Tomatoes: Request for Reader Recommendations

comments (31) November 3rd, 2011

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WesternGardener Jodi Torpey, contributor
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Gardening is just a bowl of cherry tomatoes.
My favorite large tomato this season was Aunt Ruby’s German Green.
Black Krim tomatoes have a rich, slightly salty flavor that deepens when used in cooking.
Gardening is just a bowl of cherry tomatoes.Click To Enlarge

Gardening is just a bowl of cherry tomatoes.

Photo: John Pendleton

Someone once told me the difference between knowledge and wisdom is knowing that tomatoes are a fruit, but having the wisdom not to put them in a fruit salad.

And right now I could use a little wisdom. I’d like some help making my tomato choices for next year.

Every season I plant at least a dozen new-to-me varieties in patio containers, in the vegetable bed and in a special tomato garden. But at this rate, it will take years for me to find the perfect combination of tomatoes to grow.

That’s why I need your help. What are your top tomato recommendations in these three categories?

  • Medium-to-large tomato
  • Small or cherry tomato
  • Most flavorful tomato

From this year’s garden I’d name Aunt Ruby’s German Green in the medium-to-large tomato category. It didn’t produce a huge crop, but this heirloom, beefsteak style tomato was beautiful on the vine and turned a lovely yellow-green as it ripened. I really liked its sweet-tart taste on sandwiches and in salads.

My favorite small tomato was Sungold. This orange cherry tomato was the first to ripen in my garden and did extremely well in a large container, producing throughout the season. These small tomatoes packed a big taste and many never made it to the kitchen because they were enjoyed right off the vine.

Black Krim is my go-to tomato for flavor and my garden wouldn’t be complete without planting at least one every year. These dark purple heirloom tomatoes have a smoky, slightly salty taste that deepens when used in cooking.

What tomato varieties do you think I should plant next year and why? Please add your recommendations here—thank you!

For more information on selecting varieties, planting and growing tomatoes,
tomato stakes and support systems, tomato Q&A, and tomato recipes, see
All About Tomatoes.


posted in: tomatoes

Comments (31)

Ericthomas21 writes: Very Tasty.
Posted: 12:27 am on October 25th
user-939178 writes: For a delicious, prolific, long-lasting small tomato, Cabernet can't be beat. Italian Stripe is a beautiful red with yellow streaks, and tasty too. Opalka continues to be a personal favorite for paste to rival Amish Paste. All my 15 different varieties did especially well when planted with compost in the hole and two applications of compost tea during the growing season.
Posted: 9:20 am on February 6th
utskydog writes: Super Italian Paste are pepper shaped. Very large and tasty.

Posted: 11:59 am on June 3rd
my_boys_mama writes: I grew over 30 varieties of tomatoes last year in green houses and in my home garden.
My favourites were: Beefsteaks - Gold Medal
Big Rainbow
Golden Pineapple
Mr. Stripey
Beauty King

Cherries - SunGold (very prolific)
Isis Candy (tasty)

Medium size - Green Zebra - (acidic, but tasty)

I tried about 8 different varieties of blks - liked some, but wasn't wild about them. Didn't like Japanese Trifle. A couple of weird ones that were good were Berkley tie dye (very cool looking when sliced) and green sausage legs.
I canned, whole tomatoes, sauces, purrees, ketchups etc. Found the above mentioned beefsteaks made best of the above.
Posted: 12:08 pm on February 12th
VeggieMann writes: Tomatoes were the first things we grew in containers, after my girlfriend and I got married and were waiting to afford a home.

That was 29 years ago and a lot of container gardens ago but we finally got a home with space for a garden. Now we grow lots of tomatoes. I have tomatoes I grow every year but we also like to try new one.

I joined a seed club and get seeds every month. Each year there are usually 5 or so varieties of tomatoes. I always look forward to mail at the first of each month just to see what new seeds I'm getting.
Posted: 6:15 pm on December 26th
chisafin writes: Best large tomato is Big Rainbow. It is very sweet and the appearance of this tomato is just fantastic when sliced. A real palate pleasing conversation piece!
Best Cherry Tomato is Sugary. It has a very high Brix rating (9 I think) and is very prolific.
Most flavorful is Big Rainbow (see above). I'm also partial to the flavor of Black Prince. It has a nice fruity complexity to it.
Posted: 3:13 am on December 3rd
FrisbeeHawk writes: The best out of the garden this year was the German Queen. My boss and I didn't get many off the plants (maybe 20 total) but dang they were good and mine had 20 foot vines (10 foot trellis). Chocolate Cherry will stay in my garden next year.
New to my garden next year will be Black Krim, Kellogg's Breakfast and Brandywine.
I'm keeping a close eye out for Cherokee Purple, Gold Medal and Ananas Noire. Orange Smudge would be after these 3.

Posted: 12:36 am on December 3rd
janezee writes: I'm with PKnapp. Sun Sugar is just tasty, if not better than Sun Gold, and resists cracking better, has a thinner skin, and is less susceptible to late blight here. Left Sweet Million in the cut as far as production, too.
Juliet is great for a larger tomato. Tumbler is great for containers. Momotaro was just so delicious! Mmmmm. Can't wait to start again!

Posted: 5:56 am on November 28th
PKnapp writes: I'm surprised at all the recommendations for Sungold. I much prefer Sunsugar for a fuller, richer, sweeter flavor. And very prolific. Isis Candy is good, too, if you have hot summers. But in the foothills of the Coast Range here in Oregon, we just couldn't get them to ripen quickly enough to get a full enough harvest. Rose de Berne is a nice one for earliness in a midsized tomato. I've finally learned the importance of keeping a good diary, otherwise I'd have more recommendations for you. So soon old, so late smart....

This much I do know, Opalka tomatoes taste wonderful, but suffer from too much blossom end rot in our area to make them worthwhile. We gave up and switched to San Marzano and Super San Marzano and had a good crop. We live in a canyon, and only get about 7 hours of sun a day.
Posted: 1:13 am on November 28th
celebration writes: I, also, won't go for one summer without growing Sungold. I actually plant two...just in case!

My other must haves are: Aunt Ruby's German Green and Mortgage Lifter in the large category. Paul Robeson for medium size.

Posted: 10:33 pm on November 26th
michelleatlarryville writes: MEDIUM SIZE; Black Japanese Trifile, Intense and full bodied, complex and sweet; SMALL: Black Cherry, full flavor not too sweet for a cherry; and LARGE: Paul Robeson, a "black" with all the best characteristics and the most beautiful mahogany color ever seen on a tomato!
Posted: 8:05 am on November 26th
lucyg22 writes: I'm mainly a flower gardener, so I put in just a few tomatoes each year. I'm not a good tomato grower, but I had great success with Juliet this year. Lots and lots of tasty fruit.
Posted: 11:20 pm on November 24th
elzbthc writes: I love the Cream Sausage for it's earliest. It is a cream colored paste tomatoes. Not especially flavorful but the first to give me any tomatoes. And it was pretty. For taste, we love the Sungold. Ladybug, another cherry was beautiful and glossy and tasty. The heirloom Rose, big Rainbow and Ananis Noir rock, in terms of both taste and size. Kosovo and Orange Russian, both oxhearts, are delicious. Super Snow Whites are a large cherry, golf ball size, and were the most prolific plant I had. Golden Queen, another heirloom, prolific, tasty and pretty.

Most of my plants were 6 feet plus.
Posted: 1:10 pm on November 24th
Isaaccollins writes: I have tried growing tomatoes as a bossiness in the open, but have been frustrated due to late blight.Now am considering greenhouse but am a bit skeptical about its economic viability especially in my poor country UGANDA and i lack the funds because am still a student. I also don't have training in greenhouse gardening. Any help in form of advice or materialistic is welcome.

Posted: 11:36 am on November 24th
IhateBugs writes: In answer to Veeta's request for a tapered tomato - It could possibly be Organic Gilbertie Paste Tomato - HEIRLOOM Long red, slender shape with characteristically green shoulders and a slight crook in the neck. Narrow fruits 7” long; 10-12 oz. Flesh is very solid, rich flavor that makes excellent sauces and soups. Very small seed cavity.
Available online at High Mowing Organic Seeds. They have a photo too. Sounds great; I'm going to try this one for 2012.

I live in the hot south, so I grow disease-resistant, heat- setting Hybrid tomatoes. But, I'm very interested in purchasing some of the open-pollinated tomatoes, such as Merced, Improved Heatwave 24, & Dwarf Cherry Surprise (naturally disease-resistant). Might try Old Brooks. Since we had such a terrible drought this year, maybe I should try Super Sioux for dry, hot weather! ha! Has anyone ever grown Bella Rosa?
Posted: 2:46 am on November 24th
1946 writes: I may possibly go a bit over the top on planting tomatoes as I generally end up planting 16-18 varieties each summer, always adding one or two new ones and dropping others. Many of my faves were mentioned, Cherokee Purple, Black cherry, Caspian Pink, Lemon Boy, and of course the favorite Sungold. A few others I love are Dr. Wyche's Yellow, White Wonder, and a huge red one called Aunt Anna, which does not produce large numbers but is delicious. I have two stand-by reds that I grow for canning and drying, Park's Whopper, a delicious large red always reliably heavy producer, and Viva Italia which is a paste type that I use for drying because it has way better flavor than any other paste tomato I have ever tried. Next summer I plan to try Kellog's Breakfast one more time. Last time I tried those I got zero germination from the seeds. Another interesting variety is the Stuffer tomato, which actually comes in red, yellow or pink, and is almost hollow on the interior, like peppers. It's not the tastiest tomato but is fun to stuff with either salad ingredients or to fill and bake.
Posted: 11:51 pm on November 23rd
sg2 writes: I have had excellent luck with a little known variety called Pollock up here in Canada they are a compact plant producing tons of excellently flavoured tomatoes with small seed pockets and melt in your mouth texture to them when they are ripe. They are a medium sized tomatoe - red as red can be and they grow in the garden, in pots and we have overwintered them in the house and got tomatoes off them through the winter. My other favourite is the Juliet although they don't really qualify as the cherry they are described as - in my garden they are about the size of a small roma but the flavour is amazing and when you dry them the sweetness makes them almost like candy!
Posted: 7:23 pm on November 23rd
LivingMyth writes: ORANGE TOMATOES
This summer, as I have for the past four years, I grew a diverse variety of heirlooms and had some excellent finds. First and foremost: Kellogg's Breakfast. This large orange beefsteak tomato was just amazing. The plant was a huge producer, it had large orange tomatoes that were juicy but not too "seedy." They were as delicious as they were beautiful. I also grew other Orange and Orange-yellow tomatoes. Amana Orange and Virginia Sweets. But Amana did not produce as well as Kellogg's or have as much Wow factor when served on a plate and Virginia Sweets was sweet as advertised but unbelievably Bland. Yes to SUNGOLD! Discovered it last year and it is the best yellow cherry. I also grow heirloom cherries called Black Cherry that are wonderful. Reported to have the flavor of a Brandywine in a cherry tomato. They are a large cherry and good producer in the garden. I recommend them as an unusual and delicious cherry. I no longer bother to grow regular cherries like Sweet 100's the classic.
We should also post here about starting tomato seeds indoors as well.. that is challenging!
PS All varieties I speak about were planted in New England and Upstate New York and two growers: myself and my brother absolutely concur on the varieties.
Posted: 6:16 pm on November 23rd
ggltd writes: We moved from Pittsburgh, PA to Cornelius, NC and can't seem to get the hang of growing tomatos here. We used to have a great crop of beefsteak and bush. What are some tips to grow them here? Soil, variety or time of planting?
Posted: 12:27 pm on November 23rd
matthew1948 writes: I have gardened for over fifty years and the best paste tomato I have found is a fairly new variety from Burpee, Mama Mia. It has size, flavor, keeping capacity, few seeds, and realtively low acidity for a red variety, even good for slicing and sandwiches. I devote about half of my tomato space to this one every year.
For cherry-types you cannot beat Sweet 100; truly sweet taste, prolific production and resistant to most all fungus. I plant a couple of Sun Gold for low acidity every year, as well.
Posted: 11:33 am on November 23rd
ElizabethBurnett writes: I live in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon at 1600 feet....a little slow to get started in cool springs, but blazing hot by mid-July. My earliest flavorful tomato is Fourth of July. If I can find starts, they do begin to ripen then. (Not large) My best producer is red Brandywine. We love them sliced, and I still have a few that I picked 5 weeks ago before our first hard freeze. My other reliable standby is "Medford", developed for our area, medium-sized, and long-producing. Other popular varieties in my area are Early Girl and Better Boy, but they were very tough this year. I harvested about 250 lbs. of tomatoes from our 16 plants; over half were from 6 Brandywines. I have eaten, canned, frozen, and oven-dried at least a million this year...has anyone out there read Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; a Year of Food Life"?? Well, I was right there with her--counters over-flowing. Now that we have thwarted the deer with an 8 ft. fence, this acre is heaven.
Posted: 11:31 am on November 23rd
westswimmer writes: Not an heirloom, but my favorite tomato this year (and looking back now, all years) was super sweet cherry. These were small but very plentiful and simply delicious.
Posted: 9:12 pm on November 21st
LeslieinPayson writes: Sungold was also a big winner for me. Besides it I planted a small cherry called sweetie pie that produced well and was very tasty. I tried an Aunt Ruby's German Green cherry but it was very hard to get started, and took a long time to produce- also not as tasty as the full-sized.
I grew a large yellow/red streaks tomato called Gold Medal- produced very well, tasty, but I can't deal with the "bloody" streaks inside- puts me off.
Taste- I vote for Lemon Boy, or a mid-size red with green shoulders called First Light.
Posted: 4:10 pm on November 14th
WesternGardener writes: Thank you for all these mouth-watering recommendations! I really appreciated hearing about so many varieties I haven't planted before. (How funny that Sungold tomatoes were outlawed for the tomato taste-off because they're just too good.)

I know many of these suggestions will be growing in my garden next year!

Thanks again,

Posted: 4:09 pm on November 7th
Growgreen writes: The long roma type tomatoes are probably San Marzano.
I certainly agree with Sun Gold and Juliet, two of the tastiest tomatoes. Our Master Gardener Program has a tomato tasteoff every year and Sun Golds have won every time. This year we "outlawed" Sun Gold and Juliets won. My favorite large tomato is Red Brandywine. Ugly but delicious.
Posted: 3:01 pm on November 7th
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: 'Caspian Pink' did great this year for me as did 'Cherokee Purple' & the lovely orange 'Dad's Sunset'. 'Pineapple' is always delicious and 'Vorlon' is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine as it has SUPER tomato-y flavor.
Posted: 9:03 pm on November 6th
jwr12 writes: I want to second what Veeta said: I love black tomatoes, in the medium size category. For years, I've been growing 'Black from Tula," a variety available at various places such as Seed Savers. They are a little slower to produce, a little less productive, and a little more susceptible to sun scald than other plants.

But here are the big pluses: they are extremely delicious, are beautiful in the garden and on the plate, and are a perfect tomato to use for fresh entrees, like tomato and basil salads and salsas. They have a rich, buttery, smoky flavor that just can't be beat.

So I always grow a plant or two of them, alongside earlier, heartier varietals. (Although I should say that I haven't had disease problems with black tomatoes, just sun scald).

I live in Illinois.
Posted: 4:39 am on November 6th
Jillian_Faye writes: I grew Juliet tomatoes for my first garden ever...and I managed to keep them alive! Ruth actually gave me the seedling, and I'm so glad she did. These little guys are great right off the vine.
Posted: 10:15 am on November 4th
shamrock4 writes: My favorite small tomato is also Sungold. This year I tried a new small tomato called Jolly tomato, it is a larger cherry tomato and it was very tasty. I did notice though with all the rain we got this summer in PA, they did tend to split. My favorite medium to large this year was Eva's Purple Ball. This tomato produced in abundance and the flavor was amazing. I would have to agree with Ruth and say that my choice for the best flavor would also be Speckled Roman. Not only are they a pretty tomato with their stripes, but also they grew in abundance and were very flavorful. I think the paste tomato that Veeta may have grown might be Opalka or Polish Linguisa.
Posted: 6:59 am on November 4th
Ruth writes: Paul Robeson (medium to large black tomato), Sun Gold (orange cherry tomato) and Juliet (red grape tomato). Most flavorful is a tough one. Jaune Flammee is delicious, and so is Speckled Roman.
Posted: 3:41 pm on November 3rd
Veeta writes: We have similar taste in tomatoes. Sun gold is a must for me, as well as ANY black tomato (unfortunately they succumb to disease more so for me, but I still try). In the small category, hybrid Fourth of July tomatoes performed superbly for me this simmer, producing from (you guessed it) early July right up to the snow last week. They were tasty, too. I like a small tomato because I am impatient and can't wait for the beefsteaks to ripen (and can't bear for the animals to get them first), plus I can can always use the whole thing. I look forward to getting other recommendations for small-size tomatoes for myself.
When I was living in SC, a local farmer sold a tomato that looked like a pepper--sort of a tapered elongated roma. These were amazing--does anyone know what they could be? They were not just paste tomatoes but were also delicious fresh.
Posted: 12:37 pm on November 3rd
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