Hillbilly Tomato: Size, Seeds, Taste & Care

What is a Hillbilly Tomato?

The Hillbilly tomato is a heirloom variety originating from West Virginia of the United States as early as the 1880s.

Like all heirlooms, it is an open pollinated cultivar, meaning that saved seed being passed down through family generations grows true to the original parent type.

Hillbilly tomato botanically referred to as Solanum lycopersicum is generally categorized as beefsteak tomatoes because of its large size and dense texture.The tomato is also referred to as the Flame tomato.

There are said to be two types of Hillbilly tomato plants, one being the potato leaf, characterized by leaves that are large, teardrop shaped, and dark green, and another that has regular, small and serrated leaves.

Image Credit: Plantura Magazine, An online Magazine that publish everything about gardening and sustainability

Characteristics of Hillbilly Tomato

Hillbilly tomatoes are a massive beefsteak variety, each fruit averaging one or two pounds. They are ribbed with a smooth glossy skin, and are bright yellow in color with red marbling.

The dense interior flesh is virtually seedless, orange-yellow and mottled with red, with a texture somewhat similar to a peach.

Its flavor is very sweet and almost fruity, with apricot notes and very low acidity. Hillbilly tomatoes are crack resistant and very heat tolerant. Slice these large tomatoes for the perfect addition to a sandwich or dice them to complete your favorite salad.

Hillbilly Tomato Plant

The Hillbilly tomato plant stands anywhere from 52 to 84 inches tall when fully established, needing 85 to 94 days of growth before it reaches its full maturity.

The plant is a low maintenance crop and does not require extra attention as long as it is planted properly, particularly after any season of frost. It requires full sun with a minimum of six hours daily.

This plant also requires water but is drought tolerant, and mulching can help to ensure an even supply of moisture to the tomato plant. There are some problems that may occur with the hillbilly tomato plant which include pests and diseases. 

The Hillbilly tomato has reportedly grown well in many areas across the United States, notably in California and states in the Midwest and the South.

These tomatoes are not at all hardy and need warm weather to grow well. They cannot stand any frost, and so it is crucial that they be planted only after the danger of frost is gone.

Hillbilly Tomato Growing Guide

When to Plant

Hillbilly tomato are a warm-season crop and they don’t like frost. It’s usually best to plant seeds in late spring through summer. But climatic conditions play and soil temperatures are more important than planting dates.

It is important to prepare the soil before you plant the hillbilly tomato. Ideally, you should do it two or three weeks before planting seeds or transplanting tomato seedlings.

Site Preparation

Tomatoes require at least six hours of direct sun a day and temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit to grow and fruit well.

Amending the planting site with a 2-inch layer of compost, dug into the top 6 inches of soil, improves soil quality and provides some nutrients.

Apply a balanced fertilizer, such as 1 pound of a 10-10-10 blend per 25 square feet, before planting, and work it into the soil with the compost.


Started seedlings, whether you buy them or start them yourself, provide a head start for tomatoes because they require a long season to produce.

Start seeds indoors about eight weeks before the last frost date in your area. Transplant seedlings 1 to 2 inches deeper in the garden than they were growing in their seedling pots. Space the plants with 30 inches of space in all directions.


Spread 1 to 2 inches of organic mulch around the base of the hillbilly tomato plants. Use straw, dried grass clippings or shredded leaves to prevent the quick evaporation of the soil moisture.

More importantly, mulching slows the growth of weeds around the tomato plants and conserve soil temperature. Mulch also keep fruits clean and protect them from touching the soil, especially when they rest upon the ground.

Pull any weeds that survive the mulch by hand. Cultivating near the tomato plants can accidentally damage the stems and roots.

Staking or Caging

Hillbilly tomato require support so that they won’t sag onto the ground under the weight of their fruit. Install stakes or tomato cages at planting time to provide support as the tomatoes grow.

Caged plants require minimal care for support, while staked plants need the main stem tied to the stake at 8-inch intervals as the plants grow. The cage also keeps the fruit off the ground and supports the weight of the heavy branches.

Pinch off the suckers, or small sprouts, that grow at the junction between lateral stems and the main stem so staked plants don’t develop multiple main stems. 

Other options include tying the branches to a trellis or nearby fence. Tie the branches loosely with pieces of soft cloth to prevent breaking the stems.

Also Read: Celebrity Tomato

Water Requirements

Water the hillbilly tomato plants twice a week when the rain does not fall. This tomato plants need about 2 inches of water each week.

Pour water around the base of the tomato plants, keeping the water off the leaves. Wet leaves invite plant diseases such as blight to attack the tomato plant.

Keeping the water off the fruit minimizes splitting of the fruit. Allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions.


Feed the hillbilly tomato plants with fertilizer designed for tomato plants or a mild plant food such as fish fertilizer. Neither of these fertilizers contain a lot of nitrogen, which stimulates leaf growth but not fruit development.

Apply the fertilizer as the first fruit begins to develop and then again two weeks after picking the first tomato. Work the fertilizer into the soil about 8 inches away from the base of the plants then water thoroughly so the nutrients soak into the soil around the roots.

Growing Challenge

Tomatoes are prone to a variety of pests and diseases. Proper spacing and avoiding getting the leaves wet when watering minimizes the chances of most fungal leaf problems.

Inspect plants weekly for pest problems, such as aphids, mites and tomato hornworms. Treat pests promptly with an insecticidal soap, or by removing the pests by hand.

Protection From Frost

Protecting hillbilly tomato from frost is an important gardening knowhow to everyone interested in growing this tomato and eventually have a bumper harvest.

As explained earlier, hillbilly tomato is a warm-weather crop, which means that even a light frost will damage the plant. To protect the plants, cover the plants with a frost blanket when temperatures dip.

Also Read: Black Prince Tomatoes

Key Takeaways

  • Tomato Hillbilly is an American Heirloom beefsteak variety producing one of the largest fruits at up to 2 lb each, with amazing orange-yellow fleshed tomatoes with red and pink streaks.
  • The Hillbilly tomato originated from the mountains of West Virginia.
  • The high-yielding hillbilly plants produce sweet and juicy fruit on long vines, reaching heights of five to ten feet.
  • Hillbilly are Indeterminate types of tomato. Indeterminate tomato is a tomato variety that continue to extend in length throughout the growing season. They also produce fruit continuously throughout the season.
  • Best grown under a sunny sheltered position.
  • Hillbilly require a longer season that normal varieties to fully mature.
  • The ripening season for hillbilly tomato is considered late as it does reach full maturity within 85-90 days. 
  • They cannot stand any frost, and so it is crucial that they be planted only after the danger of frost is gone.
  • Transplant the seedlings when large enough to handle into 3-inch pots.
  • Hillbilly tomatoes best exhibit their vibrant flavor and natural sweetness when sliced raw in thick slabs. hhh

1 thought on “Hillbilly Tomato: Size, Seeds, Taste & Care”

Leave a Comment