How to Grow the Classic Mortgage Lifter Tomato

December 1, 2023

Have you noticed that vegetable gardening is hip again? I love this trend that Americans of all ages are experimenting with growing their own food. Whether their vegetables and fruit are being grown to supplement food from the grocery store or if the intent is to eat mostly from the garden, vegetable gardening (and horticulture) is having its day in the sun. Some may argue that this is not true ornamental gardening, while I will counter, “Hello! This is what we have been waiting for!” Grow your own is climbing in popularity as the next generation of gardeners wants to see where their food comes from.

Growing your own tomatoes will quickly sour you to the much less flavorful varieties typically available in grocery stores.  Harvested from a sunny location, there is nothing more tasty than a warm fresh tomato straight from the garden. Image by William Cullina,

The Beloved and Historic Mortgage Lifter Tomato

One of the vegetables that I love (or is it a fruit?) is Radiator Charlie’s huge heirloom beefsteak Mortgage Lifter tomato.

Almost every American loves a fresh tomato from the garden in the middle of summer. Better yet, make that tomato an heirloom tomato. Have you ever grown and eaten an heirloom variety?

People talk about how it tastes differently, and they are correct. In our Pennsylvania vegetable garden, we grew Brandywine tomatoes, which were fabulous.

Mortgage lifter tomatoes are among the biggest tomato fruits you can grow.  They are often double-fisted varieties that can weigh in at multiple pounds each. Image from  Rutgers

The flavors are deep and intense because the fruit has not been overbred for size instead of taste. The Mortgage Lifter tomato is one popular heirloom that combines a big, meaty plant with good taste.

The entire story of these tomato plants can be found here. The notion that one guy in West Virginia, Radiator Charlie, can turn a hobby into a breeding program that pays his mortgage is a remarkable story.

With the popularity of vegetable gardening and farm-to-table eating growing exponentially, the more plants with wonderful stories like this tomato, the better. 

mortgage lifter tomato
Mortgage lifter tomato by Stephen Melkisethian

How to Grow A Mortgage Lifter Tomato

Even here on the coast of Maine, where small cherry and plum tomatoes do better because of their shorter maturity time, we are going to try growing the Mortgage Lifters this summer. With full sun and a long growing season, we should be able to get plenty of tasty fruit.

They have an 80-day maturity period, so we should be able to produce a few substantial fruits. Along with the ripe, plump Mortgage Lifter tomatoes, one of our friends raises hogs. So maybe we can get a few packs of locally raised-bacon? Combine with this some of my wife’s homemade bread, and I am already dreaming of late summer, farm-to-table, Mortgage Lifter BLT sandwiches.

What do you think of the vegetable gardening and farm-to-table movement? Do you think it will still be a big movement in 5 or 10 years? More specifically, what are some of your favorite tomato varieties?


Mortgage Lifter Tomato Update 2023 from Rochelle – 

 I had forgotten that Rodney had written this post years ago.  It struck me as a little funny because I distinctly remember researching Radiator Charlie’s story when I began working with Leaf and Petal to sell plants on the Home Shopping Network.  I’ve told Radiator Charlie’s mortgage lifter tomato story hundreds of times on Live television now and sold millions of these fantastic tomatoes.  

To be honest – it is one of my favorite things to talk about on air.  There are always plenty of fresh garden tomatoes on set that we are encouraged to eat while we talk about planting the best seedlings in your home garden.  You honestly can’t go wrong with these – just make sure they have plenty of sun, and you will have more BLTs than you can stand. 

tomatoes growiing of a tomato plant (and staked)
Radiator charlie’s mortgage lifter tomato plants with fruit ripening on the vine by Kimberly McKinnis

More Vegetable And Tomato Gardening Posts:

REgister now!

A Free Master Class



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Does Your Garden Need a Makeover?

Learn my 7-step system to design and build a stunning garden anywhere in the world.


Join my Free Class!

Understand the 5 mistakes everyone makes when creating a garden. (Save yourself time, money, & headaches and get much better results!)

See how to work directly with me (but at a DIY price!) to
design and create your own gorgeous garden.