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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:
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!”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.