Talking about tomatoes


Many here know that I have a small business selling tomato seedlings. I also have grown literally thousands of different varieties of tomatoes over the years. I thought it might be interesting to have a thread discussing tomatoes and their flavors. It is time to start seed for many of us so this should be timely.

There are 4 different kinds of people when it comes to tomato flavors. Sweet, Tart, Rich Acidic, and Balanced. We all have slightly different taste buds and personal preferences which is reflected in these types.

If you are a sweet tomato lover, you most likely also enjoy very sweet apples and high brix peaches. Try Sungold, Hibor, Crnkovic Yugoslavian, Omar’s Lebanese, and Momotaro for a hybrid.

Are you a lemon sucker? My daughter is a lemon sucker, she will lick a slice of lemon like candy. It is okay to be a lemon sucker, but if you are, tomatoes are going to be a problem. Jaune Flammee, Green Zebra, and Goose Creek are your most likely candidates.

Want that old fashioned rich acidic tomato taste where you bite into a tomato fresh off the vine and the juice runs down your chin while the flavor sets off fireworks in your mouth? It is very hard to beat the old fashioned indeterminate Rutgers for this flavor. Grow Box Car Willie, Druzba, Lynnwood, and Neves Azorean Red to titillate your tonsils if this is your taste profile.

What about balanced? I am a “balanced” tomato taster. I like a bit of sweet, a bit of tart, and a rich tomato flavor. For the balanced tomato lover, Andrew Rahart’s Jumbo Red, Daniels, Brandywine, Stump of the World, Kelloggs Breakfast, Cherokee Purple, J.D.'s Special C-Tex, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, and Dester hit the mark. They are also a range of colors with Red, Pink, Black, Green, and Orange.

What about the best hybrid tomatoes? Big Beef is very hard to beat. It has flavor, production, and reasonably good disease tolerance. Amelia is a good tomato if you have problems with Tomato Spotted Wilt. Ramapo is an excellent tomato, especially across the Midwest. Sungold and Momotaro mentioned above are hybrids. In California, Early Girl does very well with the hot dry climate.

Want to grow a giant? Big Zac is arguably the biggest. Giant Belgium can throw 2 to 3 pounders that taste pretty good. Mortgage Lifter, Estler’s Mortgage Lifter and Red Mortgage Lifter can tip the scale above 2 pounds.

Want a bicolor? A good flavored bicolor? Lucky Cross, Blush, and Little Lucky are very good. Hillbilly and Burracker’s Favorite are decent. Big Rainbow, Old Virginia, and Virginia Sweets imo are too mushy but some people like them that way.

I want the earliest ripe tomato in my neighborhood! Grow Bloody Butcher, Stupice, or Kimberley. Many cherry tomatoes are also very early. Gregori’s Altai and Sasha’s Altai qualify as very early beefsteak tomatoes.

Want to can some tomatoes to have that “summertime in a jar” flavor? Picardy, Eva Purple Ball, and Heinz 1350 are good for the purpose. Druzba and Muleteam are larger tomatoes that have to be cut to get them in a jar, but they are very good canners.

Want killer sauce or paste? Heidi and Costoluto Genovese are hard to beat. Martino’s Roma, Christopher Columbus, Borgo Cellano, and Bisignano #2 are also good for the purpose.

Dried tomatoes anyone? Costoluto Genovese, Borgo Cellano, Principe Borghese, and most of the heart shaped tomatoes with good flavor make decent dried tomatoes. Get a good dehydrator and learn to pack dried tomatoes in oil!

I want to grow a rainbow of tomato colors and flavors, what should I get? Grow Box Car Willie or Druzba for red, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Jaune Flammee, or KBX for orange. Aunt Ruby’s German Green or Cherokee Green are outstanding green when ripe tomatoes. Black From Tula, Black Krim, J.D.'s Special C-Tex, Cherokee Purple, and Cherokee Chocolate will get you a black/red tomato. Yoder’s German Yellow or Nebraska Wedding are superb yellows. Brandywine Sudduth, Daniels, Stump of the World, Eva Purple Ball, and Omar’s Lebanese are good pinks. Sutton White and White Oxheart are decent white varieties.

Want to make your neighbors green with envy and covered in candy stripes? Grow Red Zebra, Green Zebra, Pink Bumblebee, or Vintage Wine for excellent tomatoes with diverse flavors.

Cherry? Did you say cherry? Here is a handful of colors and flavors. Camp Joy, Black Cherry, Sungold, Galina’s, Green Grape, and Dr. Carolyn Pink will tickle your fancy.

What about the most productive tomatoes? If you want the highest production and the best flavor, it will be hard to beat Big Beef. It has won awards for the last 25 years for total production. Open pollinated varieties that can crank out the fruit include Red Brandywine, Box Car Willie, Druzba, Lynnwood, Eva Purple Ball, and Costoluto Genovese.

Need some heat tolerance? Bella Rossa is a hybrid that is increasingly grown in the deep south. Tropic and Creole are good open pollinated varieties.

I only have a patio and have to grow tomatoes in containers. What should I grow? Dwarf or Determinate varieties are your friend. Russian Red, Perth Pride, Heinz 1350, Martino’s Roma, Homestead, Siberian, and many others can work in containers.

There is one flavor category that I rarely talk about. It is Sour. As in dirty socks sour. Smoky Mountain Red is the only tomato that I grow that has both sour flavor and dirty socks smell. Silvery Fir Tree is sour and mostly flavorless IMO, but it does not have the dirty socks smell of Smoky Mountain Red.


Great info

Which ones are the most resistant to leaf blight, no spray ?
( paste type, and table slicers )


You will have a hard time getting good resistance to fungal leaf diseases in anything available today. Septoria, Early Blight, Gray Mold, and Late Blight are endemic. There are a few varieties that can put up with it longer than most. Iron Lady is touted as septoria tolerant. My experience is that it goes down just about the same as most others.

In my experience, Burgundy Traveler and a stabilized line I made from a cross of Big Beef X Eva Purple Ball (BBXEPB) along with Tropic come the closest to having good leaf disease tolerance. Randy Gardner at NCSU has done a lot of work on the Mountain series of tomatoes. Some of his recent releases do very well. Heidi and Martino’s Roma are arguably the best paste varieties for handling foliage diseases.


Great to see Rutgers make your Hit Parade. My family saved seed and grew it for decades. I read somewhere that it has been modified over the years and isn’t the original now. Some places just list it as a canner so people may overlook it as a slicer. Fabulous list you posted, a quick course in varieties in one spot.


I’m a big fan of Kellogg’s Breakfast but the production lacked a bit for me. If I had a little more space, it would be a mainstay in the garden instead of being on the rotation. As a fan of a balanced tomato, Cherokee Purple checks all of the boxes. Last year I grew a few aptly named, Pineapple tomatoes. The variety of flavors you can find in tomatoes is pretty incredible. Thanks for sharing your list.


Nice list. I have grown a few from your list, Aunt Ruby’s German Green is a very good green when ripe, has a zesty sweet flavor. Jaune Flammé is a good producer of tangy golf ball orange orbs. I agree about Boxcar Willie, lots of tomatoes from each plant.

I tried Costoluto Genovese a couple years, couldn’t get a lot of production out of them. Plus, I found the fluted shape made them difficult for processing.

I tried regular leaf Black Brandywine again last year, it was a very good producer, compared to the other BW’s I’ve tried, which were potato leafed. It’s also been the most disease resistant dark tomato I’ve grown.


We’re far enough north that not everything works. There is also a high level of late blight around. Many of the brandy wines don’t make it to production. We often get wet summers and tasty things like Black Krim crack and mold.

Overall, the best taste with reliable production I grow is Mennonite Orange. It’s a hard one to get since it’s almost all flesh with very few seeds. I baby every single plant I can get my hands on.

Assorted cherries do well with one standout called " that sweet yellow" Only one local nursery ever has it and they can be a bit difficult about growing but all the production gets carefully divided amount the household and eaten warm from the vine.

Lucid Gem is my biggest single one so far, with one just over 2 pounds.