How to Get Your Kid to Eat Tomatoes (aka “Vampire Traveling Tomatoes” that Look Like Brains)

My daughter didn’t like tomatoes and it was killing me in the kitchen. When I read this Slate article* and learned that food dislikes were psychological,** and therefore fixable, I decided to eliminate the family food aversions one by one. I managed to turn my intense hatred of anything that had even touched mint, cucumbers, or cinnamon into absolute cravings. My daughter learned to like everything… except tomatoes! (We’re still holding out on Century Eggs… we feel no need to like them).

Photo Caption: 'Reisetomate aus Siebenbürgen' tomatoes are pretty in a strange, double-take inducing way. Kind of the way brains are beautiful organs if you look at them with an open mind...

This is a child who refused to eat spaghetti until I let her watch the noodles wriggle down into the hot pot and told her it was worms. When I saw the tomato ‘Reisetomate aus Siebenbürgen’ on the Amishland Heirloom Seeds site, I knew my battles were over.

Photo Caption: I only grew one of these my first year (the packet had 5 seeds) and it died from Fusarium Wilt before the fruit ripened. My second year I used up the rest of the seeds and ended up with 2 plants. Both of these did great (even though other plants in the same bed died from Fusarium Wilt, so I don't think the variety itself is susceptible).

I asked some German speaking friends to do translations on the name variations I’ve seen and was told “Riesentomate” means “giant tomato” and the other spelling (which I’d first assumed was a typo) “Reisetomate” means “travel tomato.” I’m going to go with “travel tomato” on this one since the fruits look like a fused ball of cherry tomatoes that you pull apart. Very convenient for lunch boxes and hiking picnics!

My friend said, “‘aus Siebenbürgen’ means ‘from Transylvania,’ the region in Romania. So they are giant (traveling) vampire tomatoes!”

How could you fail to impress a reluctant child when you are growing vampire traveling tomatoes?

Our family’s technique for learning to like difficult foods is to try it every single time we encounter it, and if we still aren’t fond we say, “I don’t like it yet.” The “yet” means you haven’t given up! Around the 8th time you try a food with a positive attitude, you’ll most likely enjoy it. It worked for us!

Photo Caption: Some of the fruits grow all the way around the stem.

Now for the most important part: do they taste good? Yes! They are excellent, vibrantly flavored, summery tomatoes. The hardest part is getting any for yourself, because if you do take them somewhere, you inevitably end up letting curious people try your oddball tomatoes. They’re instant conversation fodder.

Throw a couple ‘Reisetomate aus Siebenbürgen’ tomatoes, a sandwich, and a sprig of fresh basil into a bag and it’s the perfect quick, portable meal!

Photo caption: No need for a knife to eat these, just twist them apart and start snacking!

The knife in this picture was so I could slice them and squeeze out the seed gel (for seed saving purposes). It’s an unnecessary tool for these tomatoes.

Photo Caption: The number of fully separated protuberances on each tomato varies, but most of them have around 5 or more.

After trialing these for a couple years I highly recommend them! If they get sold out there are some similar varieties, such as ‘Voyage’ and ‘Riesenstraube’, also available at Amishland Heirloom Seeds.

*[edit] I received a negative comment in reference to the Slate article at the top of this post. I can understand why — I don’t really enjoy the snobby attitude that the article’s author seems to brandish like a badge — in spite of liking some of the info he presented. The fact is that when we tried his method of repeatedly tasting the foods we hated (with a positive attitude), we both learned to love those foods. That’s proof enough to me that it can work. Maybe it wouldn’t for other people. I think the key here is “with a positive attitude.” It’s something we both really wanted to do, not something I forced my child to do against her will. We enjoy being broad omnivores. I think each person knows themselves and their children best, and there is no “duty” to force your kids to eat everything on the planet. If you don’t have a desire to learn to like a food or you think your child isn’t at a place where this would be beneficial to him/her, then by all means go with your own parental or personal decisions. You know your needs best. This post is just meant to illustrate something that worked for us, not a mandate. If you are interested, the commenter offered these two links as an alternative to the Slate article:

**[edit] I tried to research the latest developments on genetics & psychology in regards to taste and found that the internet largely disagrees about what study results mean. I liked this NOVA Q&A on the subject. At any rate, this blog post was meant to offer a creative suggestion for trying to get your kids to work with you on liking tomatoes. I certainly don’t condone making them feel badly if it doesn’t work.

Thanks Fer, at My Little Garden in Japan, for including this post in the favorite plant blog carnival.

Eliza Lord

I'm a Greenville, SC native (the Appalachian foothills) who wears the hats of Greenville Master Gardener & Upstate Master Naturalist. I love to write about food and sustainability.

13 thoughts on “How to Get Your Kid to Eat Tomatoes (aka “Vampire Traveling Tomatoes” that Look Like Brains)”

  1. Lisa - November 12, 2010 3:00 pm

    Wow, those are crazy-cool!

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - November 16, 2010 9:54 am

      Thanks! It’s easily the weirdest tomato I ever saw.
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Select Hot Pepper Varieties &amp Use the Ones You Grow =-.

  2. Pingback: How to Join the New Blog Carnival (Called How to Find Great Plants) | Appalachian Feet

  3. lifeshighway
    Twitter: lifeshighway
    - November 15, 2010 10:33 am

    Wow, I those would be fun to serve to adults, too. They do look like brains, so you could bite into them and play zombie.
    .-= lifeshighway´s last blog ..Children of the Corn – The Star-crossed Lovers =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - November 16, 2010 9:55 am

      My daughter and her friends definitely moan, “Brains, brains!” before they eat them. :)
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Select Hot Pepper Varieties &amp Use the Ones You Grow =-.

  4. Nicole - November 16, 2010 7:41 pm

    They look like delicious, balloon animal tomatoes!

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - November 30, 2010 3:55 pm

      Haha! This is so true.
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Submit Entries for How to Find Great Plants- Issue 2 =-.

  5. fer
    Twitter: mygardeninjapan
    - November 30, 2010 1:10 pm

    Very nice tomatoes! Certainly the oddest looking too.
    That last one even looks like a little doll, before the cutting that is.

    Is funny how food aversions work. When I was a kid (3-4 years old) I didn’t like strawberries! Can you believe that?, I still don’t believe them when they tell me now. It turns out I didn’t because my older sister didn’t like yogurt with strawberries and many times commented on it. So, my 3 year old self pick on that and started disliking strawberries. Lucky that I came to my senses, although I never knew how.

    Thank you very much for your input on the carnival! Your entry is very much appreciated.
    .-= fer´s last blog ..Blueberries and autumn color in my garden =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - November 30, 2010 6:10 pm

      I think your carnival turned out great! Thanks for the suggestion of inlinkz, too. I think I checked out over 20 plugins and the one you suggested never came up.
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Submit Entries for How to Find Great Plants- Issue 2 =-.

  6. Marguerite - November 30, 2010 6:17 pm

    Heirloom tomatoes are wonderful! I often find myself perusing catalogues of tomatoes just for fun. Amazing the various shapes and colours, although these are by far the most interesting I’ve seen.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - December 1, 2010 8:36 am

      Yeah! I want more land and a much bigger garden, but sometimes I wonder what would happen to me if I didn’t have to narrow down my tomato choices to make them fit each year. I’ll probably end up with a farm covered in 300 tomato varieties.
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Submit Entries for How to Find Great Plants- Issue 2 =-.

  7. Pingback: How to Save Tomato Seeds (and Oddball Varieties) | Appalachian Feet

  8. Judi Jo - June 27, 2014 8:28 am

    It is 4 years later, but my first year trying to grow this magnificent plant. Southern California, USA. Grown in a 50 cent shopping bag from WalMart. The fruit, not yet red, is literally brain-like. My kids are grown now, but they would have LOVED to see the progress of these fruit! I look forward to harvesting the seed and growing Reisetomates every year!

    Only thing more thrilling for me may be bringing tomatillos from seed to fruit. :)

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