The Heritage Farm Collection: 'Missouri Pink Love Apple' tomato

The ‘Heritage Farm Collection’ debuted in the 2012 Seed Savers Exchange catalog and illustrates our latest efforts to move varieties from our seed vault to America’s dinner table.

The histories shared in the print catalog are a condensed summary of the full story. We have often collected a more complete history. We hope you enjoy this blog series, in which we publish full portraits of the varieties we are introducing (or re-introducing) in 2016.

Tomato - 'Missouri Pink Love Apple'

  • Pink beefsteak tomatoes grow with 1-3 fruit per cluster

  • Slightly sweet flavor with a juicy, meaty texture

  • Indeterminate plants have fruit that ripens all season

This variety was introduced into the Exchange by member Ron Thuma of Hartford, Kansas. He received it in 1992 from George and Bessie Jennings of Waverly, Kansas. The Jennings were an elderly couple who had heard about Ron’s interest in seed saving, so they contacted him to see if Ron wanted this tomato variety. The Jennings claimed that their ancestor “Grandpa Barnes” grew it during the 1860s but only as an ornamental plant because he thought tomatoes were poisonous (not an uncommon misconception at that time).

In October 2015, SSE staff members visited Ron Thuma at his home while we were attending the Mother Earth News Fair in Kansas. Ron has a large, meticulously clean garden that takes up most of his yard, and he has a long list of civic service accomplishments over his career, including Mayor of Hartford. Letters addressed to “Mr. Organic Gardener, Hartford, KS" will reach Ron.

Put it on the dinner table!

This slicing tomato is delicious fresh. Sprinkle with sugar or salt, add it to a sandwich, or chop into a fresh pico de gallo.

Grow it!

You should start plants indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost date for transplanting them into the garden. Plant them outdoors 2-4 weeks after your last expected frost.

Plant your seeds 1/4-1/2 in. deep in soil trays or pots. Transfer them to 3-4 in. pots when their true leaves appear. When transplanting, bury seedlings up the stems up to their leaves.

Make sure that your soil is well fertilized as this crop is a heavy feeder and takes a lot of nutrients from the soil. Consider adding compost to the soil the year before you plant.

These plants prefer warm weather and soil so they should be grown when temperatures are over 68 degrees F. You should avoid watering them from above as damp leaves may be susceptible to disease.

The CORE Project

This project represents the efforts of our Preservation program to document our Collection through the Evaluation and the Collection Origins Research Effort (CORE).

The CORE project began in 2011. It is an effort to record the Collection’s cultural history by gathering, documenting, and sharing stewardship history. Our comprehensive Evaluation program began in 2010. Evaluation staff document Collection growouts, including morphological traits, photographs, taste evaluation, and purity assessment. These programs converge to give us a rich portrait of individual varieties in our Collection.

When we identify varieties with both a compelling story and outstanding performance traits, they are ‘short listed’ for consideration in the ‘Heritage Farm Collection.’ Most ‘Heritage Farm Collection’ introductions are either family heirlooms or historic commercial varieties that faded from commerce.

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization located in Decorah, Iowa, with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.