The ‘German Gold’ tomato, an old variety to be rediscovered

It is a very old variety of XIXe century which would be of German origin and whose preservation we owe to the Mennonite community in the United States! The tomato ‘German Gold’ is a pineapple-type tomato with large yellow-orange fleshy fruits averaging 500 grams, marbled red. The dense flesh is yellow and also marbled and contrasts nicely with the skin color. It is a tomato with an excellent taste and a beautiful appearance. However, if all sources agree to indicate that this variety was cultivated in a quasi-confidential manner by the Mennonites of Virginia, the literature is a bit vague as to its precise origin.

The origin of the ‘German Gold’ tomato!

To understand the origin of this variety, it is necessary to be interested in the Mennonites themselves. In the beginning, it was evangelical Anabaptists 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 have to hide in the rest of Switzerland and also in the Rhine Valley.

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

William Woys Weavern, a famous ethnologist, reports that this variety was grown and “discovered” among the Mennonites of Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley. It was then commercially introduced under the names “Old German”, “German Gold” or even “Mammoth German Gold”. However, other sources indicate that it is an ancient breed that originated in Mexico. This hypothesis seems to come from the seedman James Gregory of Marblehead (1827-1910) in Massachusetts who brought variegated tomato seeds from Mexico around 1864 and then offered them in his catalog.

Finally, it is also very possible that the species has the same Mexican origin, as there were many Mennonite missionaries in Mexico in the 1800s who were able to spread seeds to their community back home! Despite the uncertainty that still surrounds its origin, this ancient variety is a jewel in the vegetable garden, the cultivation of which we wholeheartedly recommend.