Top 10 Best Tomatoes to Grow
Go beyond the ordinary with these unique picks that boast terrific flavor and bright colors for your tomato garden.
I’ve grown tomatoes for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I even had my own stand at the local farmers market, selling cucumbers, peppers and lots of tomatoes. For the most part, we grew traditional red tomatoes. Every once in a while, we’d throw in a yellow or plum-shaped variety, but we didn’t go off track too much.
Now I see tomatoes in a whole new light. You can find hundreds of different varieties out there in almost every hue imaginable.
To help you navigate the sea of tomatoes, we put together this list of the top 10 best tomatoes to grow. Of course you’ll have your own favorites, but the list is a good starting point for those who are a little overwhelmed by all the choices. And be sure to read the “Stacy’s Tip” section under each pick to learn about some excellent resources for tomato and vegetable gardening fans.
This is a new exclusive from Burpee. You wouldn’t think a Roma tomato would pack such a punch, but the name really says it all. Burpee claims a single 2-pound tomato will fill an entire sauce jar. So if you like to can your own sauce, SuperSauce could be your new favorite. Just imagine what an entire plant in your tomato garden could yield in one season.
Stacy’s Tip: If you like cooking with your fruits and veggies, check out Burpee’s sister company, The Cook’s Garden, specializing in seeds and plants for gardening gourmets. It has other sauce tomatoes, too. Visit cooksgarden.com.
You can now find a brand-new series of Vernissage tomatoes, developed by a young Ukrainian plant breeder. This pink variety with pale yellow stripes is one of the most popular, but you can grow a green, black or yellow version as well. The plants are prolific producers, and the fruit is colorful and delicious. The tomatoes average a petite 2 ounces. Just pluck them off the vine and enjoy!
Stacy’s Tip: You can get Vernissage from one of our all-time favorite heirloom seed sources, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. It carries the whole Vernissage line, as well as other top tomatoes. Learn more at rareseeds.com.
Have a weakness for plum tomatoes? Check out breeder Tom Wagner’s creation. Outside, each gorgeous 4-inch fruit has attractive light red and orange stripes; the interior is deep red. When you bite in, you may notice a little bit of fruitiness. Casady’s Folly will please people who like their produce in fun colors and shapes.
Stacy’s Tip: We’re fascinated by breeders creating new cultivars of flowers and veggies. If this interests you too, look for a new book from Timber Press, Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener: How to Create Unique Vegetables & Flowers. Find out more at timberpress.com.
It’s a fairly recent tomato trend: grafting so the plants will produce two or three times more fruit. You can find several grafted varieties, but we like the looks of the heirloom cultivar Brandywine, which has been a trusted product for decades. If you have a small space but want lots of fruit in your tomato garden, grafted tomatoes could be the solution. Ask about them at the garden center.
Stacy’s Tip: Territorial Seed Co. has a slew of grafted vegetable plants, including tomatoes like Brandywine, Pineapple and Indigo Rose, plus peppers and eggplants. Read more at territorialseed.com.
We pay attention to the All-America Selections each year because it’s a good way to know which new flowers and veggies to watch for. This year, the Jasper tomato hybrid won an award in the vegetables category. At just about ¾ inch in diameter, the fruits grow in clusters and have attracted attention for superior flavor. The plant is also said to be extremely resistant to disease, which will help extend the harvest season. This is another good one to eat right off the vine.
Stacy’s Tip: Following the All-America Selections each year is bound to give you inspiration for your own choices. You can also find winners from as far back as 1979 at all-americaselections.org.
Chances are you’ve seen them at your garden center. Celebrity tomatoes were an All-America Selections veggie in 1984, and we think they still deserve top honors. They’re bright red, reliable and scrumptious—everything you love about tomatoes in summer. Since they’ve become a staple, they’re readily available, making them the perfect option for just about any backyard tomato garden.
Stacy’s Tip: Many Home Depot stores carry Celebrity tomatoes. If you can’t find them there, visit bonnieplants.com, which is quickly gaining recognition as a top supplier of veggies and herbs.
Do you know someone who doesn’t like tomatoes? If so, this variety just might convert him or her. As the name suggests, it’s one of the sweetest tomatoes you can grow.Plus, it has a fun shape, pointed on both ends. A 2005 All-America Selections winner, it’s been popular ever since. It grows vigorously and will bear fruit all season, so you need only a plant or two for a good supply of fruit.
Stacy’s Tip: If you like buying organic, then be sure to check out The Natural Gardening Co. This California-based company has lots of options, including the Sugary variety. You can buy seeds or seedlings. Learn more at naturalgardening.com.
What it lacks in size (only around 3 ounces), it makes up for in flavor—lots and lots of flavor. These small tomatoes fit in the palm of your hand and have lovely lime green stripes. The fruits turn yellow and soften a bit as they ripen, so you know when they’re ready to pick. Chefs love having these little tomatoes on hand. And Green Bay Packers fans love them in the garden.
Stacy’s Tip: Green Zebra is an heirloom, and one of the best places to get heirlooms is through Seed Savers Exchange. This is a membership-based group, but it’ll get you access to some rare and interesting seeds. Visit seedsavers.org.
Aunt Ruby’s German Green
Yes, you can do more with green tomatoes than just fry them up. While most tomatoes start green and then redden as they ripen, these are ripe when they’re a vibrant lime green. The Aunt Ruby’s German Green is one of the most talked-about heirlooms of the past decade. It won the Heirloom Garden Show taste test back in 2003, and many gardeners say it has better flavor than most red tomatoes.
Stacy’s Tip: Another seed source worth checking out is Victory Seeds, specializing in rare, open-pollinated and heirloom garden seeds, including Aunt Ruby’s. Learn more about its mission at victoryseeds.com.
Black tomatoes? Sure, as long as they taste great. And these do. They look a lot like the popular Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, except the fruits turn from green to a deep cherry, almost black, as they ripen. This hybrid plant produces dozens of fruits on a single vine, so don’t worry about sharing. You should have plenty to go around.
Stacy’s Tip: Do you like black (aka “chocolate”) plants? Check out one of our favorite sources for them, the Chocolate Flower Farm; chocolateflowerfarm.com.