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Smith & Hawken: 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden Paperback – July 1, 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This is a book for the true tomato snob who is not content with the ordinary red beefsteak weighing heavily on the vine at the end of summer. Yellow, pink, green, and orange tomatoes are all part of this guide to heirloom varieties, many of which are only available through catalogs or through an organization called the Seed Savers Exchange.

Author Carolyn Male favors heirlooms that have been passed down through families, not commercially created hybrids. She does not hesitate to be critical, calling some varieties mealy or bland, while others send her into epiphanies. Although she makes gestures toward guiding the novice, this is a book for either food fanatics or experts who move in the subculture of truly obsessed gardeners catering to gourmet cooks and specialty markets. Throughout the book, enticing photographs of freshly picked heirlooms remind the reader that grocery store tomatoes aren't really tomatoes at all, sitting sadly under fluorescent lights, losing their flavor and color. If only they had been born in a tomato snob's garden; then they would have been treated like royalty. -–Emily White

From the Publisher

Also in the series: 100 English Roses for the American Garden and 100 Orchids for the American Gardener.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company; First Edition edition (July 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761114009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761114000
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Ryan on April 7, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the book for anybody who has ever bitten into a store-bought tomato and wondered whatever happened to rich, juicy flavor. Three years ago I was asking myself that same question when I stumbled across Dr. Carolyn Male's 100 HEIRLOOM TOMATOES FOR THE AMERICAN GARDEN.
Written by an avid Seed Savers' Exchange member after she had grown more than 1,000 heirloom varieties of tomato, this book is an introduction to open-pollinated (as opposed to the unjustly popular hybridized) tomatoes for home gardeners. Dr. Male manages to discuss the historical and present significance of cultivating these heirlooms in a rational voice while yet relaying her passion for the flavorful heritage they represent to her. The field guide has full-page photographs of each kind with notes on their colorful origins, flavor types and everything else you could want to know about these personal treasures. Soon you will find yourself caught up in the mania to seek out the assortment of seeds that will yield tomatoes with character, lore and unbeatable taste.
Although it has a truncated field guide format and flexible cover, 100 HEIRLOOM TOMATOES also serves as an excellent primer for general tomato culture. In the first 42 pates you will learn about selecting the right heirloom for your purposes, germinating and transplanting, common diseases and conditions, saving your own seeds, etc. Dr. Male looks at various standard schools of thought thoughout this section while presenting good arguments for her own practices.
I found this book to be one of the more honest examinations of tomato varieties, from Dr. Male's frank mention of both pros and cons down to the photos, which displayed typical physiological flaws alongside more perfect examples of the fruit and foliage.
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I confess to a passionate love of growing tomatoes that goes back to childhood. And I have an equal love for the taste of those sun-warm, acid-sweet juicy fruits that make summer taste like summer. This year, finally moving to a tomato-friendly climate for the first time in two decades, I rushed to plant an heirloom tomato even in a container, before I could cultivate a true garden.

Heirloom tomatoes come from seeds saved by tomato enthusiasts who have done us all the huge favor of preserving varieties of tomatoes that taste great, look interesting (all kinds of colors) and far better than the F1 hybrid boring red globes palmed off by the average seed company. While F1 hybrid tomatoes are easy and reliable and very disease-resistant, they often lack that huge tomato taste we all remember from childhood. (These hybrid tomatoes do have their place, however. Some of the modern hybrids will mature in a very short time, thus are the only tomatoes you can grow in hostile climates like Germany and New England.)
This book has all the information I need for next year's adventure in tomato culture. It lists 100 heirloom varieties, gives their strengths (resistance to common tomato ailments, pleasing taste, form) and their weaknesses as well. In addition, Dr. Male provides the history of the variety, which is interesting reading.

The pictures by photographer Frank Iannotti are not only mouthwateringly lovely, but they accurately show a typical batch of tomatoes from a given cultivar--not all the fruits are perfect, some have typical defects such as stitching, weird shapes and other oddities. This gives you an accurate idea of what to expect.

I compared Dr. Male's description of Yellow Brandywine to my experience this year.
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While I was impressed with the exhaustive (yet lively) information

provided by Dr. Carolyn Male, perhaps MOST IMPORTANT to tomato

growers are the realistic pictures. Instead of 100 photos of

"perfect tomatoes" - you see the imperfections associated with

each variety: i.e. if the tomato is prone to cracking, green

shoulders, or catfacing... she tells you this AND provides

pictures! Two years ago, I was kicking myself for producing oddly

shaped and sometimes ugly heirloom tomatoes. Sure wish I had this

book back then.

If YOU plan to grow heirloom tomatoes... BUY THIS BOOK!!!
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Format: Paperback
By far the most popular vegetable--er, fruit--that North Americans grow in their home gardens is the once scorned tomato. Nowadays, the majority of the tomatoes grown are red, hybrid and fairly disease and crack resistant varieties. Most are, without a doubt, excellent tasting, much better than the "tomatoes" found in the local supermarket--even during prime tomato season--yet for those who have grown and enjoyed heirloom tomatoes, even these hybrids (and a few open-pollinated varieties) are second rate.
I'll admit, I have yet to grow more than one heirloom varieties--something will change this summer, should the weather in these parts ever decide to return to seasonal. That one variety is a German commercial variety known as Matina, about which I will mention more in a moment.
There is a growing movement of tomato growers who are becoming interested in heirloom tomatoes, and since knowledge about all of the varieties of heirlooms--some of which have sadly been lost--has declined as gardeners turned to more dependable hybrids, books like Carolyn J. Male's 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden is a welcomed and important work.
The author, a professor of microbiology, is one of the most knowledgeable enthusiast of the heirloom tomato, and has apparently herself grown c. 1200 varieties. It is her passion of the heirloom, along with her extensive experience and her committed effort to researching the origins of numerous heirloom varieties, that led her to compile this book of one hundred varieties that she feels are the best that both the experienced and neophyte heirloom tomato grower will enjoy growing.
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