German Johnsons

Admittedly it seems an odd time of year to be blogging about tomatoes. But it’s not too early to start thinking about next summer’s gardens, and with the seed catalogs starting to arrive, I’ve been thinking about next year’s tomatoes.

Last year deer destroyed 90% of our crop, but we were very fortunate that I had planted one small patch that was easily defended. We were especially fortunate that that little garden was planted in German Johnsons.

IMG_7296

Behold, the mighty German Johnson

Unknown in much of the country, I like to think of the German Johnson as the heirloom of our area. It is definitely the most popular heirloom here (Cherokee Purple running a distant second) and we quickly sell out of them. Like all heirlooms, they’re finicky and somewhat undependable. “Commercial” growers wouldn’t bother with them. But to us they’re indispensable tastes of summer. Sliced thick, on a piece of bread or two, with a generous helping of Duke’s mayonnaise (there is no substitute) is a summertime favorite around here. I probably eat my weight in tomato sandwiches every summer.

IMG_7218

This was the first sandwich of last year (and not featuring a German Johnson). Once the big’uns arrived, a single slice would cover the entire piece of bread.

I’m thinking of reducing the amount of tomatoes we grow this year, concentrating on producing a high-quality crop of German Johnsons. We’ll grow some Romas as well, but I’m seriously considering growing no other varieties next year.

If any of you want to weigh in and argue the merits of some other tomato I will politely hear you out. But here theΒ German Johnson reigns supreme.

IMG_7706

Advertisements

44 comments on “German Johnsons

  1. I will have to try German Johnson next year. Bradley is the most popular around middle Tennessee because they handle the heat. They always sell out first in plant sells. I think you need to plant multiple varieties because you never know what kind of weather you will have and multiple varieties is some “insurance” you might get some tomatoes.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’ve never heard of Bradley. Interesting how regional preferences for tomatoes can be so different. That’s refreshing in a time when the grocery stores want us all to eat exactly the same (tasteless) tomatoes.

      We will grow Romas as well and we have Matt’s Wild Cherry growing wild here now. I haven’t been happy with our Marglobes the past few years so this year I switched to Rutgers and didn’t like it either. All our other favorites are so similar to German Johnsons that it doesn’t make much sense to me to take up space that could be used to grow the German Johnsons to grow them. But I might put out a small number of something else as an experiment. You’re right that it’s a good idea not to put all the eggs in one basket.

      Like

  2. valbjerke says:

    I won’t argue for one tomatoe or another – rather I’ll argue for productivity – your own.
    Last year I planted no tomatoes at all. As I have to grow them in my wee greenhouse, they take up a tremendous amount of space, require tons of water, lots of chicken manure, calcium….you get the picture….I decided my time was far better spent focusing on veggies that were able to take better care of themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • valbjerke says:

      Shoot – hit the wrong button. My point is that if you can easily defend a small patch of those popular tomatoes then by all means grow them, and then turn your other less defendable tomato patch over to something else. I didn’t consider how much time and effort I was putting into tomatos until I stopped growing the things – especially considering that my son who lives in the olanagan will drive up here with a hundred pounds of the things any time I’m ready to can them. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      If we weren’t growing for market I’d cut way back on tomatoes. They are time-consuming, susceptible to disease, and the heirlooms aren’t great producers. On top of all that, now we have to do expensive and time-consuming deer exclusion. But our tomatoes are probably our most popular item at the market and bring a very good price. So we can’t just drop them. Plus we need a lot for our own use. Aside from the mountain of tomato sandwiches I eat in the summer, we make sauce and freeze a lot too. But at year end we go over everything and this year I’m going to do a better job of eliminating crops that take a lot of time yet don’t produce much return.

      Liked by 1 person

      • valbjerke says:

        Good point about the market. We’ve considered taking part in the farmers market here (well I am anyway) – but I need to do a lot more homework first to see what would be best to sell. If you’re getting a good price for them then it makes sense to grow them. Up here in zone 3 I’ve never been able to produce enough to cover my own canning needs.

        Like

  3. My hubby would agree with you on the bread, mayo, tomato lunch – although we don’t have Duke’s mayo here, nor do I believe anyone grows German Johnsons – so probably not the same culinary experience at all πŸ™‚

    Like

  4. avwalters says:

    I’ll look into German Johnsons. We grow a variety –mostly to meet our canning tastes. Heirlooms often are the best sources of tasty, high-acid tomatoes. Yes, the garden nurseries all push those low-acid tomatoes, but they are not the safest canning option, where high acid levels reduce the risk of canning poisons. We do a number of canning varieties for sauce, two roma-types for “meaty” textured diced and whole canned tomatoes and then a couple of old favorites for eating–brandywine, bruno, and (I’m almost ashamed to say) sun gold. We’d never make it as market gardeners, too many varieties combined with a healthy dose of tomato greed.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I love Brandywines. Similar to our GJs. I used to grow yellow slicers every year so we’d have a low-acid option (Dixie Golden Giant was my favorite, but we grew yellow Brandywines too), but I quit a couple of years ago. We planted 5 varieties last year in quantity and about 5 others in smaller amounts just for us. That was done considerably from the number of varieties we’ve grown in the past. I’m seriously considering going down to just two in quantity this year–GJ and Roma. We grew Sun Golds year before last expecting they’d be a big hit at the market but they weren’t. We even did give-aways and side-by-side taste tests against our Matt’s Wild Cherry. Even though Sun Gold always defeated Matt’s, we still sold far more of the Matt’s. People here just want their cherry tomatoes red I suppose. We prefer Matt’s. It’s a delicious blight-resistant heirloom that produces like crazy and grows anywhere. Far better producer than Sun Gold. So we’re just going to stick to the Matt’s Wild, which, true to their name, grow wild here now.

      Like

      • avwalters says:

        I’ll give Matt’s a try. The color isn’t critical, I’m just looking for a super-sweet cherry tomato. I confess, they rarely make it into the kitchen. We both snack on them while gardening.

        Like

      • Bill says:

        I think you’ll love Matt’s then. They’re very sweet and great for snacking while working in the garden. Give them plenty of room because they grow into a huge bush and crank out an amazing quantity of tomatoes. It’s the only heirloom tomato that is naturally blight-resistant. It was discovered growing wild in Hidalgo Mexico, so I’m not sure how it will do in your climate. But it thrives here.

        Liked by 1 person

      • shoreacres says:

        That’s funny. My picking farm grows Sun Golds, and they’re so popular they’re hard to get. You have to get up early in the morning to find them — have to beat the crowds.

        Like

      • Bill says:

        They’re very popular. But not here. Our chickens ate a lot of them.

        Like

  5. Joanna says:

    I think we have about 20 varieties and some grow better in one year than others. That isn’t to say we have lots of each sorts, maybe only one or two of some types. My only comment though is to add in some different colours. After all they look pretty in a salad πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Bill says:

      We grew some Cherokee Purples last year (the deer feasted on most of them), a wonderfully delicious purple tomato. We also grew Black Brandywine–another large delicious heirloom. I don’t bother with yellow tomatoes anymore. Not enough interest in them and we prefer the pink or red heirlooms for our personal use. But I admit it’s fun to grow new varieties so we may put some in pots. But our main crop will be German Johnson.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Will have to try out the Germans this year. I usually grow Brandywines and Mortgage Busters along with the Amish paste. This year I grew my tomatoes in straw bales and had the biggest crops ever πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chuck says:

      The Germans always seem to come in one big bunch, so I plant a lot of the Brandywine as well. They seem to have a more spread out ripening season.

      Like

      • Bill says:

        Interesting. I hadn’t noticed that about Brandywines. The German Johnsons are also indeterminates, so they do spread out all year. We used to grow Marglobes for canning tomatoes. After a couple of poor years with those I switched to Rutgers. But I don’t think we’re going to bother growing any determinates next year.

        Like

    • valbjerke says:

      Straw bales – never thought of that. I do grow potatoes in straw/manure… Get some excellent yields. Definitely going to look into that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Brandywine is a wonderful tomato, very similar to the GJ. If you try the German Johnsons I’ll be interested to hear how you think they compare. As for straw bales, I’ve never done it but I have friends who raised a lot of great-looking produce in straw bales behind their city apartment. I was amazed. Will have to try it someday.

      Like

  7. Have you ever grown Mortgage Lifter, a derivative of German Johnson?

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I love Mortgage Lifter! A delicious large heirloom, very similar to the GJ. We used to grow a lot of them, but in our market people want German Johnsons. They’ll buy Mortgage Lifter only if the German Johnsons are all gone. Given that they’re so similar it didn’t make sense for us to grow ML in space that could be growing GJ.

      Like

  8. I can’t argue with you on the German Johnsons, or any tomatoe grown in your neck of the woods given that I live in the PNW and we aren’t known for our tomatoes… But I have to politely disagree with you on the “no substitute” for Duke’s. I’m a huge mayo fan and I admit I’ve never had the pleasure of trying Dukes, but once you’ve had homemade – especially when made with your own chicken’s eggs – there’s no going back. In case you were thinking homemade mayo is difficult and time-consuming, I bring you a gift – this link will show you how to make it in a minute in a mason jar. http://www.nwedible.com/magically-fast-and-easy-homemade-mayonnaise/
    FYI – I don’t think it needs the Dijon.
    I also think the tomatoes and mayo taste infinitely better on lightly toasted bread and dusted with salt and pepper. I’m just saying…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, the tomato that seems to do the best for me is the old standard Rutgers. I did try Early Girl, Mortgage Lifter, and Beefsteak. Of course the Early Girl was the first to produce a ripe fruit on July 5th. Beefsteak was next and Mortgage lifter was last in production. Rutgers takes awhile to get started but when it starts producing I better have my jars ready to go or have a lot of people wanting tomatoes. I canned 12 quarts and gave away baskets full of tomatoes from just seven plants. Next year the Rutgers will still reign supreme but I’ll try some other tomatoes along with the Early Girl.

    We’ve had previous discussions about the bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwiches of the Midwest. I still am of the opinion that summer hasn’t arrived until a good mouth full of bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich has been tasted. I didn’t know there was any other way to eat tomatoes on a sandwich until the discussions here on this blog. I did try just a tomato sandwich after the last discussion and it was tasty but since I’ve been raised on meat, potatoes, and corn all my life a tomato sandwich just needs some bacon and lettuce. πŸ™‚

    Deer don’t seem to like tomatoes here in Nebraska. Well, I guess they go more for the sweet corn, squash flowers, pumpkin buds, and strawberries. Anyway next year will be a good gardening year, don’t you think?

    Have a great seed catalog browsing day.

    Like

    • Sue says:

      David–What would gardeners do if there wasnt’ NEXT YEAR–LOL!
      It’s what keeps us going through all the bugs, deer, coons, heat, humidity, bugs.
      Next year just HAS to be better!
      : )

      Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      For a determinate that produces the tomatoes all at once, Marglobe has been our pick. It’s a delicious old tomato but for the last couple of years we’ve had problems with it. So on the advice of a neighbor we switched to Rutgers this year. I’ll give them credit for fighting back and producing even after the deer mowed them down, but I’m not inclined to try them again this year. Maybe just a few. I’ll put up with the hassle of staking, tying and pruning to get those big fat slicers. πŸ™‚

      No bacon and lettuce on the tomato sandwiches here in the South. Just mayo (Dukes of course) and maybe some salt and pepper (none for me though). They really are are main summer staple.

      As for deer eating tomato plants, I’d never seen it either. They’re nightshades and I thought they were poisonous. We’ve never fenced the tomatoes, although we have had deer take a few bites out of the fruit once they were producing. But this year they ate hundreds of plants, really messing up our big plans for a tomato crop. They hadn’t gotten to one little patch by the time I realized what was happening (other than a few plants on the edge), so I planted 7 foot t-posts on the corners and hung chicken wire around the garden. I also ran high tensile wire along the perimeter so they couldn’t walk down the rows. It was a small area so they couldn’t easily jump the fence without feeling trapped. It was pain for me to get in and out of that garden, but it worked to save those plants and we got great production from them.

      Like

  10. Sue says:

    Ha–funny timing as I just this morning put in my order at Fedco and I am trying them this year.
    I hated to switch from my beloved Brandywines, but the maturity date is too long for my ultra short growing season. I’m hoping the German Johnson can produce in time (and taste great too!)

    Like

    • Bill says:

      You have your Fedco catalog? I’m jealous. Ours hasn’t arrived yet. That catalog is one of my favorites and we order a lot of seed from them.

      I’ve long been a fan of Brandywine. A classic. I hope the German Johnsons produce well for you. I’m anxious to know what you think of them.

      Like

  11. smcasson says:

    “I will politely hear you out”
    Translation: “Ya ain’t gonna change my mind.” πŸ™‚
    We grew a disastrously tasty cherry tomato called Blondkopfchen this year. It was also quite prolific. Eh, but you’re talking slicers. Blondkopfchen was actually our only tomato success… :/

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Just having a little fun. πŸ™‚
      Our favorite cherry is Matt’s Wild. It’s an heirloom that produces a huge amount of delicious red cherry toms. It’s blight-resistant to boot. The only blight-resistant heirloom (of any type) to my knowledge.
      We’re scaling way back on cherries though. They take a long time to pick and there isn’t enough demand for them to justify growing lots of them. They come up wild around here now and I enjoy having a few handfuls as a pre-breakfast snack when doing chores in the summer. πŸ™‚

      Like

  12. shoreacres says:

    Actually, I’m with nebraskadave on the sandwich — sort of. The perfect one is lightly toasted bread, mayo, tomato, and bacon. No lettuce. That’s the standard. I did start having tomato sandwiches when I decided that I really didn’t need all that bacon. Now I try to alternate. It got easier after I learned to bake a pound of bacon in the oven, and then use it as needed.

    But no one has mentioned the single, strange thing about your tomatoes. “German Johnson”? Isn’t that an oxymoron of sorts? It took me a couple of days to figure out why that sounded so strange. All the Johnsons I know came from a few countries west. πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Nationwide I’m sure the BLT is far more popular. But no one puts bacon on a tomato sandwich here. I’d never even heard of it till I moved away. We don’t put lettuce on the sandwich either, but that makes sense since lettuce and tomato don’t grow at the same time here. There are lots of amusing and interesting articles out there about the Southern tomato sandwich. Some folks who move South never understand it, but some adopt it. Our intern this year (Farmer Khaiti’s sister Melanie) was from Minnesota and was unaware of the sublime joy of a tomato sandwich. But by the time she left here she loved them and I think she’s passed it on to Khaiti. We gave her a packet of German Johnson seeds when she left. πŸ™‚

      Your question about the origin of the name is a good one and a head-scratcher. I did a quick search and couldn’t find anything. One site says earlier settlers in Virginia and NC brought the seeds with them from Germany, but that makes no sense (tomatoes are from the New World) and wouldn’t explain the “Johnson” in any event. I’m curious now and will dig deeper on that question.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. When you have high quality ingredients, like these delicious tomatoes, it’s best to keep it simple — bread, mayo, tomato. That’s all you need!

    I’d never heard of German Johnsons, but I will definitely look for them at my local farmers market next summer.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s