The Cottage Smallholder

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Grow Red Brandy Wine tomatoes for flavour and great returns


Photo: Red Brandy Wine tomatoes waiting to ripen

Photo: Red Brandy Wine tomatoes waiting to ripen

We’ve grown a wonderful new (to us) tomato this year. Taking Tamar’s advice – she writes the sparky Starving off the Land blog  – I invested in an American variety of tomato seed called Red Brandy Wine. This variety has some resistance to blight. I spotted biodynamic seed in the Lunar Organics online catalogue . Following biodynamic principles, I sowed the seed on a fruit day. Then pricked out and planted on the relevant day. Incidentally I found the Lunar Organics biodynamic calendar much easier to use than Maria Thum’s calendar.

We grew some RBW in the greenhouse, a few against the sunny south west facing wall of the cottage and a line along the back of the new asparagus patch. This row has produced vast fruits, much bigger than their siblings at the front of the cottage. They have not had much TLC and have largely been ignored. In fact I’ve only fed them twice this summer. The fruits are so heavy that I’ll need to build a much heftier frame when I grow them next year. And I reckon that the fruit need individual nets as the stems are folding under the strain of the weight!

Some of the RBW tomatoes in the greenhouse have ripened so I bought one inside for breakfast yesterday and tentatively sliced off a sliver to sample. After months of cherishing it can be so disappointing if a tomato doesn’t taste as great as you think it should. My mouth was filled with the flavour of a great operatic tomato – with a whole swathe of tomatoey notes. I haven’t eaten a tomato like this since we were in Italy, seven years ago. Perfect. It slices like a dream too – tomato sandwiches here I come. The hefty 300g tom was good grilled too.

I don’t know the secret of my success with our toms this year. We have over 40 plants and a wide range of varieties. Perhaps it was that really long stretch of hot weather earlier in the year? Or following the biodynamic calendar, feeding the soil with Rockdust last Autumn, piling on barrow loads of well rotted manure in the Spring. Perhaps companion planting is the secret – apparently tomatoes and asparagus adore each other.

It also might be that RBW are just huge tomatoes. It’s difficult to associate these heavyweights with the tiny seedlings that germinated back in February.

I’m going to use the biodynamic calendar and companion planting again next year. And keep on working on improving the quality of the soil. As Danny says
“If our methods are working and we get great crops let’s do the same next year.”

If you want to try companion planting for yourself, I thoroughly recommend Companion Planting by Brenda Little. It has been reprinted several times and I can understand why. It’s excellent.

Meanwhile we are hoping for a few sunny days to ripen our tomato crop!

  Leave a reply


  1. amy manning

    I agree. Brandywines are yummy. My crop is just starting to ripen.

  2. I grow Tumbling Toms in hanging baskets and raised pots. They were very prolific this year and very sweet.

  3. Fiona sent me some seeds for Brandywine this year and I agree it is a wonderful fruit. I have had some major botrytis problems with them though and lost quite a few. Next year I think they will go nearer the door to give a better air flow.
    My exchange for Fiona were some Amish Paste seed and mine are fruiting well but taking a long time to ripen.
    26 assorted tomato plants this year, some better than others. Certainly won’t bother with Garden Pearl again, tasteless and quick to split. Most are in the freezer for Mum to use in her winter stews. Can anyone suggest a cherry tom suitable for some hanging baskets?

  4. Granny Sue

    Brandywines are one of the most flavorful tomatoes I’ve grown, and have become a staple in our garden. We had a very good tomato year in West Virginia, a blessing after last year.

    Two other favorites on my tomato list (and it’s a l-o-n-g list): little yellow pear and Amish Paste. The pear tomatoes are incredibly sweet and flavorful; the Amish Paste are large, thick, meaty tomatoes with a roma-like shape; perfect for canning.

  5. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    God I wish I’d thought to describe Brandywines as “operatic.” That’s utter genius — it’s exactly what they are. They’re a big, beautiful, spectacle of a tomato. We’re enjoying ours now, too, and it’s the only time of the year we eat BLTs because we think only a Brandywine can really stand up to bacon.

    Let’s toast from our respective continents — here’s to the Brandywine.

  6. you don`t actually need sunshine or even daylight to ripen your tomatoes, they ripen by emzymic action i.e as they ripen they give off Ethylene gas, and it is this that causes them to ripen fully. Try it! take some green ones off the vine, place them in a dark draw, or on a tray and cover them with a sheet of newspaper, they will ripen faster than on the vine! – a useful tip if you suddenly discover a problem with a plant that is loaded with useable green ones, can sometimes save your crop!

  7. I was just thinking I need to try a Brandywine next year because it always gets such rave reviews.

    If frost threatens your green tomatoes, my next door neighbors (who used to have a farm before they retired) advise pulling up the whole plant and hanging it upside down in the garage to let them continue to ripen. I’m going to try that with my Burbanks this year, which, by the way, make GREAT tomato sandwiches. Hmmmm….Steve just baked a loaf of bread last night and I have a bunch of Burbanks on the counter….I think I know what we’re having for dinner tonight….

  8. It has not been a good tomato year here in Portland Oregon (too cold and damp a summer) I wish that I could grow Brandwine here. My best tomato growing friends can only get that variety to ripen occasionally, but when it does…WOW! They are one of the most flavorful tomatoes that I know of, and are usually really large. They tend to do better with long hot summer weather, is my understanding, and in a different climate than our bioregion. So may you enjoy them to the fullest!

  9. Kooky Girl

    I had the same experience as Joanna, a good tomato harvest with lots of ripe tomatoes, but not a whole lot of taste… I’m glad yours have done well, next year I will try some of your tips.

  10. Glad you had some success with the tomatoes you had. Like you said it can be such a let down when they don’t taste good. Home grown tomatoes should taste fantastic, otherwise they are not worth growing. We had good growing weather this year as it was hot but the tomatoes were a bit weak in the taste department, I guess we need to try something slightly different next year.

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