terrific tomatoes

Terrific tomatoes: top tomato picks from some of our favourite folks!

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As a huge tomato geek, I’m always on the hunt for new varieties to grow in my tomato beds. Our family favourites include Sungold, Cherokee Purple, Japanese Black Trifele, Chef’s Choice Orange, and Genuwine. Looking for more suggestions of terrific tomatoes, I turned to some of my favourite food gardeners to see what varieties were their top picks. Here are their answers:

Terrific tomatoes:

Mark Cullen, best-selling author, television and radio host, newspaper columnist & gardening spokesperson:

“My favourite tomato is Lemon Boy, which produces medium-sized, perfectly round fruit. The bright yellow tomatoes are popular with gardeners because of their unusual, sunny appearance, but Lemon Boy also tastes great! It’s very sweet – a great hamburger and sandwich tomato, and the plants are blight resistant.”

Carson Arthur, HGTV Host & Outdoor Design and Lifestyle Expert

“While not an heirloom, my favourite find for 2015 was definitely Pinky Tuscadero! With awkward knobs and ribs, this tomato comes with a lot of personality. She was the star of many summer salads, often paired with Buffalo Cheese and fresh basil from the garden!”

terrific tomatoes

Carson with one of his gorgeous Pinky Tuscadero tomatoes!

Joe Lamp’l, host of Growing a Greener World:

“My favorite tomato variety is Black Krim.  To me, it’s the tomato equivalent of a complex, full-bodied red wine, or an extra bold, dark roast coffee. The layers and depth I find in the Black Krim variety come as close to the most flavorful acidic tomato with a satisfying finish that lingers well after the bite is finished, just like a fine wine.”

“My best tomato discovery this year was Tiger Tom, a golf-ball sized prolific and colorfully striped tomato that is a treat to eat right off the vine when wandering the garden. While the skin is slightly thicker than I prefer, its flavor exhibits some of the same desirable traits as my above pick, Black Krim. Tiger Tom also had excellent disease resistance in my zone 7B garden. This likely contributed to its excellent staying power, well past the time nearly all other varieties in the garden were finished.”

“And lastly, the all-time winner in the small tomato category is Sungold, hands-down, bar none. Amazing!”

Teresa O’Connor of Seasonal Wisdom:

I’ve grown everything from ‘Green Zebra’ and ‘Purple Cherokee’ to ‘Brandywine,’ but right now I’m obsessed with Black Krim, a delicious heirloom that is naturally salty, Hillbilly, a gorgeous tomato with yellow and red marbling and a sweet flavor, and Sungold, an exceptional orange cherry tomato that never makes it into the house.”

terrific tomatoes

The super-sweet fruits of Sungold are garden candy.. and a favourite among everyone we polled.

Emma Biggs, 10 year old gardener and co-author of Grow Gardeners:

My favourite tomato from this year was the Canadian Sunset tomato. It is a large yellow tomato. It is good for slicing in salads. I like to use it in my tomato bocconcini salad. It adds really nice colour and looks really good with red beefsteak tomatoes.”

terrific tomatoes

Canadian Sunset tomato has a big fan in ten year old Emma Biggs!

Benjamin R. Eichorn, Founder of Grow Your Lunch and author of Edible Gardening:

My favorite tomatoes are Cherokee Purple, a deep, luscious red heirloom slicer tomato that never disappoints, Green Zebra, a fun green and yellow striped medium sized heirloom with unmatched acidity and sweetness, and Sungold, a cherry hybrid that is the most dependable tomato in cooler summer climates and probably the sweetest tomato I’ve ever tasted.

Dee Nash of Red Dirt Ramblings, author of The 20-30 Something Garden Guide:

“This year I really loved the Heirloom Marriage tomato series. My favorites were Big Brandywine and Genuwine, which are really, REALLY good. It’s so hot here in Oklahoma that I have trouble growing the heirloom ‘Brandywine’, but ‘Big Brandywine’ was a true winner! It’s still pumping out the fruits this late in the season and they have great flavor.”

terrific tomatoes

Big Brandy is a 2015 introduction that combines two popular heirloom tomatoes – Big Dwarf and Brandywine. The pink fruits are large and have a sweet flavour with a hint of acid. Delish!

Shawna Coronado, author of Grow a Living Wall, radio host, TEDx speaker & green lifestyle evangelist:

“Right now, I’m obsessed with purple tomatoes. You need to pay extra attention when picking purple varieties because the unusual color often makes it difficult to tell when they are ripe. The secret is to pick a purple tomato when you see that rich red tone on the bottom of the fruit and it gives slightly when you gently squeeze it. Many gardeners give Indigo Rose Purple a bad rap for having a poor taste, however, I have found the tomato tastes great. Just make sure you harvest at the peak of ripeness!”

Jessica Walliser, Savvy Gardening superstar & author of the award-winning book, Attracting Beneficial Bugs to your Garden:

“My favorite tomato is Pineapple. It’s a big, juicy heirloom variety with light yellow flesh that’s streaked with pink. The fruits are up to two pounds each, and the flavor is knock-your-socks-off delicious. It’s one of a handful of tomatoes I NEED to grow every year.”

terrific tomatoes

Pineapple tomatoes are delicious and beautiful!

Tara Nolan, Savvy Gardening superstar & author of Raised Bed Revolution:

“There are a lot of terrific tomatoes, but my favourite for the last couple of years has been Blush Tiger. It’s considered a cherry tomato, but my tomatoes were huge this year! Each one is a lovely orange colour with a “blush” of pale red around the top. The fruit is sweet like candy and quite prolific. I’ll be planting it again, that’s for sure!”

Craig LeHoullier, author of the best-selling book, Epic Tomatoes:

“Terrific tomatoes? Easy!”

Ferris Wheel – Grow some authentic American tomato history! This is a superb tomato that I rescued from obscurity (it was hidden away in the USDA seed vault) in 2002; turns out it is a variety that was released in 1894 by the Salzer Seed Company, and one of the very best large fruited pink tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. Think Brandywine with regard to flavor, but a higher, more consistent yield.

terrific tomatoes

Ferris Wheel is an heirloom worth growing – and one saved from obscurity by Craig. (Photo by Craig LeHoullier)

Dwarf Beryl Beauty (or Dwarf Jade Beauty, or Dwarf Kelly Green) – these three, with the same colored fruit (green flesh, clear skin) vary slightly (Beryl and Jade have potato leaf foliage, Kelly Green regular leaf; Beryl develops more of a pink blossom end blush, and Jade is slightly smaller at 4 ounce average) – but they are all outstanding releases from the Dwarf Tomato Project showing good disease tolerance, good yield potential and, best of all, outstanding flavor.

Dwarf Mr. Snow – one of the best flavored of the 150 or so I grew; an attractive, high yielding, disease tolerant new dwarf with gorgeous potato leaf foliage and nearly white 6-10 ounce fruit. Perhaps the best flavored white tomato I’ve ever eaten, and was one of the best flavored tomatoes of the season, period!

Egg Yolk – My second favorite cherry tomato aside from Sun Gold, slightly larger and a true clear yellow, this is a prolific, healthy, addictive variety that everyone should try! It is a bit sweeter, juicier and meatier than Sun Gold – and, not being a hybrid, it can be regrown from saved seed.

terrrific tomatoes

Egg Yolk looks just like.. an egg yolk! (Photo by Kip Dawkins)

Speckled Roman – This is now my go-to sauce and paste tomato. The somewhat straggly looking indeterminate vines produce a huge yield of elongated tomatoes that are shaped like a frying pepper, but are a glowing scarlet with golden stripes. Meaty, and with few seeds, they are great for slow oven roasting, but equally delicious for slicing into salads. And, of course, they are superb for making sauce.

Craig’s Suggested Seed Sources – for the Dwarfs, try Victory Seeds, Tatiana’s TOMATObase, Heritage Tomato Seeds and Sample Seed Shop. For the others, add in Seed Savers Exchange. An Internet search on each type may find other sources; there are so many heirloom tomatoes, and so many companies, that sourcing any given variety varies widely year to year.

What are your favourite terrific tomatoes? Share them with us in the comments section below. 

Terrific tomatoes - We asked garden experts to name their favorite varieties!

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21 Responses to Terrific tomatoes: top tomato picks from some of our favourite folks!

  1. Brent Eamer says:

    My star this year was Indigo Apple from Baker Creek Seeds

  2. Jan H says:

    Love the flavor and prolific production of Black Cherry.

  3. Julie McElroy says:

    Two new ones for me were Chocolate Cherry, a beautiful, very prolific, full flavored, larger cherry tomato and Wapsipinicon Peach. It looks like a very small peach, heavy producer and sweet.
    Both are heirlooms and still producing here in Spokane on October 18.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Mennonite Orange has become my favourite tomato–prolific big tasty heriloom tomatoes in glorious orange. My best new discovery this year was Yellow Pear tomatoes. I’m not a big fan of most cherry tomatoes as they’re sweeter than I like, but Yellow Pear is full of tomato taste, yet is small enough to pop in your mouth by the handful.

  5. Greg Carbone says:

    It’s a tough question for a tomato loving New Jerseyean! When pressed I will usually go with Cherokee Purple for the amazing flavor and wonderful versatility. Green Zebra is a close second for the unexpected, lemony tang and tomato sweet balance. These green beauties liven up any salad!

  6. Karen McM says:

    I was thrilled beyond adjectives this season with the black krims also..I referred to them as my fav cup of medium roast bold coffee as well. Imagine the best beefsteak being all juicy and sweet and then add to that the eye candy of its color plus the zing it leaves behind with its tart and zesty aftertaste..by far the best tomato to grace my landscape and table this year! 2015

  7. Sarah van Leer says:

    Slicer: Aunt Ruby’s German Green – delicious abundant tomato flavor in a huge green heirloom.
    Paste: San Marzano – very prolific and almost as tasty as my other favorite paste, Amish Paste.
    Smaller tomatoes: Landis – again great flavor on a small round red.
    Cherry: Sungold! (I also like a Galapagos yellow variant with a strong mineral taste that is interesting if not tomato-ey.)

  8. Jill Garner says:

    My two favorites this year were Brandy Boy and Lemon Boy, with Grapefruit tomato coming in a close third.

  9. Richard A Bertram says:

    My heavy lifter in my hydroponic garden is the Big Beef. It’s consistently robust flavor makes great salad/sandwich tomatoes, while it cooks down into a delicious marinara sauce. Attached is a photo from my June 8 update.

  10. Lorraine Ellis says:

    For wonderful sweet flavor, my favorites this year were Orange Strawberry, Beauty King, Malachite Box, Chocolate Stripe and Mint Julep. My favorites for salads were Ananas Noire and Fantome du Laos. Favorite novelty tom was Monkey’s Ass. Honest to God, it DOES look like the name and the flavor was excellent!

  11. Paul Fish says:

    My newest favorite is Kolb, a large pink beefsteak originally from the Kolb Greenhouse in the 1940s-50s from Storm Lake, Iowa.

  12. My new favorite tomato this year was Lucky Cross, a large yellow beefstake tomato with pink blush inside and out. Well balanced sweet flavor. Very little cracking. Originally from Craig LeHoullier, it was a cross between a Brandywine and unknown tomato, being pollinated by a bee. Definitely will grow this again next year.

    • Niki Jabbour says:

      Oooh, I love that one too Jannine! I’m also a big Craig LeHoullier fan and he sent me seed for it.. wonderful!! Thanks for mentioning it.. I didn’t grow it this year, but will add it to my 2017 list! 🙂 – Niki

  13. KCTOMATO says:

    Cherokee White – knock your socks off flavor. My wife calls biting into one “tomato sex”. Moderately productive but not for the novice grower.

    Bear Creek – “black” beefsteak type with a rich tomato flavor. Specifically bred for organic conditions. Adapted to Midwest and heat.

    Gary’O Sena – purple beefsteak type with a sweeter flavor than Bear Creek. Often early for a large type. Sets well in heat. Bred under organic conditions.

    Liz Birt – red round tomato with more locules. This one selected because it has more of an acid bite as well as a rich tomato background.

  14. Joe and Megan (Sound Living NS) says:

    I’m surprised no one mentioned Rainbow Blend. The colours are amazing and the taste so bold compared to many. We also love Brandywine, but now I feel we need to try some of these others! Thanks 😊

  15. Jane E Starr says:

    Lemon Ice Dwarf was my favourite this year. Odd shape, but deliciously lemony. Nyagous, Cosmic Eclipse, Paul Robeson, Wapsipinicon Peach and Sunchocola were also highlights.

  16. Lyall Ainslie says:

    Belgian Giant are my fave. Been growing them for 5 years and have consistent large crops with tomatoes into the 3 pound range. They are the “one slice” tomato that will fill your mouth with a not too acidic but mouthwatering flavor. Plants are strong, prolific and tolerant of me forgetting to water on a regular basis. Try them – you will not be disappointed.

  17. Larry says:

    Just looking forward for the sweetest tomato I can find

  18. Ken Pinette says:

    I’ve grown Brandywines, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra and Cosmonaut Volkov and numerous cherry tomatoes at my home on North Shore Mass. To this day my fav large tomato is still Brandywine…. favorite cherry and all around best tasting is the Black Cherry…. on the acidic side and incredibly complex flavor. You have to thoroughly mulch the heirlooms though with newspaper and a layer of leaf mold or early blight will rear its ugly head.

  19. Aaron says:

    Sun Gold is definitely my favorite cherry and flavor wise it’s the best. I love rich and sweet tomatoes. It produces exceptionally and grows very big. Produces longer and is more disease resistant than most I’ve seen. What can you say to do any better? It’s a beautiful plant as well with long perfect strands of clustered fruit.

  20. Gary Towne says:

    My favorite slicer is the Porterhouse beefsteak, the best combination of flavor, meatiness, and size. Two Pounders are routine and one slice covers the BLT or Burger. My favorite cherry tomato is the Supersweet 100, delicious and prolific.

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