Lawn & Garden Gardening

Ripe for the Picking: 10 Full-Bodied, Full-Flavored Heirloom Tomatoes

Nothing says summer like juicy tomatoes—particularly heirloom varieties—fresh from the garden. Here are 10 top varieties sure to tempt your taste buds.

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The Brandywine is one of the most popular heirloom tomato varieties. It has a beefsteak shape and pinkish flesh that can have green shoulders, even when ripe. It’s one of the slowest-maturing varieties but totally worth the wait. The fruit can reach as much as 1.5 pounds and has a rich, sweet taste

Little Sun Yellow

This golden yellow cherry tomato packs quite a punch in a small but vigorous plant. Its vines, which grow 12 to 18 inches tall, never need staking. It’s a great option for container gardens. This is a productive plant—you’ll be rewarded with tasty tomatoes early in the season and all summer long.

Cherokee Purple

The Cherokee Purple tomato originated in Tennessee, where it is thought to have been passed down from Native Americans from the Cherokee tribe. With a dusty pink skin and deep red interior, it is—for an heirloom—a heavy producer and a consistent taste-test winner at tomato festivals throughout the country. It grows well in most regions of the United States.

Mr. Stripey

Mr. Stripey’s pretty, yellow-striped skin gives way to the very sweet flesh inside. These big beefsteaks, which have a high sugar content, can weigh as much as 1 pound each. They’re especially pretty when sliced, due to their bicolor pattern. Get out the mayo—this is a great tomato for sandwiches.

San Marzano

The San Marzano plum tomato hails originally from southern Italy. It is lower in sugar and acid, making it terrific for canning, and it’s outstanding in spaghetti sauce and tomato paste. Its fruit comes on later in the summer, but when it does, be ready! The plant’s a heavy producer, with 3- to 4-inch-long tapered fruits that grow in bunches of five or six. It will run wild until the first hard frost.

Aunt Ruby’s German Green

Yes! Some tomatoes are green when they are fully ripe. This family heirloom variety, passed down by Ruby Arnold of Greeneville, Tennessee, is one of the largest green beefsteak tomatoes, with an unsurpassed fresh taste. Since the fruit stays green, you should judge ripeness by a pinkish blush on the bottom of the tomato. It’s very hardy and does well in all U.S. growing zones.

Oxheart Orange

The Oxheart Orange heirloom variety comes from the Virginias. It has a deep orange skin and dense, meaty flesh, making it excellent for canning and salsa. With a large heart shape, it’s attractive in the garden. Although it’s a slow-growing vine, this heavy producer will give you dozens of tomatoes by season’s end.

Black Cherry

This beautiful cherry variety is another disease-resistant heavy producer. It will churn out long trusses of round, 1-inch, deep red, black-hued fruits from early summer until frost. It is a juicy tomato, with a rich, sweet flavor—both tasty and beautiful.


This variety, originally from Germany, may have been grown by the Pennsylvania Dutch before the Civil War. The name means “giant bunch of grapes,” an apt description for a plant whose fruit grows in grapelike clusters, with as many as 20 to 40 tomatoes per stem! It has a full flavor, similar to that of a beefsteak, and is supertasty for snacking and in salads.

White Snowball

This rare white heirloom tomato variety was introduced sometime in the mid-1800s. It is low in acidity and has a supersweet, fruity flavor, like a pineapple. It is pure white, with a pink blush on the blossom end when it is very ripe. It’s great for slicing, cooking, or canning. Wow your friends with a stunning white tomato sauce!