American seed catalogs offer literally hundreds of tomato varieties but the catalogs don’t always reveal which ones have really great flavor. But now, thanks to the extraordinary work of Amy Goldman in her book The Heirloom Tomato, we have a source for a comprehensive flavor ratings of 200 heirloom varieties, all grown in the same location. Below is a list of the 56 heirloom tomatoes that Goldman rates as having “excellent” flavor. And she tells us what she means by “excellent”: “Scarcely equaled in texture of flesh and richness of flavor. Distinctive, delicious, deep and complex, with luscious, rich flavor. Savory, mouth-filling, and juicy. No grave faults. Finely balanced sugar-acid ratio yet endowed with intense flavor. Extremely desirable.”
In describing, evaluating and photographing such a large number of tomatoes in such a beautifully produced book, Goldman has done gardeners an unprecedented service. Plus, she’s included an outstanding selection of recipes to help us make the most of our tomato harvests. The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table was a classic the day it was published. Order your copy here.
Heirloom Tomatoes Rated as Having Excellent Flavor
From The Heirloom Tomato, by Amy Goldman
Currants & Cherries
- Black Cherry: Fruity and well-balanced. CR Lawn of Fedco Seeds gives this one the nod: “Yum!”
- Wild Sweetie: Super-sweet
- Matt’s Wild Cherry
- Sara’s Galapagos: Sweet; lots of flavor in a little package. Smells of the leaf.
- Gold Rush Currant: High acid and high sugar
- Green Doctors: Sweet and tart
- Ceylon: Excellent when cooked
- White Beauty
- Burpee’s Globe: Honey sweet
- Aunt Gertie’s Gold: Sumptuous, rich flavor
- Manitoba: Well-balanced, winey
- Red Rose: Very sweet and rich
- Yellow Peach: Well balanced
- Peach Blow Sutton: Cool and refreshing “tomato lite” flavor
- Russian Black: Earthy
- Flamme: Perfect blend of sweet and tart; fruity
- Pruden’s Purple: Luscious, savory, and sweet
- Black Krim: Green Giant: This is the best-tasting-green-when-ripe beefsteak.
- Aunt Ginny’s Purple: Rich flavor
- McClintock’s Big Pink: Delicious rich flavor
- Big Ben: A peach of a tomato—not as sweet as the Brandywines, but very rich.
- African Queen: Well-balanced, like wine—a taste I wish could last forever
- Believe It or Not: Perfectly balanced
- Hugh’s: Sweet and lemony. Seed-saving superman Neil Lockhart says Hugh’s is one of his favorites for flavor.
- Great White: Divinely sweet
- Santa Clara Canner: Well balanced
- Sudduth’s Brandywine: Like a fine wine. I dare any hybrid to measure up.
- Yellow Brandywine: High acid and high sugar. On everyone’s list of favorites.
- Bicolor Mortgage Lifter
- Marvel Striped: Sweet, one of the best bicolor beefsteaks
- Gold Medal: Well reviewed by tomato cognoscenti: “superbly delicious” (Darrell Merrell); “top rated in flavor” (Ken Ettlinger); “our finest bicolor” (Seed Savers Exchange)
- Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter: Well balanced
- Yellow Mortgage Lifter: Sweet and sprightly
- Mullen’s Mortgage Lifter
Pears & Plums
- Antique Roman: Beefy, savory
- Super Italian Paste
- Goldman’s Italian American: Sweet and luscious. Joan Dye Gussow, author of This Organic Life, wrote to me one summer: “Goldman’s Italian American tomato is a stunner. They taste lovely to say nothing of how they LOOK. One plant in an urn is setting absolutely gigantic tomatoes.”
- Old Ivory Egg: Sweet and lemony
- Orange Banana: A worthy rival of Flamme
- Anna Russian: Nice tang, mildly sweet and savory
- Purple Russian
- Amish Paste
- Elfin: Fruity and sweet
- Chile Verde: Finely balanced
- Orange Russian 117: Honey-sweet, finely balanced, endowed with rich flavor
- Hungarian Heart: Savory
- Japanese Oxheart: Winey, sweet, nice fruit acid
- Dixie Golden Giant: Sweet and pleasing
- Casady’s Folly: Fruity
- Speckled Roman: Sweet and savory
- Aunt Ruby’s German Green: A perfect balance of acid and sugar
- Pink Salad: Mouth-watering in the same way as Sugary (an F1 hybrid miniature pink plum tomato, winner of a 2005 All America Selections Award)
To find seed sources for these varieties, visit our Seed Finder.
To learn more about growing tomatoes, see America's Favorite Tomatoes and Enjoy Fresh Tomatoes All Year.
Cheryl Long is the editor in chief of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, and a leading advocate for more sustainable lifestyles. She leads a team of editors which produces high quality content that has resulted in MOTHER EARTH NEWS being rated as one North America’s favorite magazines. Long lives on an 8-acre homestead near Topeka, Kan., powered in part by solar panels, where she manages a large organic garden and a small flock of heritage chickens. Prior to taking the helm at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, she was an editor at Organic Gardening magazine for 10 years. Connect with her on Google+.