I’ve been a tomato lover my whole life. Some of my finest childhood memories involve a sunny day, my mom’s crystal salt shaker, and heirloom tomatoes. Our house on Fry Avenue may have been small, but we sure did have a big garden, filled with rows and rows of heirloom tomato varieties. My mom grew nearly every vegetable our family ate, and what we didn’t eat fresh, she made into her famous tomato soup and sauces for the winter. Needless to say, because of my mom’s garden, I’ve grown into a bit of a “tomato snob.” I know what I like in a tomato, and over the years, I’ve grown hundreds of different heirloom tomato varieties in hopes of discovering new favorites. After decades of trial and error, at long last, I think I’ve managed to create my very own list of the best heirloom tomatoes.
When it comes to heirloom tomatoes, some gardeners find it tough to pick a favorite. There are many different attributes to consider; it’s not just about the flavor. I’m attracted to a certain texture (mealiness is a huge turn-off!), a certain size, and a certain level of acidity, and because there are thousands of different heirloom tomato varieties available, narrowing my selections down didn’t come easy. But, I did it! And so I present:
My favorite heirloom tomato varieties:
- ‘Pineapple’: This large, yellowy-orange beefsteak heirloom tomato has pink streaks inside and out. It tastes like a dream; slightly sweet and packed with flavor. It’s not a super-prolific producer, but this is the one tomato I will never, ever go without. (Source for Pineapple tomato)
- ‘Cosmonaut Volkov’: My favorite of all the red heirloom tomatoes, ‘Cosmonaut Volkov’ ripens to a gorgeous, even red – no green shoulders here! The fruits are fist-sized and perfectly acidic. A good yielding variety, this heirloom tomato makes awesome tomato sauce and soup. Not to mention it’s an essential ingredient in the perfect BLT. (Source for Cosmonaut Volkov tomato)
- ‘Aunt Ruby’s German Green’: I’ve grown lots of green heirloom tomato varieties, but ‘Aunt Ruby’s German Green’ is my hands-down favorite. Tangy, slightly sweet, and streaked with pink, this variety makes absolutely gorgeous slices for Caprese salads. I had so many of the massive fruits on my plants this year, I had to prop up the branches! (Source for Aunt Ruby’s German Green tomato)
- ‘Dr. Wyche’s’: Its rich, tangerine color and plump, meaty flesh make this heirloom tomato variety a total knockout in my book. The largest fruits barely fit in the palm of my hand, and the flavor is just the right balance of sweetness and acidity. The seed pockets are very small, and the texture is smooth as silk with no mealiness. (Source for Dr. Wyche’s tomato)
- ‘White Queen’: I’m a sucker for white tomatoes. In fact, one of my favorite cherry tomatoes is a white variety called ‘Snow White’. I like to think of ‘White Queen’ as the belle of my garden. She’s distinctive in both color and taste, and she knows how to keep up appearances, always producing a dozen or more fruits on each plant. Frankly, ‘White Queen’ is downright fabulous. (Source for White Queen tomato)
‘Granny Cantrell’: Huge, meaty, flavorful fruits that are nothing short of perfect are the norm for ‘Granny Cantrell’. Yes, like many other heirloom tomato varieties, sometimes there’s a bit of cat-facing on the blossom end of the fruits, but don’t let that stop you. ‘Granny Cantrell’ makes scrumptious, pink tomato soup. This year, my biggest one weighed almost two and a half pounds! (Source for Granny Cantrell tomatoes)
If you’re a container gardener, check out this video to discover 5 great tomato varieties for growing in containers.
For more on selecting and growing great tomatoes, check out these articles:
- Types of tomatoes
- Cherry tomato favorites
- Tips for growing tomatoes in raised beds
- How to identify and control tomato plant diseases
What are your favorite heirloom tomato varieties? Tell us about them in the comment section below.