One of the most popular heirloom tomato varieties, Brandywine has large fruit that is known for its great flavor.
From the original Brandywine variety comes several sub-strains, some with better flavor than others, but all with impressive fruit that often reach a weight of more than a pound. These tomatoes are meaty and have a beefsteak shape, grown for their excellent tomatoey flavor and size.
- Origin: United States
- Type: Indeterminate
- Size: 9+ feet
- Days To Harvest: 90-100 days
Brandywine Origins & History
Like many heirloom tomato varieties, the history and origins are disputed and difficult to confirm, but it’s also easy to see how that can happen, as most heirlooms are grown by home gardeners and not farmers or seed companies.
The Amish community have claimed the original Brandywine variety is one of theirs. Some claim a local farmer near Brandywine Creek – which covers areas in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware – named the variety after the creek in the early 1900s.
This is an area that was settled by the Swedish and the Dutch and the name could come from either of these – brandewijn meaning distilled/burnt wine (brandy) in Dutch or brännvin, a type of Swedish alcohol also meaning burnt wine.
However, there is no clear evidence that this is accurate.
We can be certain that the Brandywine tomato was mentioned in the seed catalog of the seed company Burpee as far back as 1882, where it was called a ‘Turner’s Hybrid’. Later in 1886, it was then called Brandywine.
To add to the confusion, there is no confirmation that these two varieties are the same as comparing both varieties today will show some differences. The English also claim that this variety has traveled to the USA from their shores.
Another company supplying vegetable seeds to farmers around the same time, Johnson & Stokes (1881 – 1906) had an advert for a Brandywine tomato that was published in January 1889 in The Ohio Farmer, so they also claim to be the first.
Move on a hundred years and the Brandywine heirloom finds its way into the Seed Savers Exchange collection in 1982. Local Ohio gardener Ben Quisenberry is said to have gotten the seed from Dorris Sudduth Hill, who stated that the seed had been kept within her family for over 80 years.
This particular strain is identified as the Brandywine Sudduth’s Strain. Today it is one of the most popular varieties to grow.
This popular tomato variety comes with large fruit that can boast an intense flavor often described comically as tomatoey. It is a meaty and juicy tomato which is also not very acidic, giving it more of a sweet flavor.
It is argued to have the perfect balance between sweet and acidic, giving it a mellow taste that is good for the kitchen, especially when eaten fresh.
Occasionally, gardeners do say that some Brandywine tomatoes are lacking in flavor. It would be best to use the more popular ones when choosing a variety.
Best Uses For Brandywine Tomatoes
Fresh is best for these beauties, but they have many other uses in the kitchen too. Once picked, Brandywine tomatoes do not have much of a shelf life so need to be used or preserved as soon as possible. Slice fresh for use in salads, sandwiches, and chop with garlic and a little salt for a very tasty bruschetta – they are the best here for their flavor.
They are also great cooked lightly in a pan with garlic and basil as a sauce for pasta and added to the top of pizzas for perfect flavor.
Further, they can be added to soups and stew and made into a good tomato sauce with can also be frozen in batches if your harvest needs to be consumed at once.
Cut into chunks and dry them on a very low heat in the oven for a couple of hours until they are dry and yet still flexible and then cool, pack into sterilized jars and cover with good olive oil. This will keep them for use in cooking for a burst of intense tomato flavor, refrigerated for at least 3 months.
What Are Brandywine Tomatoes Best Known For?
Brandywine tomatoes are best known for their heirloom status and for their excellent flavor. Sliced fresh, they have little competition in the tomato world.
They are also known for their big fruit size some reaching 1.5 pounds each. The long vines reach up to 10 feet, so there is no need for a lot of plants in the garden.
Where To Buy Brandywine Tomato Seeds
Brandywine seeds are widely available from growers due to their popularity. The varieties that are the most widely grown include Brandywine Pink, Red, Yellow, Purple, Black and Cherry. Some of the most popular seed suppliers online include:
How To Grow Brandywine Tomatoes
Sow Brandywine tomato seed indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in spring. The seeds should germinate in 7-14 days in the right conditions. The seedlings need plenty of light and water and may need extra light indoors with the use of grow lights. Once the seedlings have reached 3-4 inches and have at least 3 pairs of leaves, they can be hardened off to plant in the garden.
Plant in a location that receives full sun and make sure the soil is rich with added compost and organic fertilizer. Avoid growing tomatoes in a spot where the previous season grew tomatoes, peppers, potatoes or eggplant to avoid diseases and pest problems shared by plants in the nightshade family.
Keep the soil clear of weeds with a good layer of mulch and set up cages or stakes to give these tall plants the support needed to grow strong and healthy. Keep the plants well-watered during the growing season and feed them first with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. When flowering begins, use a fertilizer specifically for flowers and fruits, carrying more potassium and phosphorous.
Pinch out the tips of the plants when they are about 6 – 8 inches long to make them. Also remove any growth 6 – 10 inches from the bottom of the plants to improve air circulation. This helps prevent pests and diseases which tomatoes are quite prone to.
Read Next: How To Grow Tomatoes: From Seed To Harvest