Best-Tasting Tomatoes: 56 Heirloom Tomatoes Rated Excellent for Flavor

| 2/10/2010 5:10:00 PM

Tags: tomatoes, varieties,

Heirloom Tomatoes 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.
  • Blondköpfchen
  • 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
  • Opalka:
  • Orange Banana: A worthy rival of Flamme
  • Anna Russian: Nice tang, mildly sweet and savory
  • Purple Russian
  • Amish Paste
  • Vilms
  • 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

Color Groups

  • 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 .

7/21/2017 11:23:48 AM

Never heard of 99% of these and all I grow is heirlooms.

3/29/2014 2:52:20 PM

Im inclined to agree with yodda this list is junk

1/30/2013 3:15:46 AM

I grow several of these in north Florida.

7/21/2012 2:53:48 AM

Utter, uninformed, BS.

lynnita ellis
7/4/2012 9:11:18 PM

Here in N. Fl it is testy growing tomatoes. I don't see any on the list that are usually recommended for this area. Any helps.....please!!

stephen lee
2/10/2012 6:51:29 PM

I've been searching for a source for open pollinated heirloom tomatoes for the North Country and bumped into that offers over six hundred varieties with a mind blowing list of names and descriptions that should wet your appetite. Have fun!

alissa tarita-havenaar
1/31/2012 4:42:03 PM

Yellow Perfection Cherry Tomato! For my first organic garden filled with all organic and heirloom seeds from the Cottage Gardner, I won 1st Place with this variety at the Fall fair!!! not bad for a first time!! They taste delicious and keep well! great in salads or just pop in your mouth!! Bracebridge Ontario Canada

ardna fox
4/29/2011 8:11:27 PM

Perhaps you can help clarify something for me. I am not a gardener at all - merely a consumer of good tomatoes. I have an extremely limited knowledge of Heirloom Tomatoes. However - I would like to know if a Maui Tomato is an Heirloom tomato? Also, what causes the Maui to have such a good flavor, etc? Here I am in the state's great farming community and I am buying tomatoes from Hawaii - at our new Florist shop. Tomatoes are not available, locally, for a couple months yet. Where did this little Gem come from? (And I don't mean Hawaii). Perhaps I have directed my question to the wrong "authority" but I figured you would know - Heirloom tomato or not. Am I overly excited because I found some decent tomatoes , just coming off of a snowy winter? Am I the only one that thinks they are trrific? I would appreciate some insight. Thanks. Ardna Fox

bill brikiatis
1/27/2011 2:38:56 PM

This is a great listing of varieties, although some are F1 hybrids, so they're not actually all heirloom tomato varieties. Seeds saved from the F1 varieties won't be true to the original plant. Even if you can't save some of them, they look like they would be incredibly tasty. I got some rare tomato heirloom seeds from the USDA Agricultural Research Service just for free. See my blog post at for details.

carol canning
1/24/2011 3:09:13 PM

I have finally compiled my results from my Amy Goldman inspired crazy tomato experiment. It is a blog: Carol Canning

carol canning
9/22/2010 9:09:44 PM

Last summer was a fantastic tomato year. I went a little crazy and bought almost all the seeds listed. I planted 70 plants, 55 varieties and am going to taste test. Unfortunately, this year is a "green tomato year" and here in Portland the tomato crops are dismal thanks to El Nino. Still, I am getting some nice tomatoes at the close of this September and hopefully will be able to do justice to my insane project. I will know what tomatoes do well in wacky-weather Portland. I am coddling and covering the crop. The Goldman's Italian are huge and beautiful, but still green. The Peach Blow Suttons are gorgeous. The Flamme burst with flavor. I am glad someone else was as inspired by Amy Goldman's amazing book as I was.

the herbangardener
3/14/2010 10:12:53 PM

Oh gosh...flavor ratings are so subjective! I much prefer the more tart and complex flavors, and avoid tomatoes that are overly sweet. My all-time favorite is Green Zebra, followed by Flamme (both are quite zingy, which is the ideal tomato to my tongue!). For an all-around great tomato taste, I love Mortgage Lifter. Aussie is great, too, with enormous fruits! Brandywine has never really impressed me, though perhaps it performs and tastes different depending on where in the country you are(?). Speckled Roman, though not outstanding in taste in my opinion, is worth growing because the tomatoes are so beautiful! Lindsey

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