I MUST HAVE CUT CLASS WHEN ‘RIESENTRAUBE’ TOMATO was in the lesson plan. But how could I have missed or slept through what looks to be such a spectacular small-fruited tomato, especially one that’s been around for more than a century? Thanks to my old friend Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (source of the photo, left), which in 1994 became the first catalog to carry this heirloom, for waking me up to my oversight. Noted, and ordered.
I love ‘Sun Gold’ tomatoes, the tangerine-colored cherry, and wouldn’t be without one plant each year, but I’m always wishing there was a red cherry-sized fruit that was a little different—not your predictable ‘Sweet 100’ or ‘Sweet Million’ kind of character. The larger ‘Chadwick’s Cherry’ is someone special, but an indeterminate grower and later to yield. Perhaps in ‘Riesentraube’ I have finally found my dreamboat?
‘Riesentraube’ (which means giant grape, probably for the way the fruits are bunched) is various said to have good flavor—beefsteak-like, says Southern Exposure—in a highly prolific plant that produces several hundred flowers and then giant clusters of 20 or even 40-plus fruits apiece. I can hardly wait, but I must, as it’s not time to start tomato seeds here yet by a longshot. Though some sources say ‘Riesentraube’ is a compact plant, I suspect that those claims are relative to other indeterminate small-fruited tomato plants, which can get very, very large. We shall see.
Each fruit of this East German heirloom, perhaps grown by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 19th century, has a distinctive pointed end—heirloom tomato expert Amy Goldman calls that “beaked”—and is about an inch and a quarter long. In her book “The Heirloom Tomato,” Goldman says ‘Riesentraube’ is actually a miniature plum.
What’s your favorite small-fruited tomato? Is there room for ‘Riesentraube’ in your life?