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Melnick/Hall Family Heirloom Tomato, the ‘Aunt Gladys’

10/17/2020

Some time prior to 1928, a good friend of my grandfather named Ernest Hennon, father of Butler Hennon, gave my grandfather, Herb Hall, tomato seeds that he had been growing. Butler, at some time later, became a famous basketball coach in a small town, Wampum, Pennsylvania, winning multiple state championships and a string of impressive victories through the 1950’s with an overall 514-146 record, a unique story of its own.

My grandfather grew the tomatoes in his garden until his death in 1943. Afterwards, his daughter Gladys Parker, my mother’s sister, and my aunt continued growing the tomato every year until her passing in 2017 at 94 years old.

In 1995, at a combined family reunion and birthday celebration for my mother and Aunt Gladys, this tomato was a featured table offering. Everyone in the family raved about the tomato while Aunt Gladys told the story of its origin.

I began, in the summer of 1996, to grow the tomato myself and keep the tradition alive. At the time, while I was living in Ohio, this plant thrived, producing many and large fruits. Today, as it is grown in Tennessee, the humid summers still produce large fruit and many on a plant, but the producing of fruits does not start until late July or early August. I have had tomatoes that weigh 2 lbs. grown in Tennessee. This tomato was entered in the Williamson County Fair in 2017 and won a third-place ribbon. I was able to share that ribbon with my aunt before her passing.

Growing lots of heirloom tomatoes over the years and continually trying different varieties since 1996, I have never run across a tomato quite like this.

 I have done lots of research and talked with many people, growers, and horticulturists, including Master Gardeners, and have never been able to identify this fruit or one with the same name I want to give it. I refer to it as the ‘The Aunt Gladys’ in her honor.

I believe this tomato has been open pollinated for the last 92 years and is its own variety. I don’t know for sure if Aunt Gladys ever used commercial fertilizer; however, since 1996, when I started growing this tomato, I have never used any commercial fertilizer or any organic fertilizer. I grow it as it is, like I believe it was for the last 92 years with water and sun only.

This fruit is pink in color and almost blemish free.

The taste is sweet with no bitterness.

The skin is relatively thin and meat inside is thick and plentiful with a normal amount of small seeds.

The tomato is perfect for slicing and eating as it is. I have never tried canning or making any sauce with it.

The leaves on the plant are potato-like leaves.

Since I have been growing this tomato, I have never had any disease problems, ever. Insects and bugs do not seem to bother it.

I plan on submitting this to Seed Savers Exchange, to preserve it for the future and to make it available to others.

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