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Top 10 Best Tasting Heirloom Tomatoes – GIY Plants

Best tasting heirloom tomatoes sitting on wood counter

Chefs and gardeners overwhelmingly favor heirloom tomatoes for their unique variations vs. the more traditional red, thick-skinned, hybrid supermarket tomato. Most importantly, many regard heirloom tomatoes as better tasting. Below, we’ll go over what we consider as the top 10 best tasting heirloom tomatoes you can grow and try at home.

Top Ten Best Tasting Heirloom Tomatoes

Because of their open-pollination and natural genetic diversity, heirlooms offer a greater breadth of flavors, colors, sizes, shapes, textures, and tastes than hybrids.

Hybrids tend to be selected for commercially-viable features, so offer far less variety.

There are thousands of heirloom varieties and over 600 commercially available heirloom tomato cultivars, ranging from red to purple, and small to gigantic.

“Best” is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but below are some of what we consider the best-tasting and most interesting heirloom varieties:

  • Mortgage Lifter – This variety is popular for its taste and story. A West Virginia radiator repairman, with no plant-breeding experience, was able to create this heirloom after seven years of planting, collecting seeds, and naturally breeding tomatoes to create a stable variety. He sold the seeds to pay for his mortgage payments, hence the name.

This fruit is known for its large, pinkish-red fruit weighing between 1-3 pounds (450-1400g). The texture is also meaty with few seeds, making it great for slicing.

  • Able Lincoln – This variety was introduced in 1923 by the W.H. Buckbee Seed Company in Illinois, and was named after the president who called the state home. It is an example of a commercially created heirloom – that is, it was created commercially via natural breeding before seed companies started to shift to engineered hybrid tomatoes.

Fruits tend to be late-maturing and are classic dark-red medium-sized 8-16 oz. (225-450 g) with a rich, slightly acidic tomato flavor.

  • Brandywine – This type of tomato is known for its large pink-tomato and potato-leaf type (i.e smoother vs. serrated leaves). The fruits may weigh up to 2 pounds (900 g) and are characterized by intense, juicy, and meaty flavors. Not highly acidic, these large beefsteak-like tomatoes are ideal for eating fresh or in an heirloom tomato salad.

Brandywines were first listed in a late 1800s seed catalog, disappeared for a while, and reappeared in 1982. The seeds may have been handed from generation to generation, and there are multiple varieties bearing different fruit and claiming the same name: Yellow Brandywine, Black Brandywine, and Plum Brandywine.

  • Chocolate Stripes – Easily identified by its unusual fruit color and unusual pumpkin-like shape, these large tomatoes have a rich, sweet, aromatic, slightly acidic, and smoky flavor profile.
  • German Red Strawberry – Originating in Germany, this heirloom has a shape similar to a very large red strawberry. In the right conditions, these plants are much more high-yielding than most heart-shaped tomatoes. Fruits weigh 10-16 oz (280-450 g), produce less seeds and juice, and tend to be very sweet, meaty, and flavorful in the old-fashioned sense.
  • Plum Lemon – Hailing from Russia, these heirlooms are easily identified by their bright yellow skin and flesh, and lemon-like shape. Fruits tend to be firm and meaty, with few seeds and a mild, sweet flavor. Sizes range from 1-3 oz (50-80 g).
  • Kellogg’s Breakfast – This is a giant, pumpkin-like shaped beefsteak variety with bright orange coloring inside and outside the fruit. Fruits range from 1-2 pounds (450-900 g) and are known for their thin skins, meatiness, sweet tanginess, and juicy flavor. This variety is famous for its delicious taste, as well as its reputation for being hardy and disease-resistant.
  • Mr. Stripey – Originally selected and stabilized in England, this variety is known for its faint yellow striping on large red-colored fruit. Fruits weigh 1-2 pounds (450-900 g) and have a sweet and mild taste, great for blending in a pasta sauce or in a salad. The sliced flesh is also soft, juicy, and tender. The bi-coloring also makes it highly decorative.
  • Cherokee Purple – Credited to the Cherokee Indians who may have grown these over 100 years ago, this heirloom tomato is characterized by its faint dusty purple-brown and green shading. Fruits tend to be large (10-12 oz. or 280-340 g) and aromatic, and taste rich, sweet, acidic, and smoky.
  • Black Cherry – Like the name, the fruit resembles dark mahogany-colored cherries. Fruits are rich, juicy, sweet, complex, earthy, and smoky. They are perfect for eating raw in salads or roasting with summer vegetables. [1]


[1] Everhart, C. H. (2015). The Complete Guide to Growing Tomatoes: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply – Including Heirloom Tomatoes. Van Haren Publishing.

[2] Patronite, R., & Raisfeld, R. (2010, August 12). The Great Tomato Hunt. New York Magazine. https://nymag.com/restaurants/features/67495/.

[3] Scott, S. (2013). The Trouble With Tomatoes. STANFORD Magazine. Retrieved October 24, 2022, from https://stanfordmag.org/contents/the-trouble-with-tomatoes.

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