as a rule of thumb, have to have been bred for more than 50 years to fall into that category. For those seeking heirloom varieties, Meadow View Farm in Bowers, just south of Kutztown, is tomato bliss. Jim Weaver, the patriarch of the family-owned and -operated 70-acre farm, which has been growing and selling heirloom tomatoes and peppers since the 1990s, grows 150 varieties of heirlooms and 20 varieties of hybrids and sells both plants and the fruit. An heirloom partisan, Weaver believes an heirloom tomato is what a tomato was meant to be because it’s bred for flavor and not for size and appearance. Weaver doesn’t completely dismiss hybrids, but they have to pack some flavor to win his endorsement. Of the hybrids, the Celebrity remains one of the better reds for slicing, he says.
Weaver and Ganser also recommend that plants should be grown in welldrained soil with lots of organic matter. Weaver suggests adding lime. reconnect with the flavors they experienced in their grandmother’s kitchen. It’s hard to resist the oddly shaped heirlooms and their whimsical names like Boxcar Willie, Big Zebra, Mr. Stripey, Hillbilly, Mortgage Lifter, or Radiator Charlie.
Word has gotten out about BHN 589, another hybrid with good flavor. “It’s a little larger than the Celebrity, redder and with a longer, 84-day season,” Weaver says. “The latest varieties of hybrids are being bred to have more flavor.”
“My wife and I both believe that the bi-color tomatoes are very good,” Weaver says. “The red is high in acid and the yellow is low in acid in the same tomato, and it seems to give the fruit a complex flavor.”
But heirlooms are his passion. He even maintains a separate field for growing seeds that are brought to him or requested by customers hoping to
Weaver’s personal favorites are the Green Zebra, an intermediate-sized tomato; and the Speckled Roman, red with yellow stripes, long and soft. “It’s a good slicer, a good
salsa tomato, and a good sauce tomato,” he says. Stuart Klingel of Klingel’s Farm and Produce Stand in Saylorsburg plants mostly hybrids because they are easier to grow and meet customer expectations for attractive looking tomatoes. He does plant a few Brandywines, a classic heirloom variety. “Both heirlooms and hybrids can be very tasty, but heirlooms tend to have more physiological problems such as multicoloring, cracking of fruit, and uneven ripening. And they are more prone to disease,” Klingel says. “Hybrid tomatoes are more uniform in size, color, and firmness. If you are looking for the perfect tomato, appearance wise, heirlooms are not it. “It is a challenge because heirlooms sometimes are not pretty and most consumers have been conditioned to pick the perfect looking produce,” he observes. “The last several years we have been picking until mid-October. Time of year and the weather have the biggest effect on price. Tomatoes need water, but the plant itself does not like to be wet, just the roots. Wet plants breed fungus and disease.” Klingel’s favorite tomato is the Whopper from Park Seed Co. “It’s big and tasty,” he says.