The ‘German Gold’ Tomato : An old variety to rediscover

It is a very old variety from the 19th century which would be of German origin and whose conservation we owe to the Mennonite community in the United States! The ‘German Gold’ tomato is a pineapple-type tomato with large yellow-orange fleshy fruits weighing 500 grams on average, marbled with red. Its dense flesh is yellow and also marbled and offers a nice contrast with the color of its skin. It is a tomato with an excellent flavor and a magnificent appearance. If all the sources agree to indicate that this variety was cultivated in a quasi-confidential way by the Mennonites of Virginia, the literature is however a little vague when with its precise origins.

The origins of the ‘German Gold’ tomato !

To try to understand the origin of this variety, you have to look at the Mennonites themselves. Initially, they were evangelical Anabaptist Christians from the Zurich region of Switzerland who refused to submit to the authorities of the city (the Church must remain independent) and practiced adult baptism (Anabaptists). They must hide in the rest of Switzerland and also in the Rhine Valley.

Some settled in Alsace, which was then part of the Germanic Empire. They are taken in hand by a certain Menno Simons (hence the name Mennonites) and lead a life on the margins of society and all cultivate their plot of land with dexterity. The Mennonites also respect the doctrine of non-resistance (refusal to use force against any human being, out of love for others), which poses a problem in the face of the generalization of military conscription and the frequency of wars. During the Revolution, in 1792, they benefited from an exception, but Napoleon put an end to it! The Mennonites must then accept military service or leave. As a result, many left Alsace gradually and emigrated to the United States, particularly to Virginia. We can therefore easily assume that it was on this occasion that the seeds of this famous variegated tomato were taken in the luggage of a Mennonite on the occasion of his crossing of the Atlantic!

William Woys Weavern, famous ethnologist reports that this variety was cultivated and “discovered” among the Mennonites of Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley. It was then introduced commercially under the names of “Old German”, “German Gold” or even “Mammoth German Gold”. Other sources, however, indicate that it is an old variety that would be native to Mexico. This hypothesis seems to start from the seedman James Gregory of Marblehead (1827-1910) in Massachusetts who brought variegated tomato seeds from Mexico around 1864 and then offered them to his catalogue.

Finally, it is also quite possible that the strain of the variety has the same Mexican origin, since in the 19th century there were many Mennonite missionaries in Mexico who were able to spread seeds to their community back home ! Despite the uncertainty that still surrounds its origins, this old variety is a jewel in the vegetable garden, the cultivation of which we warmly recommend.