July 22, 2024

Try a Mortgage Lifter Tomato in 2024 From Master Gardener David Wall

January 7, 2024 – If you’re looking for a “different” large (as in huge!) tomato with great flavor, then perhaps the Mortgage Lifter is a plant you should consider. It’s an indeterminate, open-pollinated, heirloom tomato producing fruit weighing up to 2.5 pound that will produce until frost! The plant has a pinkish-red beefsteak-shaped fruit that has few seeds. Maturity occurs in 80-85 days. The plant can grow as large as 7-9-foot.

Mortgage Lifters were developed in the 1930’s during the depression by a man named M.C. Byles. He was a radiator mechanic who worked out of his homebased repair shop in Logan, West Virginia. Funds were tight, and he was looking for a way to pay off his $6000 home mortgage loan. For whatever reason he decided to develop a new, large tomato. His method was somewhat unorthodox in that he chose to do so by crossbreeding four existing large fruited varieties, beefsteak, an Italian variety, German Johnson, and an English variety.

The German Johnson tomato plant was placed in the ground with the other three planted around it. Gathering pollen, he then hand pollinated the German Johnson using a baby’s ear syringe! He then took the resulting seeds from the modified German Johnson fruit, replanted the saved seeds the next year and duplicated this process every year for the next six years.

By the 1940’s, M.C. began selling his plants for $1 each. Word spread, and the plant fruit grew in popularity. Gardeners were coming from up to 200 miles away (obviously prior to the internet!) to buy the seedlings. MC was able to pay off his mortgage, and the plant thus became known as the Mortgage Lifter!

Due to plant growth size, spacing up to 4’ is recommended, with stake or cages to provide support. Mulching is recommended. Water 1-2” per week.

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