Brandywine Tomato: The Big, Juicy, Flavorful Heirloom Tomato

Brandywine Tomato: The Big, Juicy, Flavorful Heirloom Tomato

The Brandywine tomato is an heirloom favorite prized by home gardeners and farmers’ market shoppers alike. With its large size, deep red color, rich old-fashioned tomato flavors, and thin skin, it’s easy to see why this tomato has remained popular for over 100 years.

In this grow guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Brandywine tomatoes, from a profile of the plant to tips for getting the most out of this productive and delicious heirloom in your garden.

What is the Brandywine Tomato?

The Brandywine tomato is an oblate-shaped heirloom variety that originated in the late 1800s from a family in Chester County, Pennsylvania. It likely gets its name from the Brandywine River that runs through the area.

When fully ripe, Brandywine tomatoes weigh between 1-2 pounds each, making them quite massive compared to a typical round slicing tomato. The pink skin encases deep red-pink succulent flesh that is perfectly balanced between rich sweetness and tartness.

Brandywine tomatoes are famous for their exceptional flavor and meaty texture. It’s no wonder Brandywine frequently tops lists of the best-tasting heirloom tomato varieties.

Pros

  • Incredible, complex sweet, and tart flavor
  • The large, meaty texture
  • Thin skin doesn’t interfere with taste
  • Become large “trophy tomatoes”
  • Vines keep producing all season

Cons

  • Prone to cracking due to thin skin
  • Susceptible to disease like blights
  • Need heavy trellising for vigorous vines
  • Inconsistent productivity year-to-year
  • Slow to start producing fruits

Fast Facts about Brandywine Tomatoes

Brandywine tomatoes have some unique characteristics that set them apart:

  • Oblate shape – Flattened, almost pumpkin-shaped rather than round.
  • Large size – Can reach 2 pounds when fully ripe!
  • Thin pink skin – Delicate skin prone to cracking or splitting.
  • Deep red flesh – Juicy, succulent, and flavorful.
  • Potato-leaf foliage – Smooth leaf edges rather than serrated.
  • Indeterminate vines – Keep growing all season to 6-10 feet. Require staking.
  • Late maturity – Fruits ripen 70-90 days after transplanting.
  • Exceptional flavor – Perfectly balanced, nuanced sweet, and tart.

Brandywine Origins & History

The Brandywine tomato gets its memorable name from Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Pennsylvania. That’s where this heirloom was first introduced commercially in the late 1800s by the Johnson and Stokes Seed Company.

While its exact origins are unclear, it’s believed that the Brandywine tomato traces back to Amish farms in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The tomato became famous when tomato lover Ben Quisenberry started sharing seeds with fellow gardeners, leading to its widespread popularity.

Brandywine tomatoes are known for their potato leaf foliage, unlike most tomatoes. The leaves resemble potato leaves, with a silvery-green color and fluted shape.

These indeterminate tomatoes grow quite large, reaching up to 2 feet tall or more. As indeterminate plants, they continue growing and producing fruit until killed by frost.

The fruits are a classic heirloom shape, large and beefsteak-style, with a deep pink-red color and juicy, dense flesh. Fruits commonly reach 1 pound or more. The thin skin makes them unsuitable for commercial growing, but perfect for home gardens.

Brandywine has a rich, complex, old-fashioned tomato flavor with a balanced sweetness and acidity. The fruits have a creamy texture when eaten fresh and are also excellent for cooking, sauces, and tomato products.

Other varieties of Brandywine Tomato

The original pink-skinned Brandywine is still the most popular choice, but there are some other worthy types to consider:

Pink Brandywine – The original Brandywine strain dates back over 100 years. It produces large pink beefsteak fruits averaging 1-2 pounds. The skin color is a vivid rosy pink when ripe. The flesh inside is a deep red color and extremely juicy with low seed content. The flavor is rich, complex, and sweet with a perfect balance of acidity. Vines are vigorous indeterminate plants needing 80-100 days to reach maturity. Requires staking or caging due to large size.

Red Brandywine – A more recent introduction with brilliant red skin instead of pink. Fruits are large beefsteak types weighing 1-2 pounds on average. The flesh is a deep scarlet color, juicy and succulent with a meaty texture. The flavor is exceptionally sweet and rich. Vines are productive indeterminate plants. Matures slightly earlier than pink at 78 days. Shows better disease resistance.

Yellow Brandywine – A colorful yellow-skinned heirloom version of Brandywine. Fruits are medium-large in size, averaging 12-16 ounces. Skin ripens to a golden yellow hue. The flesh is creamy yellow in color and supremely juicy. The flavor is ultra sweet and fruity, described as pineapple-like by some. Indeterminate vines need 80-90 days to reach full maturity.

Black Brandywine – A recent development with unique black skin and flesh. Fruits are medium-large, averaging 1 pound. Skin is a dark blackish-purple. Flesh is a deep ebony color while maintaining a juicy texture. The flavor is rich and savory with smoky, earthy tones. Created by Turtle Tree Seeds. Matures in 78 days on vigorous vines.

Brandywine “Red” – A determinate dwarf bush version growing only 4 feet tall. ideal for containers or small spaces. Produces good yields of 4-6 ounce red fruits. Skin and flesh color is bright red. The flavor is classic Brandywine sweetness. Early maturity at 68 days from transplanting. No staking is required.

Cherokee Purple – Not a true Brandywine but often compared to it. Fruits have dusky pinkish-purple skin with dark purple flesh. Color is unique. The flavor is exceptionally rich and sweet. Indeterminate vines produce 1-2 pound fruits in 75 days. Requires staking to support large plant size.

What Does Brandywine Taste Like?

Brandywine is prized by tomato aficionados for its rich, complex flavor. The taste is often described as intensely tomatoey, meaty, and sweet.

The fruits have a good balance of sweetness and acidity, giving Brandywine a delicious sweet, yet tangy flavor when eaten fresh off the vine. The texture is juicy without being watery.

It’s one of the best-slicing tomatoes, perfect for highlighting its flavor in a simple tomato sandwich or caprese salad. The rich taste also shines through when roasted or simmered into a rich sauce.

Occasionally, some Brandywine tomatoes can be milder in flavor depending on growing conditions. Choosing strains from reputable heirloom seed companies can help ensure your Brandywines live up to their famously great taste.

Why Should You Grow Brandywine Tomatoes?

So what makes Brandywine tomatoes so special that gardeners would choose them over hundreds of other tomato varieties? Here are some of the key reasons Brandywine stands out:

  • Incredible flavor – Without a doubt, flavor tops the list of desirable traits in a tomato. Brandywine consistently earns rave reviews from growers for its rich, complex, sweet tomatoey taste. It’s one of those flavors that can’t be fully described with words, it simply must be tasted and savored!
  • Large fruit size – Brandywine tomatoes are categorized as beefsteak types and can reach weights of 1 pound or larger. The large fruits have small seed cavities and lots of meaty flesh – perfect for slicing.
  • Thin skin – While some tomatoes have thick, tough skin, Brandywine’s thin skin doesn’t detract from the eating experience. The tender skin just melts in your mouth.
  • Heirloom history – There’s something special about growing a vegetable variety packed with history and generational connections. Brandywine offers gardeners that magical link to the past.
  • Good performer – Although heirlooms don’t produce as heavily as hybrids, Brandywine is known for producing impressive yields on vigorous vines. With proper growing conditions, you can expect about 20-30 fruits per plant.
  • Meaty texture – Brandywine has a juicy, dense, meaty texture that adds to its mouthwatering appeal. The flesh almost has a steak-like characteristic.

With so many positive attributes, it’s easy to see why gardeners far and wide eagerly grow this tomato season after season. The flavor is simply unrivaled and almost addictive!

Growing Brandywine Tomato Plants

Brandywine tomato plants are indeterminate vines that grow 6-10 feet long if supported properly. The vines are potato-leaved, meaning the leaf edges are smooth rather than serrated. Brandywine is a late-season variety, usually ready for harvest 70-90 days after transplanting seedlings.

Because Brandywine tomato plants get so large, they require a heavy trellis or tomato cage to support their weight. The best options are heavy-duty tomato cages, tall tomato stakes, or an obelisk or archway trellis.

Brandywine tomatoes grow best in full sun (at least 6 hours per day) and need consistent, even watering. Using drip irrigation under your mulch helps reduce water loss. Plant them in rich organic soil amended with compost. They benefit from a boost of organic tomato fertilizer.

How to Grow Brandywine Tomatoes

You can grow Brandywine tomatoes from seeds or purchase them as starter plants. If growing from seed, start them indoors 6-8 weeks before your last frost date. Harden off the seedlings before transplanting them into the garden after all danger of frost has passed.

Space Brandywine plants at least 2 feet apart in the garden. Put your tallest support structures on the north side of the bed so they don’t shade other plants.

Attach the main vine to the support gently using soft plant ties or twine. Prune away any suckers (small shoots between the main stem and leaves) to keep the plant’s energy focused on fruit production.

Add a 2-4 inch layer of organic mulch like wood chips or straw around the plants to retain moisture and reduce weeds.

Taste and Texture

The Brandywine tomato is renowned for its exceptional flavor. The balance of sweetness and acidity is perfect. The flesh has a tender, succulent texture described by some as almost meaty.

Whether eaten fresh in sandwiches and salads or cooked into sauces, Brandywines satisfy even the most discerning tomato connoisseur. It’s no wonder it frequently tops lists of the best-tasting heirloom tomato varieties.

When and How to Harvest Brandywine Tomatoes

Brandywine tomatoes have a longer maturity time of 80-100 days from transplanting. Expect the first ripe fruits to be ready about 3 months after planting.

Harvest tomatoes when fully colored and slightly soft to the touch. The underside ground spot should be pinkish-red rather than green.

Carefully twist tomatoes off the vine, trying to keep the stem attached to extend shelf life. Or use a pair of garden shears for a clean cut if needed.

Pick fruits as they ripen to encourage more production. Check plants daily once fruits start coloring up. Expect harvests to continue until frost.

At the end of the season, harvest all fruits even if green before frost hits. Wrap them individually in newspaper and store them at 55-70 F to continue ripening indoors.

Storing and Preserving the Harvest

Ripe Brandywine tomatoes should be used as soon as possible for the best flavor. Store at cool room temperature out of direct sunlight.

If a frost warning is expected, pick all mature green fruits and wrap them individually in newspaper to slowly ripen indoors, checking frequently for spoilage.

For storage longer than a week, core the tomatoes and freeze them whole or as diced or crushed tomatoes. Canning, salsa, and sauces are also excellent ways to preserve the harvest.

Best Uses for Brandywine Tomatoes

Because of its shorter shelf life compared to hybrid tomatoes, Brandywines are best enjoyed fresh as soon as possible after picking.

Some favorite ways to use fresh Brandywine tomatoes:

  • Sliced in sandwiches and burgers
  • Diced in salad or bruschetta
  • Slow-roasted with garlic and olive oil
  • Lightly cooked in pasta sauce or pizza topping
  • Added to vegetable soups and stews

You can also preserve the harvest by canning crushed tomatoes, turning them into tomato sauce, sun-drying, or storing them in olive oil.

For olive oil storage, gently roast tomato chunks in a 200°F oven until shriveled but still flexible, then pack into sterilized jars and cover completely with olive oil. Refrigerate and use within 3 months. The oil takes on a wonderful tomato essence!

What’s so special about Brandywine tomatoes?

While not the easiest tomato for beginners, Brandywine rewards those willing to provide the large vines that they need to thrive. The exceptional full tomato flavor when ripe makes them worth the wait.

Their large size also makes them fun to grow, almost like a tomato trophy for the garden! Kids love comparing sizes.

When you bite into a homegrown heirloom as delicious as the Brandywine, it’s easy to see why gardeners boast about the flavor of vine-ripened tomatoes. Pink Brandywine tomatoes offer an unbeatable tomato-eating experience.

The Brandywine tomato has a loyal following of tomato connoisseurs who eagerly await that first incredible taste each summer. This tomato has earned its reputation as one of the greatest-tasting heirlooms.

Where to Buy Brandywine Tomato Seeds

Due to its fame, it’s easy to find Brandywine tomato seeds from a wide variety of seed companies and garden centers.

Some recommended heirloom seed suppliers to find top-quality Brandywine varieties include:

  • Seed Savers Exchange – Nonprofit seed-saving organization with heirloom Brandywine strains.
  • Baker Creek Seeds – Specialty seed company with organic, heirloom tomato seeds.
  • Burpee – Longtime seed company with a lengthy selection of heirloom and hybrid tomato varieties.
  • Johnny’s Selected Seeds – Employee-owned seed producer focused on vegetable seeds for farmers and home gardeners.

Conclusion

For tomato lovers, Brandywine offers an almost magical eating experience that’s hard to rival. Each bite overwhelms the senses with its complex, rich sweetness and meaty texture. It’s the type of flavor that creates serious tomato fanatics!

Beyond its celebrity status among heirlooms, Brandywine performs well across a wide range of climates. With the right care and conditions, most gardeners can succeed with producing heavy yields of these mammoth beauties.

If you’re new to Brandywine, make this the year you finally give it a try. Find an open, sunny spot in your vegetable garden and be prepared for a summer filled with tomato bliss. Just be sure to plant a few extra – Brandywines have a way of vanishing quickly from the vine


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Mohsin
By Mohsin

Hi, I’m Mohsin, creator of Tomato about website. I have over a two decade of gardening experience and I love helping others growing healthy tomatoes!


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