21 of the Best Heirloom Tomato Varieties for the Garden

Do you want to grow the best tomatoes? Then planting heirloom varieties is the way to go.

A close up of an indeterminate heirloom tomato plant with red and green tomatoes growing in the garden. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white text.

These are plants that hark back to the days when food crops were about nutrition and flavor, not rushing an unripe, tasteless, and vitamin-deficient crop to market.

Stop subjecting your family to the ordinary, pale-fleshed, flavorless fruits that dominate grocery store shelves, or paying premium prices to experiment with gourmet varieties.

How about growing some quirky-shaped vegetables, in a rainbow of colors, that are as intriguing to look at as they are delicious to eat?

Heirloom plants are treasures that have been grown for generations from seeds gathered year after year, to preserve their exceptional flavor – as opposed to commercial crops that are prized for their durability, often at the expense of taste and nutrition.

Heirlooms differ from another type of tomato plant, the hybrid.

Hybrids are a combination of two cultivars that have been deliberately cross-pollinated for purposes such as disease resistance, increased yield, or uniform shape.

They don’t come in the same array of colors and shapes as heirlooms, but there are varieties available that are superior to store-bought produce. Whether their flavors rival those of heirlooms is open to debate.

In general, growing your own fruits and vegetables results in healthier produce. According to experts at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, produce that is allowed to ripen on the vine contains the most vitamins, nutrients, and phytochemicals to support good health.

When commercially grown tomatoes are picked green for transport, their vitamin C content is decreased. Although they continue to ripen, turning red in the process, they may never achieve their full complement of nutrients.

In addition, even minimal commercial processing affects the overall nutritional value of fruits and vegetables, and mishandling that produces bruising may also reduce nutritive content.

With what we know today about the value of eating a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, I find that serving colorful and tasty heirloom produce is a wonderful way to nourish my family.

A Note on Organic Practices:

Some seeds and plants are certified organic. This means they have been cultivated without chemicals, and meet the stringent standards required for this designation.

Heirloom seeds may or may not be so certified, and selection is a matter of preference.

Tomato plants grow in one of two ways: determinate or indeterminate.

  • Determinate plants grow into a compact bush shape, and produce all of their fruit over a couple of weeks.
  • Indeterminate plants continue to grow and produce fruit for the duration of the growing season, often until a frost.

Read more about the differences between determinate and indeterminate tomato varieties.

Now, let’s check out some of our favorites.

21 of the Best Heirloom Tomato Varieties

At my house, we just planted a ‘Brandywine Red’ with an interesting background and local roots.

Named for a creek not far from here, this tasty variety was saved from extinction by an old gentleman who supplied the Seed Savers Exchange with seeds that he had gotten from a fellow gardener, whose family had been cultivating the variety for almost a century.

That’s heirloom vegetable gardening at its best – good people growing good crops.

1. Ace 55-VF

A vigorous determinate bush variety, this plant matures in about 80 to 85 days. First introduced in 1964 by the Asgrow Seed company, plants may not require staking, and have excellent disease resistance.

The VF means this cultivar is resistant to Verticillium and Fusarium wilt.

A close up of a large, red 'Ace 55' cultivar, freshly harvested and set on a wooden surface. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

‘Ace 55-VF’ Seeds

‘Ace 55’ is a thick-walled red variety on the order of a beefsteak, with a sweet flavor and low acid content, making it great for eating fresh or preparing in cooked dishes.

Due to its low acid content, this variety is not suitable for canning.

Seeds are available from True Leaf Market.

2. Amish Paste

There’s no better plum variety for sauces and canning than this meaty red one, and we have the Amish of Wisconsin to thank for it.

A close up of 'Amish Paste' heirloom tomato variety set on the top of lettuce, with slices, flowers, and foliage.

‘Amish Paste’ Seeds

Dating from the late 1800s, this indeterminate variety matures in about 80 days, producing six- to eight-ounce juicy fruits.

Support with a trellis as needed, and enjoy its fruit all season long.

Seeds are available in a variety of packet sizes from True Leaf Market.

3. Arkansas Traveler

Mild-tasting, this indeterminate type has a pinkish hue, crack-resistant skin, tolerance for heat and humidity, and overall disease resistance.

The six- to eight-ounce round fruits are delicious straight from the garden and sliced onto a plate. This variety originated in the Ozark mountains in the late 1800s.

A close up of four red fruits of the 'Arkansas Traveler' cultivar, set on a green surface, with a wicker basket and foliage in the background. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

‘Arkansas Traveler’ Seeds

Fruits mature in approximately 80 days, and support with a trellis or stakes may be required.

You’ll find seeds in a variety of packet sizes at True Leaf Market.

4. Black Cherry

For snacking on the go, ‘Black Cherry’ delivers. It offers the rich sweetness and depth of flavor you love in full-size black varieties, but this time, that deliciousness comes in a bite-sized package.

One- to one-and-one-half-inch fruits grow on rambling five-foot-long indeterminate vines that crave full sunshine.

A close up of the dark purple fruits of 'Black Cherry' heirloom tomato cultivar, freshly harvested and set on a wicker surface.

‘Black Cherry’

Expect maturity in 65 to 75 days. Provide structural support as needed.

Find seeds in a variety of packet sizes available from Eden Brothers.

5. Black Krim

If robust flavor and nutrition are what you’re looking for, this one’s for you. Also known as ‘Black Crimea,’ this variety was first introduced in 1990 by the Seed Savers Exchange.

‘Black Krim’ Seeds

Of Russian origin, the color of this indeterminate beefsteak-style cultivar is a blend of purple, red, and brown hues. Fruits can weigh up to 12 ounces.

Supply climbing support for this hearty, disease-resistant variety, and enjoy a continuous supply of vegetables from its 80-day maturity until the first frost.

You can find packets of 30 seeds available from PowerGrow Systems via Amazon.

6. Black Russian

A bushy, indeterminate plant, ‘Black Russian’ may be grown as a container plant when maintained with careful pruning.

A close up of freshly harvested 'Black Russian' tomatoes, set on green foliage. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

‘Black Russian’ Seeds

Four-ounce fruits have reddish-brown skin, meaty flesh, and a unique flavor often described as smoky. Not too acidic, nor too sweet, it strikes a tasty balance as a stand-alone or salad feature.

Allow 80 to 85 days for maturity, and eat fresh, as it doesn’t store well.

You’ll find seeds for this variety available at True Leaf Market.

7. Bonny Best

This meaty fruit is a canning favorite with a classic balance of sweet and tart. Bright red fruits grow to a mature size of between two and 10 ounces.

‘Bonny Best’ was listed in Vaughan’s Seed Store catalog in 1897, and by 1910 it had gained popularity among gardeners.

A close up of a large, red 'Bonny Best' fruit hanging from the vine, pictured in bright sunshine. To the bottom right of the frame is a black circular logo with text.

‘Bonny Best’ Seeds

An indeterminate grower, it matures in about 75 to 80 days. Provide structural support and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

Seeds are available from True Leaf Market.

7. Brandywine

This is a great slicing variety.

Available in shades of pink, red, black, and yellow, this beefsteak type is creamy in texture, low in acidity, and high in flavor. Fruits can weigh up to two pounds.

A close up of large, yellow fruits of 'Brandywine Yellow,' freshly harvested and set on a wooden surface, pictured in bright sunshine. To the bottom right of the frame is a black circular logo with text.

‘Brandywine Yellow’ Seeds

It has a characteristic “potato” leaf that is smooth-edged, rather than the usual serrated foliage.

Maturity varies by type from 70 to 100 days.

You’ll find seeds for the red and yellow variety at True Leaf Market. If you prefer pink, True Leaf Market has got you covered. 

9. Cherokee Purple

We have the Cherokees to thank for cultivating this beauty over the course of the past century.

It’s a dynamic bush-style plant with indeterminate fruit production that matures in about 80 days.

A close up of a number of 'Cherokee Purple' fruits set on a square white plate on a wooden surface. To the bottom right of the frame is a black circular logo with text.

‘Cherokee Purple’ Seeds

Resistant to disease, it may withstand a dry spell, and benefits from caging or staking.

Large, 12- to 16-ounce sweet fruit is an attractive pinkish-purple, and it makes a vivid addition to any meal.

You can find seeds in a variety of packet sizes available from True Leaf Market.

10. Chocolate Stripes

A top-notch slicing tomato for salads and sandwiches, this indeterminate type has a complex, earthy flavor.

A close up of the unusual red with dark green stripes 'Chocolate Stripes' tomato cultivar, pictured growing on the vine on a dark background.

‘Chocolate Stripes’ Seeds

Reddish-brown fruits boast contrasting light and dark green stripes and reddish-brown flesh. They are a generous four to six inches in diameter, and can weigh up to one pound.

Plants mature in approximately 80 days.

Find seeds in a variety of packet sizes available at Eden Brothers.

11. Constoluto Genovese

Right out of Nonna’s 19th-century kitchen, this is an Italian classic. Sauced, preserved, and eaten out of hand for generations, it’s still a staple today among cooks who demand the best.

A close up of the deeply ribbed, red and yellow 'Constoluto Genovese' tomatoes pictured in bright light.

‘Constoluto Genovese’ Seeds

This is an indeterminate kind that produces hefty, six- to eight-ounce ribbed and flattened fruits with robust red flesh.

It loves summer heat and humidity, and matures in 70 to 90 days.

Find seeds now from Eden Brothers.

12. German Johnson

Great fresh and suitable for canning, this is a versatile dark pink indeterminate variety, producing one- to two-pound fruit.

It has a classic sweet and tart flavor, minimal seeds, and a skin that’s resistant to cracking.

A close up of four 'German Johnson' tomatoes set on a hessian surface with foliage scattered around. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

German Johnson’ Seeds

This variety is disease resistant, and thrives in heat and humidity. Maturity takes about 80 to 90 days.

You can find seeds online at True Leaf Market.

13. Great White

Here’s a high-yield indeterminate plant that produces sweet and juicy beefsteak-style slicers with a tropical fruit flavor.

A close up of a 'Great White' tomato, with yellow skin and pale flesh, sliced and set on the ground on soil. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

Great White’ Seeds

Weighing about a pound apiece, they have a low acid content and few seeds. Maturity is in about 80 to 85 days.

Seeds are available from True Leaf Market.

14. Hillbilly

This plant is a beefsteak style, with sweet, low-acid fruits mottled in yellow and red that weigh up to two pounds each.

A close up of a 'Hillbilly' tomato, sliced and set on the ground on dark soil. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

‘Hillbilly’ Seeds

It’s indeterminate, for a season full of produce. Maturity is in about 85 days.

Find seeds available at True Leaf Market.

15. Kellogg’s Breakfast

For full-bodied beefsteak flavor with a colorful twist, here’s one to try.

This indeterminate variety has showy, thin orange skin and flesh with a subtle depression that gives it a heart-shaped appearance.

A close up of a bright orange 'Kellogg's Breakfast' tomato, a whole fruit pictured next to one that has been sliced, set on a wooden surface with a white background.

‘Kellogg’s Breakfast’ Seeds

The fruit is an impressive one to two pounds, and yields jumbo slices for your biggest and best barbecued hamburgers.

Harvest in 80 to 90 days.

Seeds are available in an assortment of packet sizes from Eden Brothers.

16. Mr. Stripey

‘Mr. Stripey’ is an indeterminate plant that bears the sweetest fruit you may ever taste.

A close up of a 'Mr Stripey' heirloom cultivar with bright orange skin and flesh, sliced and set on the ground. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

‘Mr. Stripey’ Seeds

A beefsteak style that’s yellow with reddish stripes, these grow to weigh up to two pounds each.

Maturity is in 80 days. Stake or provide a trellis as needed.

You can find seeds in a variety of packet sizes available from True Leaf Market.

17. Oxheart Pink

This lovely indeterminate variety has pink skin and a pointed bottom, giving it the appearance of an oversized strawberry.

A close up of a large, ripe 'Oxheart Pink' tomato with bright red skin, striped with yellow, hanging from the vine, pictured in bright sunshine.

‘Oxheart Pink’

Fruits weigh up to two pounds. Pink flesh is packed with sun-sweet tomato taste and lots of juice, for drip-down-your-chin out of hand eating.

Expect to harvest in about 80 days.

Find seeds in different packet sizes available from Eden Brothers.

18. Thessaloniki

Originating in Greece, this is an indeterminate variety with a classic acid-sugar balance. This variety was first introduced to the US in 1958 by Glecklers Seedmen.

A close up of a ripe red 'Thessaloniki' tomato, set on the ground, pictured in bright sunshine. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

‘Thessaloniki’ Seeds

It matures in about 60 to 80 days, and produces high yields of 6- to 12-ounce round red fruit that resist cracking and rotting. Provide support as needed.

True Leaf Market has seeds available in an assortment of packet sizes.

19. Tumbling Tom Red

This is a fun variety to grow, as it is just right for a hanging basket or large container near the door, where you can reach for a fresh snack anytime.

A close up of a plant full of ripe, red cherry tomatoes of the 'Tumbling Tom Red' cultivar, pictured growing in the garden, with a wooden fence in the background, in bright sunshine. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

‘Tumbling Tom Red’ Seeds

This is a determinate variety with cascading stalks that grow from 20 to 24 inches in a bushy fashion.

One- to two-inch cherry tomatoes are bright red and as sweet as can be.

And best of all, they mature early, for enjoyment in about 65 days.

Find seeds now from True Leaf Market.

20. VR Moscow

This bushy determinate plant matures in 80 to 90 days.

It’s got the classic sweet and tart taste of the best tomato you’ve ever had, and is crack and disease resistant. The VR denotes that it is resistant to Verticillium wilt.

A close up of a ripe, red 'VR Moscow' fruit, pictured in bright sunshine. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

‘VR Moscow’ Seeds

Equally good fresh or canned, this is a great all-purpose choice. Stake or cage as required.

You can find seeds available at True Leaf Market.

21. Yellow Pear

This is an indeterminate, disease-resistant variety that’s very easy to grow and matures in about 75 to 80 days.

Throughout the growing season, it produces a great quantity of pungent, snack-sized fruit shaped like small yellow pears.

A close up of the bright yellow, pear-shaped fruits of the 'Yellow Pear' tomato cultivar, hanging from the vine, pictured in bright sunshine and surrounded by foliage. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

‘Yellow Pear’ Seeds

Eat these by the handful, or make them into fresh preserves. Stake or trellis as needed.

Seeds are available from True Leaf Market.

Exceptional and Sustainable

Whether you grow tomatoes from seed or purchase nursery starts, heirlooms are a smart investment because they are not only nutritious and tasty, but sustainable.

What does this mean? If you harvest seeds at the end of the growing season, you can grow the same plants next year.

Conversely, with hybrids, harvested seeds may be infertile or produce plants that differ substantially from the parent plant.

A close up of a red and yellow deeply ribbed heirloom tomato, growing on the vine in the garden, in light sunshine.

By conserving seed in our own yards, we can do our part to ensure that future generations enjoy nutritious food crops.

And if you really want to play an active role, consider joining a non-profit organization called the Seed Savers Exchange.

This seedbank is dedicated to promoting biodiversity and preserving the heritage of heirloom seeds in America.

The best way to start your own heirloom plant tradition is to save seeds from the ones that grow best in your garden, and plant them next year.

I’m a big fan of heirlooms, particularly those that originated in my area.

Are you ready to pass the horticultural baton to the next generation by cultivating heirloom varieties in your garden this year? Share your stories with us in the comments below!

And to learn more about growing tomatoes in your garden, you’ll need these guides next:


Don’t forget to Pin It!

A collage of photos showing different heirloom tomatoes growing on the vine.

© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published February 13, 2019. Last updated June 15, 2020. Product photos via Burpee, Eden Brothers, PowerGrow Systems, and True Leaf Market. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Nan Schiller

Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!

5 3 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
7 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David
David (@guest_7954)
4 months ago

Great article, thank you!

Ewan McIan
Ewan McIan (@guest_8127)
4 months ago

I have/am growing several of these varieties and appreciate the review. But here’s a question from this year: is it possible to dwarf these by leaving them in too-small a container? Weird spring with intermittent freezing led to delays in planting; they all looked healthy (dark green leaves, no damage, etc). They went 2-3 weeks beyond when I intended to plant them, and appear to be staying much smaller than previous years, whilst seemingly being pollinated feebly and later. While this all could be weather and other factors, is small-container-dwarfing a “thing?” Of course this could apply to plants other… Read more »

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-sidhu)
Admin
Noble Member
Reply to  Ewan McIan
4 months ago

That’s correct Ewan, in a sense. Though this is not the same thing as intentional breeding to create a dwarf cultivar, growing tomatoes in containers will result in smaller plants with smaller harvests. Tomatoes need plenty of space for their roots to grow and spread, so this type of containment results in plants of a smaller stature than what you would get if you grew them in the ground.

Ewan McIan
Ewan McIan (@guest_8146)
Reply to  Allison Sidhu
4 months ago

Thanks! Clarification: I did plant them in the ground and that’s where they appear stunted. OTOH, in some new fancy planters, I have some (1) plum and (2) glaciers (an ‘early’ type) that are big and bold and just got a few ripe ones today! The ‘dwarfed’ late-to-ground ones are indeterminate (1) “blueberry” and (2) cherokee purples, both of which have been big and productive here in other years. Appreciate the comment distinguishing one time confinement versus over-time-genetic modification on size.

Shyam Sundar roy
Shyam Sundar roy (@guest_8993)
2 months ago

Very good article. I am Indian farmer.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-sidhu)
Admin
Noble Member
Reply to  Shyam Sundar roy
2 months ago

Thanks for reading, Shyam!

Jim Archer
Jim Archer (@guest_9845)
1 month ago

I plant tomatoes from seed I save each year. I live in S. Alberta, Canada and we have a lot of Mennonite and Hutterite farmers in our region. I bought a big tomato from a Hutterite vendor at our local Farmers’ Market. Last year this strain produced a huge crop from one plant in a large planter pot.(10 kilos 540grams) This year even more, but not yet finished.. I think this is a traditional tomato that the Hutterites brought with them from Europe. The seeds from the same fruit can produce simple round and smooth fruit or the same, but… Read more »

C23FE588-827B-43E1-9A19-02B778A221EE.jpeg