With so many tomato varieties, ranging from exotic Black Krim tomatoes to ordinary beefsteak tomatoes, making up this list was not as easy as I initially thought. Horticulturalists could even make their whole career out of studying just one kind. Therefore, for me to choose a definitive list of tomatoes to grow before you go was a challenging task.
Tomato aficionados agree that there are around 10,000 tomato varieties in the world. Heirlooms, also known as heritage varieties, account for around 3,000 of all tomato plants grown.
I love gardening, and I especially enjoy growing tomatoes in my garden. I find the process of growing different tomato varieties exciting, as it allows you to discover their secrets and experience something new each harvest time. So, I wanted to share my tomato fruit fascination by suggesting something new to other gardeners for this year.
In that light, I am selecting 11 tomatoes that will offer some diversity to your tomato garden this summer. I chose these tomatoes for their uniqueness, such as their shapes, sizes, and uses, their adventurousness, and of course, their flavor. While I have not personally tried each of these heirlooms, each fruit on this list received a big green thumbs-up for flavor from well-known gardeners.
You may or may not be familiar with some of these varieties, as they span from heirloom to hybrid tomatoes. However, after you try them for yourself, you will be left wondering why you never attempted to grow them in your garden before now.
Growing Tomatoes on This List
Growing these bucket list tomatoes requires nothing more than standard tomato know-how. Plenty of sunshine, food, and water is pretty much all you need. If you can grow normal cherry tomatoes and beefsteak tomatoes, you can cultivate any of the following varieties.
In addition, I selected these tomatoes for their uniqueness and ease of growing. Not all of these plants are rare necessarily, but they are delectable, gardener friendly, and well worth your time. Instead of reading this article as a gardening how-to, rather imagine it as a why not?
First on the List
The Cherokee Purple is a delicious heirloom tomato gaining in popularity with each passing year. It is also indigenous to my home state of Tennessee. I started my plants indoors a couple of months ago, and I already have 12 ready to put in my garden. One even has a tomato on it already. They are so easy to grow.
A Little Purple Background
In 1990, amateur seed-saver John Green of Sevierville, Tennessee, sent a packet of Cherokee Purple seeds to famed tomato guru Craig LeHoullier with a handwritten note explaining their origin. In this letter, Green said he acquired the seeds third-hand from a woman whose neighbor claimed they were in her family for 100 years and that Cherokee Indians gave the seeds to her ancestors.
LeHoullier grew the tomatoes and was astonished at what he saw and tasted. When sliced, the vibrant, purple color reminded him of a deep leg bruise, so he aptly named it the Cherokee Purple. The flavor blew him away as well. In a note he sent to some of his fellow tomato seed bank friends with some seeds, he exclaimed, “I love this tomato!” His colleagues grew the seeds and echoed his thoughts on the miraculous plants. Ever since then, the Cherokee Purple tomato has exploded in popularity.
#1 - The Cherokee Purple
Beauty in the traditional sense does not apply to this tomato, although beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I find them gorgeous when sliced and delicious when eaten.
This tomato features a rugged green exterior with a deeply rich purple flesh. With its beautiful color and lusciously sweet flavor, this heirloom is as delicious as the story behind its fortunate beginning.
As you can see in the picture, they do not have the appearance of your traditional, store-bought, perfectly red beefsteak tomato. However, once you taste these tomatoes, you’ll throw your store-bought tomatoes into the compost pile.
#2 - Persimmon
If you relish the flavor of a sweet yellow-orange tomato that you can add to a sandwich or a salad with equal satisfaction, then the Persimmon is the tomato for you.
With every bite, you are not only tasting a great tomato, but you are also taking a bite out of history. As far back as 1781, this large, juicy heirloom was grown by none other than one of our Founding Fathers and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.
Many tomato traditionalists agree that to qualify as a bona fide heirloom tomato, the heritage must be at least 100 years old. That being the case, the Persimmon tomato qualifies unquestionably.
I should mention that these are fantastic tomatoes to take to the market, as people love them. If size matters to you, when left to ripen fully, these beauties are nearly 5 inches across and weigh around a pound each! If Bigfoot were a tomato, he might be a Persimmon.
#3 - The Jersey Devil
Named for the legendary winged creature haunting the thick Pine Barrens of New Jersey since the 1700s, this lovely little tomato is only a monster when it comes to production.
The Devil is a late bloomer, between 85 and 90 days, so it requires some patience to produce. As with many good things in life, the payoff is well worth the wait. The flavor of this tomato is explosive. Gardeners also enjoy their unique look, which is about 5 inches in length and resembles a pepper.
Jersey Devils are an indeterminate tomato and perfect for container gardening. A large container works best for containing these beasts.
Growing requires no more than the standard requirements to grow any tomato: sunshine, food, and water. They will keep producing until the first frost of the year.
In addition to their delicious flavor, the Jersey Devil puts up well and is perfect for canning. This tomato is excellent for making savory sauces and tasty salsas. Be sure to stake these tomatoes in your garden. They will need support, as they can grow to heights exceeding 6 feet!
#4 - New Big Dwarf Heirloom
This little plant with the oxymoronic name of Big Dwarf is now considered an heirloom since it turned 100 in 2015. The exact date of its creation is not certain, but it definitely existed before 1915. This tomato is the result of a crossbreeding experiment between the Dwarf Champion and Ponderosa varieties.
Don’t be fooled by the name Big Dwarf. While only about two feet tall, they produce large, dark-pink tomatoes that average 8 to 12 ounces each, but they can weigh as much as a pound. They have an appealing shape as well.
Growers claim this little plant produces large, delicious tomatoes and finishes early, within 60 days. Great for container gardening or in the ground, the New Big Dwarf is a must-have for your garden.
#5 - Jaune Flamme
There is a good reason this prolific little producer’s name sounds foreign, as it comes to us via France. While pronunciations of the name vary by regional preference, Jaune Flamme directly translates to “yellow flame.”
This yellow flame will gently warm your heart with its balanced mixture of sweet and fruity flavors. The tomatoes grow in compact, tight clusters and are generally 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter.
If you’re looking for something deliciously different, then this is the tomato to grow. It is excellent for salads and sauces, and it dries well for other applications. Moving at a faster pace than some other varieties, it takes 75 days to reach maturity.
#6 - Black Beauty
Black Beauty is a strangely beautiful tomato with a gorgeous color that starts out green and finishes nearly black. A stunning tomato to behold and absolutely delicious to eat, the Black Beauty is a stellar tomato to produce. When sliced, its dark red, meaty flesh is not only one of the tastiest tomatoes you will ever grow, but it also contains extreme amounts of healthy anthocyanin, the same antioxidant found in blueberries and blackberries.
This eye-catching tomato is a necessity if you desire a tomato that is bursting with flavor and has an eye-popping color you don’t expect. This tomato is perfect for your container and garden alike.
“A rich smooth taste with earthy overtones” is how many describe this delicious fruit. Fun to grow, beautiful to look at, and delicious to eat, the Black Beauty tomato is one that will have your friends patting you on the back with one hand while snatching one of these gems with the other.
#7 - Pink Girl
Pink Girl may sound like the name of a female superhero, but in actuality, it’s just a super tomato.
Pink Girl is an F-1 hybrid. Here’s a good teaching moment. Gardeners create hybrid tomatoes by intentionally crossing two stable tomatoes types. An F-1 means it is first-generation, which usually translates to good plant vigor and production, while heirlooms are the result of (OP) open pollination and are first created by nature.
People create new hybrids all the time. You may have yourself. Here’s how it works. Often, when a tomato plant produces fruit of exceptional quality, the gardener will save the seeds of the best tomatoes and replant those the following year. This process continues year after year for five generations or more. By this point, the plant stabilizes and consistently produces fruit with all the characteristics you like, such as size, color, and most importantly, excellent flavor.
Pink Girl is an indeterminate and one of the most scrumptious pink tomatoes you can grow. It is mildly sweet with low acidity and is a constant producer all summer long. Expect beautiful tomatoes in the 3.5-inch range with a weight between 6 and 8 ounces each. Pink Girl is a prolific producer, and it is crack-resistant. This variety tends to mature within 75 days.
#8 - Sun Sugar Hybrid
This cherry tomato variety lives up to its name and reputation for being one of the easiest and sweetest tomatoes you will ever grow. Cherry-sized at about a half inch, this heavy producer grows well indoors, outdoors, and in greenhouses. Unlike many of this type, it doesn’t lose flavor if it doesn’t get enough warmth and sun and remains stable even under cool conditions. It also grows well in unheated greenhouses.
The Sun Sugar Hybrid has a thin skin but is remarkably crack resistant, even in heavy rains. “A true tomato flavor” is the term used by most loyal growers of this tomato.
Therefore, if hearty, exceptionally sweet, delicious, and easy to grow cherry tomatoes is what you’re after this summer, look no further than the Sun Sugar Hybrid.
#9 - Italian Red Pear
Mamma Mia! The Italian Red Pear is a lovely tomato with its pleasing pear shape and abundant yield.
Slightly ribbed with a thin skin, this average-sized, 6-ounce, red beauty is mildly sweet and excellent for creating wonderfully flavorful tomato sauces.
As an easy-to-grow indeterminate, as well as a great producer with an attractive shape, this tomato made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I had to put it on this list. The Italian Red Pear is a perfect tomato for container gardening, and you can harvest them in around 80 days.
The only problem you may have with this tomato is actually getting them into the house before you eat them all straight off the vine!
Next up is a secret tomato that is not as secret as it used to be and is quickly approaching legendary status. This tomato needs to be on your list so that you can say you were an early adopter.
#10 - The Pink Berkley Tie-Dye
Legendary tomato master Brad of Wild Boar Farms in the Napa Valley developed this striking hybrid tomato with its almost metallic stripes. Its reputation for having a sweet, dark, rich flavor is spreading faster than a California wildfire. This compact indeterminate with the hippy-sounding name produces fruit that many claim is the best-tasting tomato ever grown.
Multiple sources claim these tomatoes defeated the Cherokee Purple 10 out of 10 times at various tomato-tasting farmer’s market festivals. I find that a little difficult to believe given my history with the Cherokee Purple, but it must be one fantastic tomato if people are saying it is that flavorful. Therefore, you and I definitely need to grow one to see for ourselves to see which variety is best.
It offers a port-wine colored fruit that averages 8 to 12 ounces in weight and is considered an early to mid-early producer. This beefsteak beauty is ready for harvest in about 65 to 75 days.
#11 - Boxcar Willie
This lovely orange-red heirloom named for the popular singer of Grand Ole Opry fame has garnered some fame in its own right.
Boxcar Willie is a delicious indeterminate that is a prolific producer with a rich, sweet, and well-balanced taste and is an all-around go-to tomato. It is great sliced, stewed, canned, or diced, and it can go in everything from soups to salads. This throwback to another time also makes wonderful tomato sauce, as well as delicious and nutritious tomato juice.
Box Car Willie is best utilized as a Swiss Army knife of tomatoes. It produces relatively large tomatoes weighing between 10 and 16 ounces.
Try Some New Tomatoes!
Half the fun of gardening is taking chances by trying something new and discovering wonderful new flowers, vegetables, tomatoes, or even techniques that keep us engaged with the Earth and life itself. The other half is reaping the fruits of our labor in a bountiful harvest at the end of the growing season and being able to share it with friends and family.
Don’t be afraid to grow some of these great tomatoes. You may discover a new favorite in the process, as well as newfound courage in gardening. Live a little this summer and get some of these tomatoes in the ground before it’s your turn to be planted.