The 19 Most Delicious Heirloom Tomatoes In The World

If you're looking for new varieties to plant, you won't go wrong with any of these.

August 7, 2015
heirloom tomatoes
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PHOTOGRAPH BY LEW ROBERTSON/GETTY

 

When people come to my garden, they see tomato plants. I see the names and faces of the growers who sent me seeds of their cherished varieties. As the tomato advisor for Seed Savers Exchange, a group devoted to preserving edible heirloom plants, I have the good fortune to grow treasures that, for generations, have been passed from one gardener to the next. I chronicled many of them in my book, Epic Tomatoes, but these 19 really shine.

 

To purchase seeds for these, visit the following:

Cherokee Purple tomato
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Cherokee Purple

TOMATO PHOTOGRAPHS BY STEPHEN L. GARRETT OF EPIC TOMATOES

 

We have Cherokee Purple today because J. D. Green of Sevierville, Tennessee, shared a packet of unnamed “purple” tomatoes with me in 1990. I loved the variety’s full, rich flavor, just as wonderful all by itself as in a salad or sandwich. Now it’s everywhere. And I think that’s really cool!

Anna Russian tomato
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Anna Russian

Though it grows on the straggliest vine you’ve ever seen, this is a spectacular tomato, 3 inches across and heart-shaped, with a complex flavor that balances tart and sweet. As a bonus, it’s relatively early and produces generously.

Azoychka tomato
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Azoychka

Hailing from Russia, this variety dispels the myth of the “bland yellow” tomato. It attacks the taste buds with a rush of tartness. Medium sized with golden skin, it is nearly white inside. It comes on early and abundantly.

Brandywine tomato
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Brandywine

The poster child for heirloom-tomato mania, Brandywine is a fickle sort. When it is happy, there is absolutely no tomato to equal it for flavor; the large pink fruit is so rich and so sweet, it will take a hammer to your taste buds.

Cherokee Chocolate tomato
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Cherokee Chocolate

This is one of the so-called “black” varieties, which retain a bit of green chlorophyll after they ripen. It is known for great size, flavor, and yield.

Cherokee Green tomato
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Cherokee Green

A new favorite offspring of the Cherokee line, this superb variety boasts Cherokee Purple quality in a tomato with grass-green flesh and amber skin.

Dwarf Emerald Giant tomato
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Dwarf Emerald Giant

If you garden where space is limited, this tasty variety is small enough to grow in a 5-gallon pot, so it’s an ideal choice for a deck or patio.

Ferris Wheel tomato
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Ferris Wheel

This large, intensely sweet heirloom sat unnoticed in the USDA tomato-seed collection until I was able to identify it from a late-1890s seed catalog.

Green Giant tomato
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Green Giant

A relative of Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom, Green Giant shares its cousin’s full flavor profile, and it’s widely adapted. Ripe fruits are green with a pink blush below.

Kelloggs breakfast tomato
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Kellogg's Breakfast

Few tomatoes start life as such weak-looking seedlings yet develop such vigor and productivity as they grow. The mature fruits are large and sweet.

Lillians Yellow Heirloom tomato
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Lillian's Yellow Heirloom

The pale fruits, weighing over a pound, are so meaty, they’re nearly solid. Their flavor has it all: intensity, richness, and depth.

Lucky Cross tomato
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Lucky Cross

The result of a chance seedling that appeared in a Brandywine planting, red-and-yellow-swirled Lucky Cross is a snappy blend of acids and sugars.

Mexico Midget tomato
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Mexico Midget

These aptly named fruits are tiny in size but gargantuan in flavor, with the deep, complex taste you’d expect from a beefsteak variety.

Speckled Roman tomato
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Speckled Roman

Like most plum tomatoes, this tiger-striped gem has a long shape and produces like a machine. It is equally at home sliced and raw or cooked into a sauce.

Mortgage Lifter tomato
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Mortgage Lifter

According to legend, M. C. Byles of Logan, West Virginia, created Mortgage Lifter through an unorthodox crossing technique. Afterward, he paid off his mortgage by selling the seedlings. It is a monster, having produced the largest tomato I’ve ever grown—a little over 2 pounds. And it is sweet, meaty, and delicious.

Nepal Tomato
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Nepal

Nearly round, medium-sized, and red, Nepal is the assertively flavored heirloom that weaned me from modern hybrids back in the early ’80s.

Sun Gold tomato
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Sun Gold

I don’t grow many hybrids, but little orange Sun Gold is a worthy exception. It isn’t fussy, it produces a ton, and its sweetness is unmatched.

Rosella Purple tomato
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Rosella Purple

If you shrink Cherokee Purple to 4 feet in height but leave the fruits’ color and flavor intact, you’ll have Rosella Purple. Grow it in a 5-gallon pot.

Yellow Oxheart tomato
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Yellow Oxheart

The first pale orange, heart-shaped tomato, this variety dates back to the 1920s. It’s a large, super-meaty variety with an appealingly mild flavor.

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