15 Ag & Culinary Pros Share Their Favorite Heirloom Tomatoes

heirloom tomato variety handbook

We asked nearly 200 pros—chefs, farmers, horticulturists—to reveal their preferred heirloom tomato varieties. No surprise: Popular favorites ‘Green Zebra’, ‘Cherokee Purple’, ‘Brandywine’, ‘Black Krim’, and ‘Mr. Stripey’ racked up the most votes. As Dorothy Kalins, former Editor in-Chief of Saveur and Garden Design, explained: “When it comes to tomatoes, I have strong preferences and no appetite for experimentation.” Should you crave more esoteric options, we have two words: ‘Banana Legs’.

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GREEN ENVY

“Edible perfection. This emerald-green cherry tomato produces tons of fruit all summer long.” —Venelin Dimitrov, Senior Product Manager, Burpee; Warminster, PA

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BIG RAINBOW

“This beefsteak makes a damn good Bloody Mary.” —Anthony Sasso, Executive Chef, La Sirena; New York City

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AUNT RUBY’S GERMAN GREEN

“Fried green tomatoes, OMG! I live in the South, so this beefsteak tops my list.”—Kevin Mitchell, Chef/Instructor, Culinary Institute of Charleston; Charleston, SC

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BRAD'S ATOMIC GRAPE

“A super-tasty psychedelic wonder that comes hard and quick in 75 days.” —Aimee Olexy, Co-owner, The Love; Philadelphia

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PINEAPPLE

“Extra-large with a consistently moist center, ‘Pineapple’ beefsteak is one stunning specimen.’’ —Kurt Timmermeister, Owner, Kurtwood Farms and Kurt Farm Shop; Vashon Island, WA, and Seattle

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BANANA LEGS

“New-to-me varieties with quirky names always prove hard to resist, but these won me over with their low acidity and unique candelabra-bulb form.” —Ilene Rosen, Co-owner, R&D Foods; Brooklyn

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CARBON

"The most reliable and flavorful purple beef- steak, hands down.” —Peter Zuck, Vegetable Product Manager, Johnny’s Selected Seeds; Winslow, ME

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GERMAN YELLOW

“Our go-to beefsteak has the perfect
wide stance for sandwich filling.” —Matt Lee and Ted Lee, Founders, The Lee Bros. Boiled Peanuts Catalogue; Charleston, SC

 

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BLACK BEAUTY

“Created by a breeder famous for Willy Wonka–esque varieties, this is the granddaddy of slicing tomatoes— earthy and juicy with no pucker.” —Shannon McCabe, Horticulturist and Gardening Writer, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds; Mansfield, MO

 

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ROSE DE BERNE

“This slicer has long been my favorite—pinkish and incredibly sweet.” —Michael Pollan, Author, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Cooked; Berkeley, CA

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GARDENER'S SWEETHEART

“These awesome, easy-to-grow cherry tomatoes hold on their trusses and never split!” —Lane Selman, Founder/ Director, Culinary Breeding Network; Portland, OR

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GERMAN PINK

“This beefsteak is one of two heirlooms that started Seed Savers Exchange. The great-grandparents of our co-founder Diane Ott Whealy brought the seeds to Iowa when they emigrated from Bavaria in the 1870s.” —Alicia Chilton, Marketing and Development Manager, Seed Savers Exchange; Decorah, IA

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KELLOG'S BREAKFAST

“Yes, I’m from Battle Creek, Michigan, where the cereal company is based. But it’s the low seed count and beautiful orange color that had me using these beef- steaks all last summer.” —Thomas Lents, Executive Chef, The Apparatus Room; Detroit

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SAN MARZANO REDORTA

“An Italian plum tomato, ‘San Marzano Redorta’ creates wonderfully complex sauces and salsas.” —Gary “Tomato Man” Ibsen, Founder, TomatoFest; Little River, CA

 

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BLONDKÖPFCHEN

“These delicious cherry tomatoes manage to reseed themselves in our Zone 3–4 garden every year.” —Alissa Hessler, Founder, Urban Exodus; Camden, ME

15 Ag & Culinary Pros Share Their Favorite Heirloom Tomatoes