Gardening Vegetables

The World’s Weirdest Tomato?

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A lumpy, bumpy ‘Reisetomate’. Rwww.poetschke.de

Have you ever seen or grown a ‘Reisetomate’? It’s a tomato cultivar with strange, bumpy fruit, like a cluster of cherry tomatoes joined at the hip. It results from a condition called fasciation, where a growing point (meristem) begins to proliferate abnormally.Therefore it’s not a cluster of individual cherry tomatoes joined together like some people assume, but rather a single mutated fruit.

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Weird flowers, weird fruit! Source: @margaret othtenorth, Twitter

When you grow it, you’ll see that its stems, at first tubular like most tomatoes, soon often become flat and ribbon-like (fasciated) and even the flowers are often fasciated: extra-large and strangely split and deformed. The fruit simply continues that trend, splitting and dividing like a sort of vegetable tumor. Of course, the “tumor” is not cancerous nor does it cause cancer and in fact, like all tomatoes, the fruit contains plenty of antioxidants that help prevent the disease.

Not all the tomatoes on given plant are fully fasciated. Some are simply lobed, almost pumpkin-like in shape. When several fascinated tomatoes mature in a cluster, though, the result can be … well, almost scary!

Origins

The ‘Reisetomate’ is a traditional German or Austrian variety. Some sources claim it can be traced back to Guatemala, but I can find no proof of that. When traveling in that country, I showed pictures of it to farmers in public markets and no one I met there had ever seen such a thing.

Of course, the name is German and means “travel tomato,” suggesting it might simply be a mutation that originated in Europe from a normal tomato.

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Even green,‘Reisetomate’ is extremely odd-looking, almost disturbing! Source: @margaret othtenorth, Twitter. jpg

The name travel tomato comes from the idea you can easily carry this tough-textured tomato on your travels and simply snap off a piece whenever you’re hungry. Curiously, this doesn’t harm the original fruit. In fact, some tomato seed sites sell it under the names ‘Traveler’s Tomato’ or ‘Voyage’, which is not surprising, since heritage tomatoes like this do tend to pick up lots of names over time.

All the fruitlets on one fruit don’t necessarily ripen at quite the same time, so you may have both green and red ones in the same cluster, even green, red and overly ripe ones.

As for the taste, well, it’s distinctly on the sour side, almost lemony: it’s not your typical sugary tomato. It’s usually eaten fresh or in salads.

Growing It

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A cluster of fruits is quite impressive. Source: www.poetschke.de

‘Reisetomate’ is simple enough to grow: just treat it like any other tomato—full sun, warm growing conditions, rich soil, watering as needed—and practice crop rotation, since, as with most heritage tomatoes, it’s only moderately resistant to 21stcentury-strength tomato diseases.

The plant is indeterminate, but a rather short indeterminate: about 5 feet (1.5 m) at most and is very floppy and quite heavy, so it needs a good, stiff tomato cage or extra-strong staking. In mild climates, it’s grown as a perennial and grows back year after year, producing continuously where conditions allow it.

It matures in about 70 to 75 days once planted out and the tomatoes are average-sized (about 3–6 oz/85–170 g).

And like other heritage tomatoes, ‘Reisetomate’ is self-pollinating and generally comes true to type, so just harvest seeds from this year’s crop to start next year’s one.

An Improved ‘Reisetomate’?

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‘Godzilla’: a ‘Reisetomate’ with a more classic tomato taste. Source: store.tomatofest.com

If the idea of a sour tomato throws you, consider instead ‘Godzilla’. It’s a sort of improved ‘Reisetomate’, with a sweeter taste and all parts ripening at the same time. And it too is true to type from seed.

Where to Find It

You can readily find seeds of ‘Reisetomate’ in heritage vegetable and specialist tomato catalogs, both online and print ones. And though this tomato may be weird-looking, it’s not really rare. Check it out on the Internet: you’ll find it everywhere! Finding plants of ‘Reisetomate’ is another story. Usually only specialist tomato nurseries carry them.

‘Godzilla’ is not so easy to find: I only know of one source of seed: TomatoFest.

If you like impressing your neighbors with weird vegetables, you’ll enjoy growing a few plants of ‘Reisetomate’. If, however, the plant’s odd form simply makes you simply shudder with disgust, grow some other kind!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “The World’s Weirdest Tomato?

  1. mickthornton

    Very interesting stuff. I get most my seeds from Tomato fest, in fact, this year I have ten varieties, but haven’t tried Godzilla.

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