Friday, September 25, 2009

In love with a tomato

Last March, I blogged about what I planned to grow in this year's garden and how I sent away for free heirloom tomato seeds from I had never grown heirloom tomatoes before and was excited about giving it a try.

At the time, a few people warned me that growing heirloom tomatoes could be quite challenging, due to their temperamental nature and inclination toward disease, but as it turned out, I've been fortunate and have had an extremely successful heirloom tomato season this year. I have been able to grow varieties called Lancaster Pink, Roma Paste, Tumbling Tom, Egg Yolk Cherry, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Red Brandywine, San Marzano and Starpit Imperial ...but the winner of the most flavorful (and most interesting) heirloom tomato -and my new personal favorite- in my garden this year is...

The Riesentraube:

This is an East German heirloom variety whose name means "giant bunch of grapes" and this is pretty much what they look like when they're growing on the vine. They grow in bunches of 20 to 35 per cluster:

...and the small, semi heart-shaped, red fruit have the cutest little pointed ends:

Heritage Harvest Seed gives this historical snippet on the Riesentraube on their website that I think is fascinating:
"This heirloom from Germany was introduced in the United States in 1993. The seed was obtained from the seed bank at Gatersleben and then brought back to the States. Today, it is one of the most popular heirloom cherry varieties grown, a real success story. Historically, this tomato was used in winemaking, which made a wine similar to dry sherry. Today, it is most often used as a salad tomato. The vines are covered with clusters of 1" oval red fruit hanging like grapes in clusters. The small oval fruit have a distinctive pointed tip on the blossom. The name Reisentraube is German for "giant bunch of grapes." The vines are also some of the tallest that I have grown, growing over 8 ft tall by August. I actually had trouble harvesting the top bunches because of the height. Extremely productive and highly recommended. Vigorous indeterminate, regular-leaf foliage."

These beautiful tomatoes are firm, very sweet, and not too wet or pulpy inside (I hate wet and pulpy). See these?:

I've enjoyed these sweet-tasting little 'maters so much that these are going to be my seeds for next year. For the first time, I'm going to try saving my own seeds - mostly because I want to make sure I have access to this variety again next year.

I felt like a doctor performing surgery when I cut into one to extract the seeds:

I squeezed the seeds and a bit of the pulp into a wide-mouthed mason jar and added a bit of water:

Then I covered it with a bit of cheesecloth to keep dirt and such out but to let air and beneficial bacteria in:

In a week or so, when the membrane surrounding the seeds has rotted away, I'll drain the water, rinse the seeds, and spread them out on a paper towel to dry. When they're dry, I'll simply roll up the paper towel and store in a jar until next year. When it comes time to plant, I'll just rip off a seed attached to a bit of towel and plant the whole thing. I got this idea from El over at Fast Grow the Weeds.

If all goes well, I should have plenty of seeds for next year:

And let me know if you'd like any, I'd be happy to share. :-):


  1. Ooh, ooh, I'd love some! Your description made my mouth water.

    Would you like any calendula seeds? Or Polyheaded or Russian Mammoth sunflower seeds? I've got plenty to share! Oh, and flax! Lots of flax.

  2. The Riesenstraube are oh-so-cute. I love the little pointy end, so unique.

    Ken is currently, as I write this, on the website and can't find where the seeds for this tomato is . . . hmmmmmm . . . will keep trying.

  3. Beautiful tomatoes Danni! Congratulations on your heirloom tomato adventure and success. I grow open pollinated heirloom tomatoes, and usually have good production, but this year my entire tomato crop did very poorly.

  4. Thanks for the how to on the seed saving! Those tomatoes look wonderful. I will put them on my list.

  5. Those tomatoes look so cute! I like the pointed ends too. They remind me of a balloon not completely filled. By the way, your weather pixie is looking a bit like a steet-walker this evening, hmmm ;)

  6. Oh..yea I'd like to try growing them..I really had fun with my little garden this year..I haven't had one in years..I also learned quite a staking the Tomatillo's so they don't split during heavy rain storms.. So next year is gonna be bigger and BETTER..
    I would love to add some of those tasty little maters to my menu..
    Thanks for sharing!!

  7. Sarah - you got it! I will definitely send you some when they're all dried and ready. And, oh, let's see...I think I've just gotta have a few of both the Polyheaded *and* the Russion Mammoth sunflower seeds - or is that asking too much? Whatcha gonna do with all that flax? Do I want some of that?

    Hey CaliforniaGrammy - why is Ken looking? As I said, I will happily share some of mine with you if you want!

    Hi Farmer Jen - Yeah, this year was "experiment year", where I grew a whole lot of different varieties, next year my plan is to narrow it down substantially and grow the ones I loved the best from this year. Here's to a better tomato-growing season for you next year!

    Hi Dawn! You should definitely try them - they make me smile. If you can't find them, let me know and I would be happy to send you some of my seeds.

    NW Nature Nut - Jim and I are still laughing about your comment. snort. My sweet innocent weather Trixie, er, I mean, Pixie *does* indeed look likes she's planning to walk the streets this evening. WTH? My apologies on her behalf. I will try to have a talk with her.

    Hey Diane - your garden was the first garden I had ever visited that actually had tomatillos growing in it! I'm so sad they weren't quite ripe when I was there, I *still* don't have a clue what those little beasties taste like. You can most definitely have some of my seeds, unless your little girl gives you some first. I believe she's saving some of hers, too. :-)

  8. These are one of my faves that I grew this year as well. Coming in just a tad bit ahead (due to taste and not appearance) would be the Isis Candy cherry tomato. Both of which I am saving seeds of. Like you, I wanted to be able to have the opportunity to grow them again next year. :)

    G and I had a great time picking and eating both of these varieties. It was a very common occurrence to walk past the breakfast bar and see him stuffing a whole Riesenstraube in his mouth. And then to have an Isis Candy waiting in his hand to go next!

  9. What a beautiful little tomato! I can't believe your tomatoes still look so good! If you don't mind sending them, I'd love a few seeds. I don't think I have any exciting to swap - unless you'd like mutant pumpkin seeds? I've got LOTS of mutant pumpkin seeds!

  10. I am going to try Heirloom varieties next year. I had some this year, but I was never allowed to let the fruit mature on the vine due to a crazy chicken who liked the taste of green maters. The little brat pacekd everything she could find. Her fav? Black Prince I think it was. Ha ha.

    Good luck saving your seeds!

  11. I'll have to be sure to make you something with the Tomatillo's next time your "here".. I think you'd love it..Lori just made Verde Pork the other was sooo good. I could send some recipes with M&S when they travel to see you in a couple months..You can purchase them in the grocery store also, although not quite as tasty.

  12. They look beautiful. Congratulations on such a wonderful harvest. Ours are JUST starting to turn red. Thank heavens. Just in time for the frost.

  13. I'd love some! But sadly this is my planting season. I have a bout 2 weeks to get my plants in the ground or I will have missed the window...Crazy Florida! :(

  14. Great, great job! The only way I have ever saved tomato seeds is by replanting the volunteers that come up every bad I never know what I'm getting until they grow up and get tomatoes.

  15. Wow, thanks for the info on Heirloom tomatoes. Very informative. Will get some for next year's garden and give it a try. My Aunt believed in any Heirloom seeds/plants. She used to swear by them! Always said they were superior to anything nowadays. Gonna have to plant some for sure now! Your garden pics always make me hungry.

  16. I think they are now my new favorite. I can almost taste them from that description. I must practice saying their name:) If you happen to have any extra I would love some seeds. I grew a variety called Black Russian. You have inspired me to save some seeds...want some? I'll trade.

  17. They really look fantastic. You have made me think about trying them next year. They are so cute. Hmm. Never thought I would talk a bout a tomato being cute but they are.

  18. As soon as I read your comment on my blog about these I had to come find the post. Very interesting! I didn't have heirloom tomatoes this year, but they are on my list of "must haves" for next year. So I appreciate the recommendation for the Riesenstraube variety too. They sound like the kind of tomato I like. Did you can any of them or try them for sauce?


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