A Tomato Expert's 13 Tastiest Toms
From heirlooms to hybrids, there are thousands of tomato varieties to grow. Author Craig LeHoullier recommends the best "toms" for your garden.
Photo By: Photography by (c) Shoe Heel Factory, illustrations by (c) Mary Kate McDevitt used with permission from Storey Publishing.
Tomato expert Craig LeHoullier is the author of Epic Tomatoes: How to Select & Grow the Best Varieties of All Time (Storey Publishing). He has trialed more than 1,200 varieties, and 'Green Giant', shown here, is one of his favorites. "The texture, similar to 'Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom' and 'Brandywine', presents plenty of succulent flesh surrounding the many small seed cavities. The intensity of flavor nearly overwhelms, and it is most similar to 'Sun Gold' in approaching perfection," he says.
LeHoullier says 'Nepal' was the variety that converted him from hybrid to heirloom tomatoes. "It has an aggressive, full flavor that will delight those who love intense tomatoes," he says, likening it to one of those delicious fruits bought at a local farm stand or picked from a relative's garden.
Tomato 'Lucky Cross'
'Lucky Cross' is a "flavor king" among the large, yellow-red bicolors, says LeHoullier. It's an offspring of 'Brandywine' with the "same sort of big tomato flavor and perfect balance, rendering it unique among varieties in this color class, which typically have a very sweet flavor personality that borders on overly mild," says LeHoullier.
Tomato 'Rosella Purple'
"The flavor of 'Rosella Purple' is truly outstanding," says LeHoullier. "The ability to get such flavor on a tomato plant easily grown in a 5-gallon pot on a porch or deck is a true advance in the selection of tomatoes possible for space-constrained gardens."
Tomato 'Dwarf Mr. Snow'
Created by LeHoullier's Dwarf Tomato project team, 'Dwarf Mr. Snow' was named for a friend whom the author describes as a "a long-time tomato pal and contributor to the Raleigh News and Observer." He adds, "Anyone who thinks that white tomatoes are bland will get their socks knocked off by this tart, delicious beauty."
Tomato 'Sun Gold'
LeHoullier, who serves as the tomato advisor for Seed Savers Exchange, says, "In my experience, nothing in the tomato world tastes like 'Sun Gold'. Because of this, it is the only hybrid that finds a place in my garden every year; no open-pollinated alternative exists."
Tomato 'Anna Russian'
Another of LeHoullier's favorites, 'Anna Russian' bears medium-sized, heart-shaped pink fruits. The author says they're among the earliest and tastiest he's experienced yet. "I love that Brenda Hillenius of Oregon saw fit to send me seeds of this family heirloom in 1990, accompanied by the loveliest handwritten note on delicate, onion-skin stationary."
Tomato 'Cherokee Green'
Like 'Cherokee Chocolate', LeHoullier says, 'Cherokee Green' has yellow skin, but its flesh is green instead of red. "It has the same scrumptious flavor of the 'Cherokee Purple' and 'Cherokee Chocolate'. In a way, both 'Cherokee Chocolate' and 'Cherokee Green' are examples of how new varieties have been identified, shared and stabilized throughout tomato history." Its flavor is bold and acidic.
Tomato 'Cherokee Chocolate'
"In 1995, I was growing a number of 'Cherokee Purple' plants when I noticed something unusual about the way the fruit on one particular plant was coloring. The plant habit was exactly the same as that of 'Cherokee Purple', as was the size and shape of the fruit, but the ripe appearance was more like a brick-red or mahogany. I was very lucky to have grown that seed, and a new variety was born, which I called 'Cherokee Chocolate'" says LeHoullier.
Tomato 'Lillian's Yellow Heirloom'
LeHoullier favors 'Lillian's Yellow Heirloom' for its "superbly uniform, nearly creamy, juicy texture. It is a loud tomato that fills the senses, perfectly balanced between tart and sweet. It is an annual highlight on our tasting plates."
'Brandywine' is an heirloom tomato that LeHoullier calls "a tomato lover's tomato," adding, "the flavors explode in the mouth, sweetness and tartness exquisitely balanced."
"I requested this variety from a Pennsylvania seed saver not long after joining Seed Savers Exchange," LeHoullier says of 'Polish'. "It may look and taste like 'Brandywine' - it's a large pink tomato produced on plants with potato leaf-shaped leaves - but it is consistently productive and forgiving of seasonal weather variations, making it a must in all gardens."
Tomato 'Cherokee Purple'
Try 'Cherokee Purple' in salads, on sandwiches, or simply sliced into thick slabs, suggests Craig LeHoullier. "(It) defines the ideal intersection of sweetness, tartness, depth and texture."