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Top Heirloom Tomatoes

Here's a rundown of popular heirloom tomato varieties. Consider trying some in your garden in 2012.

Gary Ibsen, founder of TomatoFest® Heirloom Tomato Seeds, author of The Great Tomato Book and grower of 600 varieties of certified organic, heirloom tomatoes, recently announced the top 10 favorite heirloom tomatoes for 2012:

heirloom tomatoes

'Black Cherry'—deep purple, one-inch-round cherry tomatoes with a rich, sweet taste.

'Brandywine, Sudduth Strain'—one- to two-pound pink beefsteak tomatoes originating in Tennessee.

'Chocolate Stripes'—deep red with olive green stripes. Good sandwich or salad tomato, with an earthy taste.

'Blondkopfchen'—the name translates to "little blonde girl." Bright yellow cherry tomatoes on sprawling vines. Sweet taste with a citrusy finish.

'Black From Tula'—large, flat deep brown tomato with a salty/smoky flavor.

'Neves Azorean Red'—one- to three-pound deep red beefsteak tomatoes produced right up to the frost. Good for sandwiches or as the star in a tomato salad.

'Amana Orange'—light orange fruits can be five inches across. Sweet and tropical flavor.

'Azoychka'—meaty yellowish orange tomatoes on plants adaptable to various conditions. Sweet, citrusy flavor.

'Caspian Pink'—pink beefsteak tomato from southern Russia. Good for cool climates.

'Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom'—pale yellow beefsteak tomato that has few seeds and is great for salads.

The top 10 were selected from the top 20 most popular tomato varieties in 2011 from a TomatoFest customer base of more than 10,000 thousand home gardeners and tomato farmers. From these 20 tomato varieties, Ibsen and a panel of judges selected the final 10 tomato varieties based upon taste.

“Taste reigns supreme,” says Ibsen. “And this is the essence of the continued popularity of heirloom tomatoes in America.”

Other findings in the TomatoFest survey:
• In 2011 there was a big increase in first-time tomato gardeners. There are more people wanting to grow foods at home in rural and urban areas. “The upswing in folks becoming new tomato gardeners or choosing to become small commercial farmers of heirloom tomatoes has been noticeable the past three years,” says Ibsen.

• “Black” tomatoes are more popular than in any prior year. Ibsen notes that black tomatoes, which find their origins in southern Ukraine, aren't really black, but come in a range of dark colors. Acidic soil and high-mineral soil encourages deeper color.

• There is a continued rise in popularity with the sweeter, yellow/orange and bi-colored tomatoes.

• There is a continued rise in popularity of cherry tomatoes of all colors. Ibsen says, “Being able to find ‘clamshell’ packs of multi-colored cherry tomatoes in the marketplace has encouraged home gardeners to include different colors and flavors in selecting cherry tomatoes for growing at home.”

• 2011 saw a surge in folks seeking "canning tomatoes."

• The heirloom classics—the old-time red and pink beefsteak tomatoes—still find a foundation of loyalty among tomato growers.

Text supplied by TomatoFest.

Image attribution

About TomatoFest® Heirloom Tomato Seeds:
Gary Ibsen, author of The Great Tomato Book, founded TomatoFest Heirloom Tomato Seeds in 1991 and revitalized the appreciation and desire for heirloom tomatoes. Ibsen’s belief in sustainable, organic farming, seed saving and sharing seeds and the stories of their cultural histories inspired him to grow heirloom tomato varieties for more than 30 years. In 2008 Ibsen retired from 18 years of producing the nationally celebrated Carmel TomatoFest event in Carmel, Calif., to focus on the seed business. Through their TomatoFest Seed Donation Program, he and his partner, Dagma Lacey, have donated heirloom tomato seeds to more than 250 non-profit, urban garden projects, school gardens, community outreach gardens around the U.S., India, Africa, Europe and China.
Need a laugh? Read The $64 Tomato by William Alexander.

Dive deeper into the history and popularity of the tomato around the world with Ripe: The Search for the Perfect Tomato.

Grow flavorful tomatoes with The High Country Tomato Handbook. It includes a chapter on early-ripening varieties.

See Mike McGrath's guide to heirloom tomatoes, You Bet Your Tomatoes!