The tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) did not come to Germany until well after the Spanish introduced it into Europe in the 1600s. Initially grown as an ornamental, rather than food, even in the mistaken belief the fruit was poisonous, it took until the late 1700s prior tomatoes were widely grown in northwestern Europe. Once Germans began growing tomatoes, they produced new varieties, a few of which are still with us today since heirloom cultivars.
Germany has cold winters, so the tropical tomato, hardy only to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 11 and 12, grows as a summer annual or greenhouse plant there. Tomato cultivars produced in Germany generally take 75 to 85 days to produce fruit. This leaves enough of this summer growing time to crop a generous crop. Some heirloom tomatoes have “German” as part of the name, but this does not signify that they originated in Germany. Many of them are American heirlooms that came from Amish or Mennonite communities, like “Early German,” “Striped German” and “Tidwell German.”
“German Red Strawberry” does not taste like strawberries, but it’s a heart-shaped fruit narrow in the bottom end, resembling the shape of a strawberry. It’s a favorite for slicing for sandwiches as well as eating fresh. The flavor is rich and complicated, with a minor lingering sweetness. Tomatoes are meaty, with few seeds and small juice. Most fruits weigh in about one pound.
“Marizol Gold” is a sizable 2-pound fruit, yellow flushed with crimson. Cut open this juicy tomato to see the red-and-yellow marbled flesh. It was brought to the USA in the 1800s by the Bratka family. Fruits are somewhat flattened and ribbed along with the crops are somewhat heavy bearers. “Mary Robinson’s German Bicolor” has red stripes and shading on a gold background. It has a sweet, mild flavor and takes 80 to 90 days to produce fruit.
“German Head” is a midseason dark pink beefsteak type tomato. Plants have high yields of 12-ounce into 1-pound fruits borne in clusters of 2 to three tomatoes. The rich flavor combines with a smooth, creamy feel unusual for tomatoes. “Eva Purple Ball” is a very symmetrical around pink tomato additionally attributed to this Bratka family. The deceptive common name dates back to the Victorian custom of referring to colours containing pink as “purple .” Yet another beefsteak tomato, “German Pink” has a complete sweet flavor and is used fresh or to make paste. This cultivar is potato-leaved and vegetables are generally about 12 ounces.
“Riesentraube” is a red, heavy-bearing old German variety with richer flavor than most cherry tomatoes. The name means “large group of grapes,” reflecting that often 20 to 40 fruits cluster together on branch ends. There’s also a yellow version, “Yellow Riesentraube,” that is sweeter than the red variety. Other yellow cherry tomatoes comprise “Blondkopfchen” and “Reinhard’s Goldkirsche.” “Blondkopfchen” is sweet with citrusy overtones, and is very prolific, with large clusters of 1-inch fruit. “Reinhard’s Goldkirsche” is a modern hybrid made by Reinhard Kraft. Large vines yield ample, somewhat translucent, golden-yellow 1-inch fruits.