Types of Heirloom Tomatoes -- Union Square Greenmarket

heirloom tomatoes

An heirloom tomato is an open-pollinated (non-hybrid) cultivar of tomato. Heirloom tomatoes have become increasingly popular and more readily available in recent years. Requirements The definition of the use of the word heirloom to describe plants is highly debated. One school of thought places an age or date point on the cultivars. For instance, one school says that the seeds must be over 100 years old, others 50 years, and others pick an arbitrary date of 1945 which marks the end of World War II and roughly the beginning of widespread hybrid ue by growers and seed companies or industrial agriculture. It was after the end of World War II that hybrid seeds began to proliferate in the commercial seed trade. Another way of defining heirloom cultivars is to use the definition of the word "heirloom" in its truest sense. Under this interpretation, a true heirloom is a cultivar that has been nurtured, selected, and handed down from one family member to another for many generations.

Types of Heirloom Tomatoes

beefsteak tomato
The Beefsteak Tomato - Beefsteak tomatoes are the largest varieties of cultivated tomatoes, sometimes weighing 1 lb (.5 kg) or more. Most are pink or red with numerous small seed compartments distributed throughout the fruit, sometimes displaying pronounced ribbing similar to ancient pre-columbian tomato cultivars.

the ratte potato in water

Eva Purple Ball Tomato - A heirloom variety from the Black Forest Region of Germany. Excellent mid-sized tomato with thin skin and purplish tinge. Blemish free with great flavor

cherokee purple tomato
The Cherokee Purple Tomato - Purple Cherokee tomatoes are beefsteak in style, with green "shoulders" across the top. It was one of the first of the "black" color group of tomatoes. This variety is over 100 years old and was originally grown by the Cherokee Indians The tomato has an excellent rich flavor and is considered one of the best heirlooms. One of the very first known "black", or deep dusky rose colored cultivars that are becoming so popular. Named in 1990 by Craig LeHoullier, who received seeds of an unnamed cultivar in the mail from J. D. Green of Tennessee. Mr. Green indicated that the "purple" tomato cultivar was given by the Cherokee Indians to his neighbor "100 years ago". Note:a good for roasting.

green zebra tomato

The Green Zebra Tomato - Green Zebra is a tomato cultivar with characteristic green and yellow stripes. It is slightly more tart than regular tomatoes, and has dark green flesh when ripe.

black krim tomato
The Black Krim Tomato - A dark red to brown cultivar often cited online as being from from the "island of Krim" in the Black Sea, better known as the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine (Crimea is known in Ukrainian as Krim).


japanese heart tomato
Heart shaped tomato with bright red interior.


oxacan jewel tomato
A bicolor tomato that ripens to a golden yellow, with streaks of red and orange. Fruits are variable in size, ranging from 8oz and up. Flavor is rich, fruity, with tones of melon and some acid.


black pear tomato
Black Pear Tomato - Smokey taste similar to Cherokee Purple


mexican tomato
The Mexican Red Calabash - Beefsteak type tomato from Mexico. This is a delicious, thin-skinned heirloom from the state of Chiapas in Mexico.


yellow valencia tomato
The Yellow Valencia Tomato - These tomatoes are smooth and firm and meaty with good tomato flavor. They do well growing in cool climates.


black russian tomato
The Black Russian Tomato - These black tomatoes have a rich tomato flavor and turn to dark reddish black (black tomato) when mature.The black russian is one of the best of the black varieties on the market.


italian canistro tomato
Italian Canistro Tomato - Italian Heirloom tomato. Excellent for sauces.


Brandy Wine Tomato
The Brandy Wine Tomato - The tomato listed as simply "Brandywine" is one of the tomato varieties responsible for the ascendance of the popularity of heirloom varieties due to its excellent flavor and somewhat clouded history. A large fruited pink (red flesh, clear skin) variety produced on vigorous potato leaf foliage plants,This is the most well known heirloom variety from the late 1800's which has an incredibly sweet flavor. Huge sized fruit start out pink and turn slowly red and then slightly purple as they ripen completely. (Note--difficult for roasting).

Hillbilly tomato
Hillbilly Tomato - Orange colored with dark red streaking throughout. Fruits have sweet and fruity flavor with high sugar content and high acidity. Heirloom variety from West Virginia in the 1800's.


italian canistro tomato
German Stripe Tomato-This is an old german heirloom variety producing huge boat shaped fruits weighing as much as 2 pounds. Color is golden yellow with pink to red stripes that varies from fruit to fruit. Excellent for slicing. Note: good for roasting.


polish linguista tomato
Polish Linguisa Tomato -Tomatoes are very sweet and are more productive than most heirloom varieties. These huge sausage shapd tomatoes are excellent for making paste and sauce. A heirloom variety from New York, USA dating back to the 1800's.


Mortgage Lifter tomato
Mortgage Lifter Tomato -Tomatoes have a sweet rich flavor and turn deep pink when mature. This variety was developed in the 1930's by Mr. Byles of Logan, WV to help pay off his home mortgage. He crossed a German Johnson, Beefsteak, and Italian & English varieties to come up with this unique variety. Sweet and Tasty, also makes a good roasted tomato.


Ramapo Jersey tomato
Ramapo Heirloom Tomato

The Ramapo is the heirloom tomato of New Jersey. 

The Ramapo was popular when it was released by Rutgers University in 1968, but was eventually judged too soft for shipping and disappeared from the market. John Ebert, who runs the last working farm in Cherry Hill, N.J.. set up three acres of Ramapos starting in the summer of 2008 after Rutgers released the seeds back into the market in 2008.


powers heirloom  tomato
Powers Heirloom -This tomato originated in Scott County in southwest Virginia over 100 years ago. Heavy yeilds of 3-5 oz. yellow paste tomatoes. Similar to Amish Paste, great flavor, nice sweet taste... Indeterminate, 85-90 days from transplant. Note: very nice and intense roasted.


purple russian tomato
Purple Russian Tomato - Plant produces high yields of long purplish-black plum tomatoes. Tomatoes are very flavorful and very meaty. One of the best purplish-black tomatoes for markets. Excellent for slicing, sauce, and paste. Origin from Ukraine.


pink ping pong_tomatoes
Pink Ping Pong Tomato - The Pink Ping Pong is the size and shape of a pingpong ball with attractive bright pink skin. This is not a cherry-type tomato. Pink Ping Pong is larger and has a “big” tomato flavor. The tomato has marvelous crack-resistance and the flavor is superb.


sunray tomatoes
Sun Ray Tomato -Golden fruited tomatoes with thick walls. Mild Taste. Smooth and very firm.


early girl tomatoes
Early Girl Tomatoes - The Early Girl tomato is a medium type hybrid popular with home gardeners because of its early fruit ripening. Fruit maturity claims range from 50 to 62 days from transplanting, which appeals to growers in climates with shorter frost-free seasons.


mama leaone tomato
Mama Leone Tomato -A real old-time Italian paste tomato, this variety produces 5-6 oz full-flavored red fruit that are supreme in sauces and paste. The vines set high yields. This heirloom that was brought from Italy many years ago to New York state.


Tye-Dye Tomato
Tye Dye Tomato -This is a very colorful and flavorful tomato that is marbeled with red streaks. Inside has gorgeous colors. The fruits are lusciously sweet, mild and non-acidic


]Ananas Noire tomato
Ananas Noire -The name means Black Pineapple. This is a medium to large size tomato that has a green and dark purple exterior. The interior is bright green with red streaks. This is a very tasty tomato but the fruit is unusually soft and must be eaten soon after harvest


Russian tomato
Russian Tomato - A variety from Russia that are red in color. Small oval shape. Sweet with good flavor tasting tomato.


Roman Candles Tomato
Roman CandlesTomato -This is a decendent of Antique Roman. They are bright yellow tomatoes that are 2" wide by 4" long. Very meaty with nice sweet flavor. Good for sauces and roasting.


Big  Pink tomato
Big Pink Tomato - Tomato has a rosy smooth skin. There are many varieties of Big Pink Tomatoes. Nice meaty center, good flavor and acid, making it great for slicing. Excellent taste. Good for roasting.
Other heirlooms


  • Blaby Special-- A red fruited cultivar grown in the village of Blaby in Leicestershire until just after World War II. It was the main tomato cultivar supplied through England during the war. The cultivar ceased to be cultivated when the Shoult's Tomato Farm was closed after the war. The cultivar was brought back into cultivation in 2006 as a result of a campaign by Russell Sharp of Lancaster University. It may have resulted from either a mutation or cross-breed of an older cultivar known as Anwell. 
  • Jubilee--“ A heavy yielding, golden fruit. Released by Burpee Seed Co. in 1943. 
  • Lillian's Yellow Heirloom - This wonderful, unique variety was collected some years ago by Lillian Bruce of Tennessee. Lillian passed the seed on to Robert Richardson, after which it found its way into the Seed Savers Exchange yearbook and became widely traded, and is now commercially available from a number of seed companies. One of the few bright yellow fruited varieties, and the only one with potato leaf foliage, this is a delicious, full flavored tomato that is very meaty, with few seeds. It tends to be a late season variety. 
  • Traveler An open pollinated pink tomato in the 6 ounce range. Another cultivar commonly referred to as an heirloom and just as often erroneously listed as "Arkansas Traveler". Released by the University of Arkansas in 1970.

Tomato Recipes