Heirloom-ish tomatoes from the Toronto Botanical Garden

I feel virtuous about spending at the Toronto Botanical Garden plant sale (which remains on till Sunday). Virtuous because what I bought* was tomato plants, mostly heritage ones at that. Three of them will find a home at my allotment in the community garden. One will probably stay home with mamma, churning out cherry tomatoes.

I picked varieties that should produce fruit in stages throughout the season, although if things go better than last year (hopefully, avoiding late blight), there’ll be a glut of tomatoes at the end of the season.

Staying home will be Lycopersicon (or Solanum – I wish taxonomists would cut out all these name changes) ‘Sweet Million’, said to be an improved version of the ‘Sweet 100’ cherry tomato, producing millions of sweet fruits, even in part shade. Well, we’ll put that to the test in the Microgarden. It matures in about 60 days, the earliest of my picks.

Next is ‘Fireball’, which matures in 65 days – very early for a beefsteak type tomato. Like me, it was introduced in 1952, so calling us heirloom or heritage tomatoes might be a little much. Still.

Then we come to ‘Arkansas Traveler’, a mid-season tomato noted for its drought resistance. I’ve read it’s a good producer of small to medium-sized pink tomatoes. Although the label says “pre-1900s heirloom,” other sources say this is a late-20th-century release by the same name as a heritage tomato.

Finally, there’s the late-season tomato ‘Black Krim’, which really is heritage.  I’ve read rave reviews about its flavour, so am eager for the first bite of this black tomato, in about 75-90 days.

Pictured here, besides my baby tomatoes, is celebrity checkout guy Paul Zammit, the TBG’s director of horticulture. Also, a scene from the plant sale. Lots of goodies to tempt people.

*Okay, I admit to buying two more plants: Epimedium rubrum and a Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke.’ I’ll find a home for them somewhere.

[Update: I hit “Publish” too soon, because I meant to link to this comprehensive tomato-growing article from Fine Gardening magazine. Everyone growing tomatoes should bookmark this resource, with its easy-to-understand instructions for growing your best tomatoes ever, regardless of which variety you’re tempted by.]


  1. Ha! I knew it! No one can get out with just a few plants! Have fun with your tomato plants! The Cherry tomatoes should be amazing!

  2. Wow, you only got TWO unplanned plants? I usually walk out of such places having spent everything in my pocket, I become a mindless slave to plant life and fantasies about plant life.

    I'll be very interested to hear your tomato reports; I've stuck to the heirloom cherry tomatoes but I've wondered abou "Sweet Million".

    It is a bit odd when heirloom plants are the same age or younger than I am. I'm still getting used to the fact that the 90s is now a long time ago.

  3. Good luck with your tomatoes! I have grown 'sweet million', and it did come close to producing a million little tomatoes! I like many of the heirloom tomatoes. I figure if they have been around this long, they must be good!

  4. Those are some good tomato varieties. I've grown most of them over the years. I also like your link to Fine Gardening's guide. What great help. My tomatoes have been in the ground for several weeks and I'm watching them grow.~~Dee

  5. Deborah, I did, I did admit to my weak willpower… swearing not to buy any plants (except veggies). But two, added to the two I got at the Rock Garden & Hardy Plant Society sale, is still four plants more than I meant to buy. And four plants more than I really have room for.

    Laura, I'm really looking forward to the tomato plants. Hopefully, they won't have to linger at home too long. It looks like it might get frosty over the weekend. Don't want to rush them.

    Pomona, Usually purchasing everything in sight is my modus operandi. However, I'm trying to do a makeover, so have to demonstrate restraint. It's hard though. I've grown Sweet 100s many time. We'll see if the Millions measure up to their billing.

    Deb, I tried a few heirlooms last year, but got them so late in the season that it wasn't a fair trial. Some did produce, amazingly enough, but not quick enough to be more than green tomatoes. We're hoping for better things in 2010.

    Dee, That Fine Gardening guide is just the best, isn't it? Very comprehensive and clear.

    Heather, Yes, it's a great sale! On for two more days, too. Last year, we went on the very last day, and while the pickings were slim there were still some interesting buys. Needless to say, I was less adamant last year.

    This year, my strategy was to refuse a tray, forcing myself to only buy what I could carry in two hands. Dropped one tomato in the checkout line, as the volunteer looked for my price tags, but it came home unscathed… and my purse was only moderately lighter.

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