Best of the 2011 Test Garden: Tomatoes

The Best Tomatoes from Organic Gardening's 2011 Test Garden

February 23, 2012

Tomatoes always figure prominently in the Organic Gardening Test Garden. In 2011, we grew 22 varieties. It was not the finest growing season for tomatoes; relentless rain from July through Labor Day diluted the flavor of the harvest. Despite the inundations, we discovered several worthy varieties, old and new.

‘Snow White’


With its balance of sweet and tart flavors, ‘Snow White’ was the top-scoring cherry in our office tomato tasting and first runner-up overall. It bears fruit generously—but not overwhelmingly—on indeterminate plants.

Source: Tomato Growers Supply Co.


‘Sweet Seedless’

This variety won us over with its midsized fruits that were sweet, firm, juicy, and seedless. It was slow to start but the plants caught up quickly and ended the season with the healthiest, cleanest foliage of any variety in our trials.

Source: Burpee


‘Black Icicle’

‘Black Icicle’ grew and fruited vigorously; its fruits were dark and meaty, good for both fresh eating and cooking. This Ukrainian heirloom has the tapered shape of a paste tomato but the juicy flavor of a slicer.

Source: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds


‘Henderson’s Winsall’

Absolutely massive tomatoes—some weighing more than a pound—have everything you expect from a beefsteak tomato, including intense flavor. This pink-skinned heirloom variety dates to 1924.

Source: Tomato Growers Supply Co.


‘Italian Heirloom’

Another huge heirloom, this was the first of the beefsteak varieties to bear fruit in the test garden. The fruits are solid through and through—a good, full-flavored choice for cooking or canning.

Source: Seed Savers Exchange


‘Chocolate Pear’

This variety illustrates how different growing conditions can affect tomato flavor. Several of our test gardeners raved about its sweet, rich taste; those in the sultry South and cool Pacific Northwest found it bland and unremarkable.

Source: Terroir Seeds



Bred to resist early blight and late blight, two troublesome diseases of tomatoes, ‘Defiant’ is a reliable producer with a robust constitution. The fruits are medium-sized and red, growing on determinate plants.

Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds


‘Green Envy’

In our office tomato tasting, some of our colleagues swore they detected the savory flavor of bacon in this green cherry tomato. Indeterminate plants produce lots of fruit; it takes practice to determine when they’re ripe.

Sources: Burpee, The Cook’s Garden


‘Velvet Red’

Silvery feltlike leaves distinguish this vigorous indeterminate variety in the garden. The sweet red cherries have a similar hint of fuzz on their skins. The fruits were quick to crack after a rain.

Source: Seed Savers Exchange

‘Black Pineapple’

Heirloom beefsteak ‘Black Pineapple’ was the most richly flavorful tomato we grew—number one in our taste tests—although it was not the most productive or disease resistant. It cracked after a rain, but once we tasted it, all was forgiven.

Source: John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds

Read More: Best of the 2011 test Garden—New Varieties.