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Alexander W. Livingston Developed The Heirloom Tomato

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Alexander Livingstons Home Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

During the early 1880s many consumers believed the tomato to be unhealthy and even poisonous. Alexander W. Livingston recalled his mother telling him not to eat tomatoes because they might make him ill when he was a child. In his early childhood he always had an interest in seed and plants. This led to his working as a local seedsman and grower.

At first, he leased land and began to farm and grow crops. Eventually he purchased land and began to grow crops and sell seeds to the seed industry He moved to Columbus Ohio and started the A. W. Livingston Seed Company.

After 15 years in saw little improvement in the quality of the tomato crops and seeds He noticed that wild tomato plants from the stock had better qualities. He experimented with wild tomatoes and decided to grow and breed these for seed.

He believed the genetic diversity of wild tomatoes and their ability to adapt to the environment made them superior. One example is a tomato from the Galapagos Island that grows near the ocean. It can be watered using saltwater and raised in dry condition near the ocean. The wild tomatoes he cultivated had a better appearances, taste, and diversity.

Alexander Livingston is credited with turning the tomato into a popular product that was desired by consumer to eat. Consumers ate more tomatoes and selling seeds became profitable in the 1850's. Business began to develop canned tomatoes and sell different types of fresh tomatoes.

The first tomato he released with called the Paragon tomato in 1870. This tomato was blood red and the plant needed to be staked when growing. It had heavy foliage and a sweet taste. It took him two decades to succeed in breeding this tomato. It was a larger tomato than many varieties. The tomato was grown on many farms and by consumers with gardens.

Paragon Tomato Photo Source: Esty

Golden Queen Tomato Photo Source: Chianti Gardens Seed & Co.

The Golden Queen Tomato developed in 1882 is one of the top yellow tomatoes sold. It has few rivals and has a nice color and flavor. The vines are large anywhere from 6 to 8 feet and the plants have to be staked. They grow in clusters of 4 to 6 and ripen deep yellow to gold. They are 3-1/2 inches and 6 to 8 ounces in size. They are described as mild and sweet.

The Magnus tomato introduce in 1900 has leaves like a potato. It appeared to be six to eight ounces from light red to pink in color. It matured quickly and was a thick and heavy tomato. The Oxheart tomato introduce in 1926 was a large tomato. Some grew from three to five pounds each. They had a mild flavor, pink color and were seedless.

In the 20th century many of Alexander Livingstons tomato varieties disappeared from the seed industry. In 1999 Mike Dunton of the Victory Seed Company tried to recreate the varieties of tomatoes and seeds and managed to find and bring back 19 varieties of his tomatoes. Seed Savers a nonprofit organization dedicated to preservation of heirloom tomatoes evaluated the new seed varieties in 2015 and 2016. They found they match the descriptions and images Livingston listed.

Interested in finding heirloom tomato seeds and other vegetable seeds contact Victory Seed Company 8404 STERLING ST STE A - IRVING, TX 75063-2527. They provide instructions on how to grow plants from seeds on their online website.

Recipes Using Heirloom Tomatoes

Source: Giphy/Groovy Cat Studio

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Oil and Lemon Juice

1/4 to 1/2 cup green leaf lettuce diced

1 large Heirloom Red Tomato from Red Sun Farms diced or other brand

2 slices red onion diced

1/2 cucumber sliced thin

1 carrot grated

2 slices feta cheese crumbled

2 tablespoons olive

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

The recipe used tomatoes from the local supermarket grown by Red Sun Farms in Mexico. You can use other brands sold near you. You will need a colander or bowl to soak vegetables, cutting board, potato peeler, knife, measuring spoon, grater, plate or bowl to put salad in.

Cut lettuce into bite size pieces, tomato in half, two slices of onion, soak entire carrot and half of cucumber and rinse in colander or soak in warm water in a bowl. Let sit in bowl about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse off.

Dry off with a paper towel and arrange chopped green leaf lettuce on plate or in bowl. Take tomatoes halves and dice into bite sized pieces. Peel skin off cucumber slice thin, and arrange with tomato over greens. Dice slices of red onion and mix into salad. Grate the carrot over the salad and try to distribute evenly. Slice feta cheese and dice into small pieces and place on salad evenly. Mix the olive oil and lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate salad and dressing or serve immediately with dressing on the side.

Serves 4.

Heirloom Tomato Salad With Avocado

1 red heirloom tomato from Red Sun Farms or another brand

1 avocado pit and skin removed flesh scooped out

2 slices red onion minced.

1 cucumber peeled and sliced thin

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh or lemon juice from concentrate

Salt and pepper to taste


Wash the vegetables in a colander under running water or in bowl with warm water. Drain water after about 5 minutes. Cut the tomato in half and dice into bite size pieces put in bowl. Cut the avocado and remove the pit and discard. Scoop out flesh add lemon juice to keep it from browning and cut into bite size pieces.

Mix with tomato in a bowl. Slice the red onion and mince into small pieces. Peel the cucumber slice into thin slices and cut slices into 4 pieces. Add to the other vegetables and mix well. Mix the oil and lemon juice and add to the salad . Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2 to 4 people.

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