True Black Brandywine

A nice dark beefsteak tomato. Fruit are medium large, 6-14 oz, produced in clusters of 2 or 3. They are very interesting in coloration – a deep dark pinky purple with bronze/green/purple shading on the shoulders. The plants are vigorous and the yield varies from pretty good to good. The flavor is very good, complex and full flavored.


Jere Gettle of Baker Creek Seeds received seeds for this variety from his friend, William Woys Weaver of PA, a famous food writer, who said it was passed down to him from his grandfather’s collection. It was released in 2008.As to its history, Will states "The 'true' Black Brandywine was bred sometime in the late 1920s by Dr. Harold E. Martin (1888-1959), a dentist turned plant breeder who is best remembered today for his famous pole lima with huge seeds. Dr. Martin lived in Westtown, PA, only a few miles from my grandfather's place in West Chester, and the two were gardening buddies. It was through that connection that his grandfather managed to wheedle seed out of the good doctor, as well as the details on how he created it. Dr. Martin always had a high opinion of his plant creations and did not like to share them–he charged 25 cents a seed for his lima, unheard of in those days. And he never released his Black Brandywine to a seed company, nor did he share it with many people, so I am fairly certain it never circulated among growers like his popular lima bean. According to my grandfather, Black Brandywine was a controlled cross between Brandywine and the original brown Beefsteak tomato otherwise known as Fejee Improved. Fejee Improved is probably extinct."

You can see Mr Weaver's article about this tomato in the Winter 06/07 issue of "The Heirloom Gardener" magazine if you can find a copy.

There are some questions about this story regarding the time of release – why wait so long to release it and as to the name (Why True when there were supposedly no other black Brandywines at that time) and the varieties it was supposed to be bred from (Fejee was a red/pink tomato and so was brandywine).More information can be found at the Tomatoville forum.

Here are some links about Fejee:

The first one is from the Genesee Farmer: A Monthly Journal Devoted to Agriculture and ..., Volumes 20-21


I really like reading from this Journal, full of information and history.

And next from Fearing Burr’s classic - “The Field and Garden Vegetables of America” from 1863 on page 633. The whole book is fascinating reading.


Color: Dark
Shape: Beefsteak
Maturity: 85 Days
Plant Type: Indeterminate
Leaf Type: Potato
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