Whether you’ve heard of them or not, oxheart tomatoes have been grown for many years by passionate gardeners. So, what are oxheart tomatoes?
Oxheart tomatoes are large, juicy tomatoes that have a pointed bottom. They’re very similar to the beefsteak varieties that you might be more familiar with. This variety of tomato generally ripens mid to late in the season and is extremely versatile.
Let’s discuss the main characteristics of oxheart tomatoes and when you should plant them for the best results.
What are Oxheart Tomatoes?
It’s believed that oxheart tomatoes were first discovered back in 1925. Their shape is actually the result of a natural mutation. This mutation has caused the blossom end of the tomato to elongate slightly. Ultimately, this elongation gives the tomato its interesting heart shape.
Because these varieties are similar in size and yield to beefsteak tomatoes, they were given the name of oxheart. Over the years, there have been many different tomato breeding programs using this species, and this has resulted in an increase of available oxheart varieties available to the home gardener.
Another quite important characteristic of this tomato is that it is very meaty, and the seed cavities are quite small in relation to the size of the fruit. In fact, it has been recorded that oxheart tomatoes can easily reach a weight of over one pound each. Some individual tomatoes have even been recorded as weighing 2 or 3 pounds.
Traditionally, these tomatoes were primarily red or pink. However, with the abundance of breeding programs, they are also available in orange, yellow, purple, and green.
It’s also important to note that all the different oxheart varieties are indeterminate. This means that they’ll grow quite large and continue to grow right throughout the season. Therefore, they’re going to need regular pruning and good staking.
However, there are dwarf varieties available as well. These are still indeterminate, but they won’t grow quite as tall as other standard varieties. Dwarf varieties are ideal for gardeners with limited space because they can be successfully grown in large pots.
How to Plant and Grow Oxheart Tomatoes
In general, oxheart tomatoes produce a mid to late-season crop. They will take around 70 to 90 days from seed-sowing to harvest. Therefore, when you plant them depends on your climate and the length of your growing season.
If you plan to grow these from seeds, you should start your plants indoors around 4 to 8 weeks before the date of the last expected frost in your area. Then, you can plant your seedlings outdoors once the temperature is not predicted to fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).
You might also be able to locate seedlings of oxheart tomatoes at your local garden center. This eliminates the need to start your plants indoors from seeds.
Expert tip: When planting your seedlings, whether into the garden or into a large pot, remove the lower leaves and plant them deep. This includes burying a small section of the lower stem to encourage additional root growth. These additional roots will give the plant more stability as it grows.
Once you’ve planted your seedlings into the garden or into large pots, it’s important to give them a good watering as this helps to settle the soil around the roots and gives the plants plenty of moisture.
You’ll also find that these tomato varieties are heavy feeders, so it’s important to add some fertilizer once they’re planted. Choose a fertilizer that’s lower in nitrogen and higher in potassium and phosphorus. This will encourage blooming and fruiting once the plants are large enough.
Regular Maintenance is Required after Planting
Continue to feed your plants throughout the season to get as much yield as possible. You can give them a liquid feed every 7 to 14 days. Or, you might prefer to use a continuous release fertilizer in granular form. This should only need to be applied once a month as per the instructions on the pack.
There are plenty of fertilizers available that are designed specifically for tomatoes or similar fruiting crops. Therefore, try and select one of these to get the best from your tomato plants.
Because these are indeterminate tomatoes, be sure to remove all the side shoots as soon as they appear. You’ll have to be fairly vigilant as these can grow quite quickly. If you allow these to remain on the plant, you’ll end up with a lower yield of fruit because the plant will put its energy into this new growth rather than into producing flowers and fruits.
Lastly, don’t forget that these tomato varieties will require staking to support the growing vine. Make sure that the supports you use are strong enough to keep the vines off the ground. The plants will get quite heavy once they’re bearing fruit, and you don’t want a strong wind to come along and break the vine.
Luckily, oxheart tomatoes are fairly resistant to common tomato diseases like fusarium wilt. However, you will need to keep an eye out for various pests like tomato hornworms, armyworms, loopers, and cutworms. Use an organic spray designed for use on tomatoes to combat these pests.
What are the Most Popular Oxheart Tomato Varieties?
To help you get started with growing oxheart tomatoes, here’s a list of the most popular varieties, along with how many days it takes from planting seeds to the first harvest.
|Oxheart Variety||Days to First Harvest|
|Japanese Oxheart (pink to red)||80|
|Livingston’s Giant Oxheart (dark red)||85|
|Livingston’s Yellow Oxheart (low acid)||90|
|Dwarf Purple Oxheart||85|
|Anna Russian (pink to red)||70|
|Coeur de Boeuf (orange-red)||85|
|Willieboy (deep pink)||75|
What are the Best Uses for Oxheart Tomatoes?
Oxheart tomatoes are big and meaty. This makes them ideal to use in salads and sandwiches. Thanks to their size, you’re only going to need one slice for your sandwich. And, when you grow them yourself, you’ll be amazed at the delicious taste of these giant tomatoes.
Another great way to use oxheart tomatoes is to scoop out the flesh and stuff them for a delicious vegetarian meal or as a side dish. Use the flesh that you’ve scooped out in dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese.
If you find that you have an oversupply, you can also use these hearty tomatoes to make tomato sauce or paste. You might find that you have to cook them a little longer to make a nice thick sauce, though.
Are Oxheart Tomatoes Considered as Heirloom Varieties?
The original oxheart tomatoes are indeed heirlooms. It’s believed that they were first discovered in Russia or Siberia back in the 1920s. However, many of the different varieties available today are hybrids that have been bred by commercial growers. These hybrid varieties will have sterile seeds.
If you are fortunate enough to get hold of some seeds from the original heirloom varieties, it’s a good idea to collect some seeds from your fruit so that you can plant these the following year. This is a good way to ensure the survival of these old and valuable varieties.