Tomatoes: Plant By Color
Grow an Assortment of Tomatoes
Cindy Martin loves tomatoes. She and her husband, George, own The Tasteful Garden, a mail-order nursery in Chulafinnee, Alabama, where they grow plants for vegetable and herb gardens. "The colors of tomatoes can greatly impact their flavors by determining how acidic, sweet, bitter, or mild they will be," Cindy explains. "From solid colors to stripes and from dark purple to rusty red, rosy pink, pale yellow, orange, and gold, tomatoes can cover a wide range of colors and flavors. I think tomatoes attract us with their colors, and then we also get to enjoy their fantastic flavors plus nutritional benefits such as vitamins and antioxidants."
The following generalizations often hold true for tomatoes. But every rule has its exception, so take these as you would your favorite tomato—with a grain of salt!
Reds and Purples
Reds and purples indicate fuller flavors with a bit more acidity and what some gardeners describe as a salty taste. You will not forget the rich flavor of 'Cherokee Purple.' Also try reds such as 'Better Boy,' 'Sweet Baby Girl,' and 'Marmara.'
- Try this one: 'Black Cherry' for snacking
- Others we love: 'Black Plum,' 'Black Krim,' 'Southern Night,' and 'Cherokee Purple'
Yellows and oranges are generally milder, especially when eaten at the earliest stages of ripeness, but they can develop a fuller flavor with more acidity as they ripen to a darker gold or orange.
- Try this one: 'Yellow Plum' for sauces
- Others we love: 'Taxi,' 'Yellow Pear,' 'Pineapple,' 'Ildi,' and 'Lemon Boy'
Very sweet, they're often described as fruity, hence such names as 'Pineapple' and 'Orange Strawberry.'
- Try this one: 'Persimmon' for slicing
- Others we love: 'Sun Gold,' 'Flamme,' 'Kellogg's Breakfast,' and 'Orange Strawberry'
Pink tomatoes aren't actually pink at all. Their skins are translucent, which removes a lot of bitterness, leaving them very sweet with plenty of flavor. Some of the absolute best tomatoes of any color are 'Rose de Berne,' 'Arkansas Traveler,' and 'Watermelon Beefsteak.' Their textures and sweet flavors are outstanding.
- Try this one: 'Rose de Berne' for slicing
- Others we love: 'Watermelon Beefsteak,' 'Rosalita,' and 'Arkansas Traveler'
White tomatoes may seem a little odd at first, but you'll change your mind when you taste them. They have a mild flavor in the early stages of ripening, but when they're fully developed, the flavor grows more intense as the color becomes slightly yellowish with a pink blush at the blossom end. Fully ripened, they can compete with some of the darker kinds for being tangy and having a sweet flavor. Try 'Great White' and 'Snow White.'
- Try this one: 'Great White' for slicing
- Others we love: 'White Queen,' 'White Beauty,' 'Italian Ice,' and 'Snow White'
Green tomatoes, with their more complex flavors, usually elicit a "Wow!" from first-time tasters. The greens have a sharp, tangy flavor, but as they continue ripening, they can become sweet, acidic, and tangy all at once. This gives them a punch that's rare in the tomato world. We love the zesty taste of 'Green Zebra.'
- Try this one: 'Cherokee Green' for slicing
- Others we love: 'Green Zebra,' 'Green Grape,' 'Evergreen,' and 'Green Giant'
This sturdy spear-point trowel is ideal for transplanting your tomatoes; it's available from leevalleytools.com.
Look for plants at your local nursery, or order from burpee.com.
For an assortment of classic heirloom seeds, try southernexposure.com.