Tomatoes Worth Growing: ‘Mennonite Orange’

Meaty, dense, huge, and prolific: I didn’t intend to grow ‘Mennonite Orange’ last summer, but boy am I ever glad I did.

    The details:

  • 80 days
  • Indeterminate
  • Open-pollinated heirloom
  • Beefsteak, Slicer
  • Orange
  • Ripens: Mid-season
  • Story: Originally from Pennsylvania but grown in Southern Ontario.
  • Container Growing: You’ll need a really big pot, 16″+ deep.

One thing you can always count on is that no matter how hard I try, I always over-sow tomato seeds. With over 130 varieties in my ever-expanding collection and limited growing space, it’s no surprise that I overdo it. Each spring I make my way through the box they are kept in, weeding it down to 50 varieties, give or take, that I will start from seed.

I do not have the space for 50 varieties!

When the time comes to plant them outside, I slowly make my choices. I never really know what will make the final cut until it is in the soil, and even then I often find myself scrambling to locate a patch of sun or one more container so as to not be disappointed by those I simply could not fit that year. The remainders go to friends, although in the process of giving plants away I often acquire a few that I had not anticipated.

This is how I ended up with ‘Mennonite Orange.’ My friend David came over to pick up some seedlings for his community garden plot and brought along an extra to give me. And even though I had no real idea what I was getting into (Orange beefsteak, Indeterminate, was the sum total of my knowledge then) I could not refuse. I can never refuse.

I no longer recall which of the varieties that I had reared was cast aside in favour of this new plant, but it hardly matters now. ‘Mennonite Orange’ flourished and grew into a sturdy and not overly sprawling vine in no time. When the fruit arrived they were enormous; thick and dense slicers exactly how I like them. They were mild but sweet and tasty for an orange variety — they became our favourite sandwich tomato of the summer. They produced all season long and kept going late, after many other varieties had long ago called it quits. Every last one was over a pound, even the very end-of-season stragglers. I was surprised how easily the green fruit ripened indoors. They were a little mealy but still good.

I would definitely grow this variety again, possibly even this year. We’ll see. Anything could happen.

Have you grown this variety? What did you think?

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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22 thoughts on “Tomatoes Worth Growing: ‘Mennonite Orange’

  1. I have a terrible time with Beefsteak varieties here in Vancouver, BC. I’ve tried a yellow brandywine for two years in a row, and think I’m done with it. The nepal did alright as did a pink, but we definitely need to cover everything in plastic labour day weekend to get any sort of a crop.

    But growing tomatoes is a bit addictive … over half my 10×10 plot last year plus easily 5-6 in containers.

    • Not enough sun and heat to support them? Problems with fungus/viruses? We had a very hot summer in Toronto so that helped. Although it was too hot and dry for a time

  2. Wow, beautiful and looks yummy! I admit, when I heard you say you had way to many seedlings I had to restrain myself from saying “oh! pick me! pick me!” That’s irrational though as I also have way too many tomato seedlings for my space each spring.

  3. I haven’t grown ‘Mennonite Orange’ but I was intrigued that you described it as being “mild but sweet and tasty for an orange variety” and remarked on “how easily the green fruit ripened indoors”. I grow ‘Orange Jubilee’ and have similar observations: good flavour (I have come to interpret “mild” in seed catalogues as “tasteless, good for people who like grocery store tomatoes in February”) with more complexity than many orange/yellow tomatoes, and it produces right up until frost and ripens well indoors, storing into November (I usually pick green tomatoes in about mid-September.) I wonder if the more complex flavour, orange colour, meatiness, and good storage/indoor ripening genes are linked?

    I’m currently in the process of narrowing my 2013 tomato list. I’d like to be at 25 plants this year (which realistically probably means something like 40 will wind up being planted out). Every year it gets harder to narrow down as I seem to add a few more “must haves” each year.

    • I always use mild for orange varieties because they just don’t have the same bite. Still this one is tastier. I haven’t tried the variety you mention but that’s a very interesting observation. I’ve been trying to determine what accounts for that difference. Some just do not ripen no matter what, although I will say that I generally have best success with larger varieties.

    • I think it might also have to do with the flesh/seed cavity balance. I’ve found that extra juicy varieties tend to smush and rot before they ripen indoors. So it could be that there needs to be a certain amount of “structural stability” to let the tomato ripen before the juicy stuff rots. If you’re ever short on tomato varieties (haha, funny I know!) let me know & I can send you some ‘Orange Jubilee’ seeds. I’ve grown it two seasons in a row and I think it will be on my grow list for the foreseeable future!

  4. I’ve never grown this one but I’m glad to know I’m not the only tomato seed ‘hoarder’…we just started 30 varieties of tomatoes for the spring…and that wasn’t all of our varieties either. We’ll have the room but likely not for much else!

    Will keep this on my radar for next year.

  5. As a “foreigner” I often feel completely excluded by the possibilities that arise in the blog posts from the North that I read. Mennonite tomatoes are something that we will never see here in Australia because of quarantine laws protecting our flora and fauna. I completely understand but it is difficult to see what we are missing out on! We don’t even have our own longstanding community of Mennonites to procure and propagate them for us! I think it might be a little extreme for me to convert and attempt to start growing them ;). Cheers for another wonderful post…I SO envy you guys :(

    • I’m sorry. I’d feel the same way in your shoes. Travelling over the years has definitely opened my eyes to how fortunate I am in terms of availability. I don’t take it for granted even if I do complain about the cold all winter long!

    • Howdy Narf, I’m sure you’ve heard of Diggers and Eden seeds in Australia but I just want to point out that those guys are constantly trying and bringing over new open-pollinateds from the States. Maybe you can ask them about Menonites down the track.
      Alternatively, I’m pretty sure you can purchase unavailable varieties from Johnny’s and wotnot..It’s just a lengthy process.

      and Gayla: i did a quick search on your blog for any mention of any of the “peach varieties’ . Menonites reminded my of the Wapsy peach before its fully ripe, and I think they deserve to be an absolute Hero of heirloom tommie varieties.
      I tried one last year that tasted like a semillon desert wine. amazing

    • I’ve tried three different peach varieties over the years with a range of experiences but I don’t believe I have written them up here. I have mentioned them elsewhere in articles and books, presentations…

  6. Hello! I had the same experience last year with Mortgage Lifters, a variety I bought from some cute little Amish kid at a farmer’s market. Wow.
    I will try these in 2013!

    • So many friends have exclaimed about ‘Mortgage Lifter’ that I haven’t even bothered to grow it — I already know it is good. One of these days I will finally try it myself.

  7. I tried the Mortgage Lifter for the first time last year, and loved it! 2lb tomatoes are certainly impressive, and as big as my open palm! This year we are trying Esther’s Mortgage Lifters, to see if they are just as good. We tried the yellow pears and yellow brandywine last year also. While they were very productive, and had no problems, I did not like the tastes at all. I shudder with the memory! They just didn’t taste like tomatoes to me. I will stick to the reds, pinks and blacks :)

    • I’m sorry to hear that about ‘Yellow Pear’. I think they vary and there may be some climate issues with them because I’ve always had fantastic luck and good taste but others have said what you are saying. I have never tried the Yellow Brandywine but I have tried the Black and did not like it at all.

      I do agree though that blacks, reds, and pinks tend to be best. My preference is always to black tomatoes.

  8. SO glad you came back. Im interested in the yellow tomatoe ,can you tell me if it is low in acid I love tomatoes but have a acid problem Im going to try lemon boy again havent planted it in years. Where can one buy this tomato I live in southern Alberta Thanks Sharon

    • I didn’t go anywhere! Been posting here all of these years — I just stopped writing the newsletter.

      I can’t speak to their acidity. I should have tested, but neglected to. Most oranges are lower but I can’t confirm with this one. I’m not sure who in Canada has them currently. Urban Harvest [] is where David got the seedling but I did not see the seeds on their website. You can try calling.

  9. 2012 was my first year gardening and I tried the yellow pear tomatoes. I am in St. Pete, Florida, started seeds June 18, transplanted to an earthbox July 20. These tomatoes have been everyone’s favorites. They eat them like candy.

    So I have started more seeds and waiting for those seedlings to get big enough to transplant. My mom has requested that I plant some for her, she loved them so much.

    So I found them to have no BER problems, although a few burst out in the hot sun here. They are sweet and yes, mild. But they have been a hit with all the tomato lovers that I have given them to. They are definitely going in my earthboxes again this year.

    I was also going to plant Botanical Interest Cherokee Purple tomatoes, just because they looked interesting. Have you ever tried them?

  10. This looks like the surprise tomatoes I had this summer. A friend had bought yellow cherry tomatoes at the local nursery for her garden and our windowstill tomato garden. She also gave me extra plants for my garden.

    Man were these no cherry tomatoes! But they were delicious yellow/orange beefsteak variety, much like the ones in your pictures. They were great, and I kept some seeds to plant again in the garden this year.

    The surprises of gardening. Hlf the fun, right? ;)

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