Now that tomato-seed starting time is at our doorstep, it’s time to get serious and narrow down the must-grow list. For many gardeners, this is not an easy task, especially when it comes to the thousands of different heirloom tomatoes we have to choose from. It’s fun to discover the unique flavor, texture, size and color of each different heirloom tomato variety, and most of us run out of room long before we run out of choices.
To simplify (or complicate!) your selection process, I’d like to introduce you to a few heirloom tomato varieties I’ve come to love over the years. While I’ve grown hundreds of different selections, these five remain tops on my personal list of favorites. Some I love for their high yields, while others are favorites for their visual appeal, size or meatiness. But, all five of them have flavor flavor flavor!
1. Ananas Noire Tomato
A winner for its sheer beauty, this massive, flavorful tomato is one I won’t garden without. The multicolored skin has hues of pink, green and yellow, while the flesh inside is green with pink streaking. Every fruit my plants produce is at least 1 pound; many are close to 2. This is my favorite tomato for BLTs.
2. Old German Tomato
Another large-fruited tomato variety, Old German is a gorgeous deep orange. The skin is streaked with red. With very few seeds, this variety is so meaty and juicy—a perfect slicer. Fruits weigh between 1 and 2 pounds each. Although it takes a long time to ripen (85 days), it’s well worth the wait. This old-fashioned heirloom tastes best with a touch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.
3. San Marzano Gigante Tomato
Of all the paste tomatoes I’ve grown, this one is my favorite. Substantially larger than regular San Marzano paste tomatoes, this heirloom variety produces 6- to 8-inch long, elongated fruits that are bright red with green streaks on the shoulders. They thicken sauce like nobody’s business! The plants are very high-yielding, and the fruits have small seed pockets.
4. White Beauty Tomato
This creamy white tomato packs a flavorful punch. I love the complex flavor that has touches of smoke and citrus. The skin is thin, and the flesh is juicy. Although sometimes the blossom ends become cat-faced (slightly deformed), don’t let that stop you from growing this delicious tomato. I use mine to make white tomato soup, and we love them sliced in salads and on sandwiches.
5. Koralik Tomato
This sweet little cherry tomato produces tons of fruits just 60 days after planting. The plants are determinate, so this is an excellent choice for growing in patio containers. I’ve grown this variety in fabric grow bags on my patio with great success. The fruit of Koralik grows in long trusses, and all the fruits on a single truss ripen at the same time. Mine produce scores of tomatoes for months, and I find the flavor to have a nice sweet bite.