Brandywine' comes from says Burpee introduced it in 1886. At the time, they called it 'Turner's Hybrid.' Three years later, Johnson & Stokes listed the same tomato, but gave it a better name, 'Brandywine'. It was named after Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Such goings-on were certainly not unusual at the time. Seedsmen named and renamed plants pretty much at will. Catalogues described the fruit variously as "deep brilliant red." (Faust's, Philadelphia, PA, 1889), "purplish red," (Annabil & Co., McPherson, Kansas, 1895), and "bright red," (Johnson & Stokes 1904). The truth is, it's mighty hard to describe what colour these tomatoes really are. Perhaps the best that can be done is to say that they are a shade or two off clear red on the purple side.
Timing: As they cannot tolerate any degree of frost the timing for sowing and planting outside is key to successfully growing tomatoes. Where the seeds are sown under cover or indoors, aim to sow the seeds so that they reach the stage to be transplanted outside three weeks after the last frost date. Tomato plants take roughly seven weeks from sowing to reach the transplanting stage. For example, if your last frost date is early May, the seeds should be planted in early April to allow transplanting at the end of May.
Position: Tomatoes require a full sun position. Two or three weeks before planting, dig the soil over and incorporate as much organic matter as possible. The best soil used for containers is half potting compost and half a soil-based type loam: this gives some weight to the soil.
Sowing: Plant about 3mm (1/8in) deep, in small pots using seed starting compost. Water lightly and keep consistently moist until germination occurs. Tomato seeds usually germinate within 5 to 10 days when kept in the optimum temperature range of 21 to 27°C (70 to 80°F). As soon as they emerge, place them in a location that receives a lot of light and a cooler temperature (60 to 70°F); a south-facing window should work.
Transplanting: When the plants develop their first true leaves, and before they become root bound, they should be transplanted into larger into 20cm (4in) pots. Young plants are very tender and susceptible to frost damage, as well as sunburn. I protect my young plants by placing a large plastic milk jug, with the bottom removed, to form a miniature greenhouse. Depending on the components of your compost, you may need to begin fertilising. If you do fertilise, do it very, very sparingly with a weak dilution. Transplant into their final positions when they are about 15cm (6in) high. Two to three weeks prior to this, the plants should be hardened off.
Planting: Just before transplanting the tomato plants to their final position drive a strong stake into the ground 5cm (2in) from the planting position. The stake should be at least 30cm (1ft) deep in the ground and 1.2m (4ft) above ground level - the further into the ground the better the support. As the plant grows, tie in the main stem to the support stake - check previous ties to ensure that they do not cut into the stem as the plant grows. Dig a hole 45cm (18in) apart in the bed to the same depth as the pot and water if conditions are at all dry. Ease the plant out of the pot, keeping the root ball as undisturbed as far as possible. Place it in the hole and fill around the plant with soil. The soil should be a little higher than it was in the pot. Loosely tie the plant's stem to the support stake using soft garden twine –allow some slack for future growth.
Cultivation: A constant supply of moisture is essential, dry periods significantly increase the risk of the fruit splitting. Feed with a liquid tomato fertiliser (high in potash) starting when the first fruits start to form, and every two or three weeks up to the end of August. In September, feed with a general fertiliser (higher in nitrogen) in order to help the plant support it's foliage. Over watering may help to produce larger fruit, but flavour may be reduced. Additionally, splitting and cracking can result from uneven and excessive watering.
Pruning: When the first fruits begin to form, pinch out the side shoots between the main stem. Also remove lower leaves which show any signs of yellowing to avoid infection.
Harvesting: Pick as soon as the fruits are ripe, this also encourages the production of more fruit. Harvest all the fruit as soon as frost threatens and ripen on a window sill.
|Packet Size||25 Seeds|
|Average Seed Count||No|
|Common Name||Red Brandywine. Beefsteak Tomato
Heritage (USA Circa 1885),
Vine / Cordon (Indeterminate)
|Other Common Names||No|
|Hardiness||Half Hardy Annual|
|Natural Flower Time||No|
|Fruit||Red, around 0.5 kg to 0.7 kg (1 to 1.5 lbs)|
|Time to Harvest||80 Days|
|Time to Sow||Sow early indoors from early April to the end of May|