Our Favorite Heirloom Tomato Varieties
Supermarket tomatoes may be perfectly uniform and beautifully red in color, but they’ve got nothing on the lopsided wonder of heirloom tomato varieties. Bursting with flavor and available in a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors—from flaming red to deep purple to yellow-striped green—heirlooms are defined by their seeds, which are passed down from season to season. Not just any seeds will do; through careful selection, farmers save them from the best plants each year, selecting for attributes like color, size, shape and juice content.
To say that we love heirloom tomatoes at Jordan is an understatement. We normally grow around 25 different varieties in our Estate Garden—they’re a beloved staple of our annual Harvest Lunch buffet—but last year, we couldn’t resist ramping it up to 40. This bounty gives us a wonderful palette of colors, textures and tastes to work with in creating summer and fall salads, consommés and sauces. Baker Creek Seed Company and local tomato gurus are my favorite sources for new seeds each spring.
I love the brandywine variety, but my mouth waters at the thought of the brightly acidic green zebra. For flavor in salads, I really like using red currant tomatoes, because they’re like tiny jewels. With the flavor and ripening diversity of heirloom tomato varieties available today in Sonoma County, we can use fresh tomatoes in our cooking from June through early November. Here are some of the varieties that we are planting from Baker Creek Seed Company this year.
Our Favorite Heirloom Tomato Varieties
Surprisingly sweet tomato that grows well in warmer climates.
Berkeley Tie-Dye Green
Incredibly colorful green tomato with stripes of red and yellow. A spicy, sweet, tart tomato with good acid that is a new favorite of many chefs.
Claimed to be the World’s Darkest Tomato. A dark, meaty tomato with extreme anthocyanin expression (same antioxidant in blueberries and blackberries) that can be almost blue-black on the skin. The flavor profile is rich, smooth and savory with earthy tones that actually improves with room-temperature storage.
The fruit is smooth, large, and beautiful, being one of the darkest and prettiest of the purple tomatoes. They seem to have an extra dose of the complex flavor that makes dark tomatoes famous.
Massive fruit, easily reaching on- to two-pounds has deep red flesh and good old-fashioned tomato flavor.
Dr. Wyche’s Yellow
The glowing tangerine color on this one-pound fruit always stands out in the kitchen or on the vine. Baker Creek Seed Company calls it one of the best heirloom orange types for market, with its smooth texture and tropical, sweet taste.
Another larger tomato variety. This nearly seedless meaty fruit showcases a sweet flavor with tender pink skin.
The large emerald-green fruit is over one pound in weight, with outstanding, complex flavor—very sweet and juicy.
One of my favorite heirloom tomatoes. Beautiful chartreuse with deep lime-green stripes and a sweet yet sharp bite to it. A favorite tomato of many high-class chefs, specialty markets, and home gardeners.
Elongated two-inch fruit comes in stunning, jewel-toned shades of green and red, with hints of gold. Baker Creek Seed Company gives this tomato top marks for flavor: tangy, sweet and complex with tropical notes and balanced acidity. The best snacking tomato by far.
A version of the beefsteak tomato with sweet flavors, perfect juiciness and even a crunchy texture.
The fruit is large and deep red, with almost a purple tint, and the flesh is very rich, flavorful, and juicy. Very rare and delicious, originating in Italy.
The name should be descriptor enough with very sweet and fruity flavors. A very large yellow tomato with red marbling that could grow up to two pounds each.
This big beefsteak often weighs in at one pound each, dripping with sweet, tomato flavor which is also often described as having peach undertones. Leviathan pink fruit are tiger striped with light pink yellow.
The look of a classic, smooth, large red tomato with fantastic taste. One of Baker Creek Seed Company’s all-time best-selling varieties.
True Black Brandywine
This great-tasting heirloom tomato is extra large in size and full of the deep, earthy, sweet flavors that have made blackish-purple tomatoes so popular.
Wagner Blue Green
The allure of this tomato with its incredible blue color doesn’t disappoint in flavor.
Wood’s Famous Brimmer
Fantasize about heirloom tomato varieties? You’ll have picture perfect monster red tomatoes with this one. Plan on juicy BLTs all summer.
This golden variety is superbly rich and delicious-tasting.
Beautiful black cherries look like large, dusky purple-brown grapes; they have that rich flavor that makes black tomatoes famous. Large vines yield very well; very unique and delicious.
Brad’s Atomic Grape
Elongated, large cherries in clusters. Lavender and purple striped when immature, turning to green, red/brown with anthocycnin blue stripes when fully ripe. Olive green interior is blushed with red when dead-ripe. This amazing heirloom tomato variety is delicately sweet.
The perfect small patio heirloom tomato variety reaches just six to nine inches in height. These tiny orange orbs burst with fruity sweet flavor.
If you’re looking for a smaller, juicy, sweet tomato, this pinkish-wine colored tomato with metallic green stripes is perfect.
Tiny pink to purple cherries with a smoky blush that are superb for fresh eating, yet solid enough for cooking or for making a deep, rich red tomato paste. Superior balance of sweetness and acidity, with a rich, lingering aftertaste.
Luminous swirls of reds and oranges, inside the fruit and out, capture your attention. These small, oblong tomatoes have a sweet, fruity taste.
Have too many heirloom tomatoes on your hands? Check out our post on the Art of Dehydrating Fruits and Vegetables.