fresh, ripe heirloom tomatoes
(Image credit: GUARDDON / Getty Images)

Whether you say "to-may-to" or to-mah-to," you have probably never seen one quite like Thorburn's Terracotta tomato. Yes, Terracotta's hue is a rich terracotta. But that's not the only feature that makes this heirloom vegetable a cool addition to your garden. The Terracotta is full of surprises. If you would like more information on Thorburn's Terracotta tomato or growing heirloom tomatoes in general, read on.

What is Thorburn's Terracotta Tomato?

You're accustomed to red tomatoes, and yellow ones are also pretty common in supermarkets. But you may not know that seeds for a honey-brown tomato variety have been available in commerce since the late 1800s. The Terracotta was first advertised in the 1893 JM Thorburn & Company seed catalog. It resulted from a cross between other tomato hybrids developed by the grower.

The "grandmother" variety was "Peach," a fuzzy, orange tomato. It was crossed with a number of other favorites, and a subsequent cross of the best of the hybrids produced Terracotta. Thorburn's terracotta tomato plant is one to consider for your veggie garden. It's a super-productive vine that grows golden-brown tomatoes, a very unusual shade. The skin doesn't shine at all, but is lusterless and slightly downy like grandmother "Peach."

The form of Thorburn's terracotta tomato is unusual as well. Don't expect to see deep lobes or seams in this fruit. Rather, look for gentle waves in the tomato surface. Of course, that's not the sole way in which this heritage tomato is unique.

When you slice a Terracotta, you'll find the inside looks different from any other tomato you've ever seen. The seeds are all located just below the skin. Once you get beyond the pulp cell layer that holds the seeds, you come to the center of the fruit. It's solid, tender flesh so mild that it's delicious raw. But it's fun to cook too, since it turns a sauce into a pumpkin orange.

Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Growing heirloom tomatoes is no more difficult than growing regular tomatoes. They don't require any special care. Plant tomatoes in rich, well-draining soil in a site with lots of direct sun. Irrigate them regularly. The Terracotta heirloom bears fruit early and is extremely prolific. It will keep producing tomatoes though the first frost.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.