21 Finest Heirloom Tomato Varieties For Your Backyard

Tomatoes are grown for their flavor, but their ability to survive in acclimate weather, perform well in our changing climate, and produce high yields is important, too, especially for those of us growing to sell or preserve our harvest. Many growers have moved away from growing heirlooms because of their inability to produce high yields and fight off pests and diseases, opting for hybrids. But what about that old-fashioned flavor we all crave that our ancestors enjoyed? 

An heirloom tomato must be at least 50 years old and open-pollinated. They have a rich history. Many have been passed down through generations of families, and come from all across the globe. It’s a special honor to be gifted family heirloom seeds by long-time gardeners and enthusiasts. Practice the age-old tradition of saving tomato seeds to pass them along to the next generation in your own family to keep their history alive. 

Though more patience and labor are often required when growing heirloom varieties, here are some tips on making them work for your garden:

  • Grafting tomatoes for higher yields, resiliency, and disease resistance. 
  • Providing ample space and airflow. 
  • Protect them from rainfall. 
  • Use insect netting when plants are young to keep damaging pests at bay. 
  • Regularly prune and sucker. 
  • Avoid overhead watering. 
  • Ensure your soil is healthy to give your transplants the best chance to thrive. 
  • Choose varieties that work well in your growing region’s conditions. 

Now let’s get into 21 of the best heirloom tomato varieties you can incorporate into your garden this season so you can experience the traditional flavors, shapes, and colors of the past. 

‘Cherokee Purple’ 

The ‘Cherokee Purple’ tomato is highly valued for its prolific growth and culinary versatility.

This has been a favorite on our farm for years for its consistency, incredible flavor, and long, productive season. They do best trellised when grown in a protected high tunnel. If you don’t have a high tunnel, stake them and perform the Florida weave trellis or use a garden trellis system. 

‘Cherokee Purple’ is believed to have remained dormant for over 100 years after being given to someone by a Native American Cherokee and then revived. Its color is a deep burgundy with green shoulders and a brick-red interior flesh. Fruits are 10-12 ounces each and have a subtle smoky flavor.

Our community loves them for their high germination rates, high yields, and delicious flavor profile. There’s nothing quite like a BLT or breakfast sandwich with a thickly sliced ‘Cherokee Purple’ topped with flaky sea salt. 


Blue plastic tray holds ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes, their vibrant red hues contrasting against the cool blue. Beside, lush tomato vines sprawl, hinting at the source of these juicy delights, ripe for picking.Brandywine tomatoes boast a balanced sweet-tart flavor and large fruits.

If you’re looking for a massive slicing tomato that doesn’t lack flavor, ‘Brandywine’ is it. This tomato has been a beloved heirloom for over 100 years and has an interesting, convoluted history. It’s thought to be named after Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania. It’s unclear where the original seeds came from before showing up in Ohio in 1982 when they were donated to Seed Savers Exchange. 

‘Brandywine’ tomatoes are a well-balanced combination of sweet and tart flavors. Fruits can be extremely large, reaching two pounds, but typically 10-20 ounces, and are a bit flattened on the shoulders. They are available in red, yellow, orange, and blush varieties. Take note, plants feature potato leaves. 

Germinate tomatoes at 70-90°F (21-32°C) four to six weeks before your region’s last expected frost date. Step them up when they have one to two sets of true leaves. Transplant them when nighttime lows are above 45-50°F (7-10°C) and protect them as needed. Space them at two to three feet. 

‘Black Krim’

A close-up of ‘Black Krim’ tomatoes dangle from the green vine, promising a harvest of savory delights. The leaves surround the tomatoes, accentuating their intriguing blend of deep brown and vibrant green hues.These tomatoes produce 10-12 ounce fruits on vines up to 6 feet long.

This heirloom is the mood ring of heirloom tomatoes. In cooler weather, the exterior skin will be a mauve-pink to dark brown with green shoulders. In warmer climates, the exterior will appear to be almost black with red shoulders. The flavor of ‘Black Krim’ is rich and old-timey. Some say the flavor is slightly salty.

‘Black Krim’ originated in Russia on the Black Sea and features fruits that are consistently 10-12 ounces. Plants will continue to produce even under less-than-ideal conditions into the fall months. Plant to trellis as vines can reach up to six feet long or more

Pro tip: Store fruits shoulder-side down. Their slightly flattened shoulders will allow them to stay put while they continue to ripen off the vine before use. 


Red 'Beefsteak' tomatoes arranged on a wooden cutting board, capturing the essence of freshness. Among them, a single tomato takes center stage, sliced meticulously, ready to unveil its juicy, sun-ripened goodness in every bite.This tomato variety can grow up to 20 feet on a trellis in warm climates.

Nothing’s better than a classic beefsteak tomato! ‘Beefsteak’ has that classic, deep, bright red color and was first available for sale in 1900

When grown in warmer climates and on a trellis system, vines can reach up to 20 feet. Fruits will be 10 ounces to two pounds with light ribbing. Add them to your summer sandwiches for a juicy treat. 

Pro tip: If the weight of the tomatoes begins to pull your plant over, use clips and string for extra support. Clip the heavy truss to the string attached to the trellis system. Snip off empty tresses as harvests are complete and they are no longer needed to provide additional airflow near the soil surface. 


An 'Oxheart' tomato vine, showcasing green leaves and ripe red and green tomatoes. Bathed in sunlight, the plant thrives, promising a harvest of juicy, flavorful fruits bursting with summer's essence.The ‘Oxheart’ tomato is a meaty, low-seeded variety ideal for sauces.

Named for its resemblance to, you guessed it, an ox heart, ‘Oxheart’ is a robust Italian sauce heirloom tomato. It’s also called “Cuore Di Bue” in Italian and “pear of Liguria” after a region in Italy. It’s believed to be a relative of most Italian tomatoes available today. 

Fruits are a gorgeous orange-red with unique heart-shaped tops and pointed bottoms. 

The inside is meaty, featuring very few seeds, making it the perfect sauce tomato. They’re also great in salads, soups, and caprese salads. Plants are robust and should be given lots of space to grow. Fertilize mid-season to ensure fruits remain large and plants are productive into the fall. 

Pro tip: Starting tomatoes indoors from seed gives you the most control over their environment, producing higher germination rates, stronger seedlings to transplant, and a jumpstart on the season. This is particularly important in colder growing regions. 

‘Cherokee Green’ 

A close-up of a ripe 'Cherokee Green' tomato, its vibrant hue accented by glistening water droplets, hangs gracefully from a fuzzy stem. Lush green leaves encircle the tomato, creating a verdant backdrop that enhances its natural beauty.Store ‘Cherokee Green’ tomatoes out of direct sunlight to prevent cracking while maintaining flavor.

This is one of my absolute favorite heirloom tomatoes for its juicy sweetness and gorgeous markings. The fruits are about 8 ounces each. They hold together well when cut up for Caprese salad or sandwiches, and are bursting with flavor. 

These tomatoes begin to ripen on the shoulders where you’ll notice a darker green begin to appear, as the rest of the tomato stays a light green shade. The inside is meaty with little seeds and light green. Growers often leave it on the vine too long, mistaking its mature deep green shade as unripe. 

Harvest heirlooms when they first begin to show color and store them for several days out of direct sunlight. This will help prevent cracking without sacrificing any flavor or quality. Knowing the different stages of tomato growth will help you determine when plants should be harvested and how best to store them. 

‘Amana Orange’

A close-up reveals vibrant green 'Amana Orange' tomatoes, their smooth skin ripening under the sun's gentle caress. Reflecting the sunlight, they promise a burst of freshness and flavor, a testament to nature's bounty in every juicy bite.Start ‘Amana Orange’ tomato seeds indoors 7-9 weeks before the last spring frost.

This vibrant, non-GMO orange beauty can grow to over two pounds! Mixed with bright reds and greens, it makes a gorgeous salsa or added in chunks to a fresh salad. The flavor is well-balanced, with mild acidity and just the right level of sweetness

This variety will round out the season, ripening its fruits in late summer to early fall in most growing regions. Start seeds seven to nine weeks before the last spring frost. Germination takes 7-10 days. Transplant them once temperatures allow, spacing them at 36 inches. Ensure the soil is fertile, loose, and well-draining for best performance. Plan to provide support for the strong plants and heavy fruits. 

‘Amana Orange’ was introduced in 1985 by Gary Staley of Florida and is named after Amana, Iowa. 

‘Black Cherry’ 

A close-up of 'Black Cherry' tomatoes hanging from the vine, their deep hue glistening in the sunlight. Each petite tomato exudes richness, with a dark, luscious skin promising a burst of sweet flavor in every bite.The ‘Black Cherry’ tomato is a disease-resistant heirloom with intense sweetness.

The one, the only, true black cherry tomato is ‘Black Cherry’. Fruits are perfectly round, one inch around, and a deep purple-brown shade that rounds out a trio of red and orange or yellow cherry tomatoes beautifully. The interior flesh is bright red. 

Beloved for its intensely sweet and rich tomato flavor and high yields. The plants take a bit longer to take off, but once they do, they are prolific until the first frost. 

This plant is disease-resistant, which is extremely rare for an heirloom variety, and will blow your mind with its full trusses and high productivity. Plus, it’s organic!


A cluster of 'Blondkopfchen' tomatoes, ripe and petite, dangle gracefully from the vine, their sunny yellow hue catching the light. In the background, a soft blur reveals a bounty of 'Blondkopfchen' tomatoes, promising a plentiful harvest ahead.This variety boasts prolific trusses with over 100 tomatoes each.

Translating to “little blonde girl”, ‘Blondkopfchen’ is a yellow cherry tomato that comes to us from East Germany. Fruits are about a half to one inch wide and bursting with sweetness. 

This variety is known for its amazingly full trusses that can hold over 100 tomatoes each. It’s extremely productive for an heirloom, needing only a plant or two to satisfy your cherry tomato cravings. 

‘Blondkopfchen’ rarely cracks, and fruits will continue to ripen through the first frost. The flavor is perfect for fresh eating, drying, roasting, freezing, and adding to soups. Roasting will develop a richer, deeper flavor

‘Amy’s Apricot’

Vibrant orange ‘Amy’s Apricot’ tomatoes, glistening with ripeness, sit nestled on a lush green vine, promising succulent sweetness. In the background, verdant leaves form a perfect backdrop, their deep green hues enhancing the tomatoes’ vibrant color.The ‘Amy’s Apricot’ yields well-balanced fruits on compact, three-foot-tall bushes.

A true Italian heirloom, this seed was introduced in 2012 by the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange after it was passed along to Dustin Swanland by his aunt. The cherry tomatoes are a bold, bright orange, and each fruit is about ½ to 1 ½ inches in diameter

The plants are vigorous and high-yielding, and the fruits offer great flavor. The flavor is sweet and well-balanced, often compared to that of ‘Sungold’. 

These tomato plants are more like small bushes, reaching about three feet tall. Patio and small-space growers will love these as they won’t sacrifice flavor or yields with ‘Amy’s Apricot’.

‘San Marzano’

A 'San Marzano' tomato vine in close-up, showcasing lush leaves. The distinct red hue and oblong shape of 'San Marzano' tomatoes catch the eye amidst the verdant foliage, promising juicy flavor.Maintain proper fertilization to decrease disease risk in ‘San Marzano’ tomatoes.

‘San Marzano’ is the mother tomato of all paste tomato varieties around today. It has been bred in the United States since the 1920s. It’s the classic Italian paste tomato for making sauce, canning, and pasting. 

Fruits are oblong, bright red, and mature at three to four inches long. Plants are extremely prolific and resilient. However, they are susceptible to blossom end rot, blight, fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt, and cracking. 

Decrease the disease risk by fertilizing and watering appropriately, keeping the soil cool, providing ample airflow, and full sun conditions. Limit nitrogen to lower the risk of blossom end rot. ‘San Marzano’ has a long growing season so disease prevention is key during the beginning part of the season. Healthy plants mean healthy yields! 


A cluster of orange 'Pineapple' tomatoes and a single green one hang from the vine, promising a mix of flavors. Behind them, green leaves weave a verdant tapestry, a testament to nature's abundance and vitality.Saving ‘Pineapple’ tomato seeds involves storing them properly labeled in airtight containers.

We all have that friend who claims to not like tomatoes. What if you told them there’s a tomato that slightly resembles the color of and tastes more like a pineapple than a tomato? The flavor of ‘Pineapple’ is sweet and acidic in the best way, featuring a slightly tropical flavor. 

As fruits ripen, the colors create a gorgeous sunset effect. Pinkish-red on the bottom, transitioning to a bright orange and green on the shoulders. Their inside is orange and red, meaty and juicy, all the true beefsteak qualities. The flavor is ultra-sweet, perfect for a fresh summer salsa. Fruits range from one to two pounds, and plants perform well in 5-gallon grow bags. 

‘Pineapple’ is believed to have originated in Kentucky and was introduced globally in the 1950s. To properly save the seeds, select a healthy, mature fruit and squeeze the seeds from it. Allow the gelatinous coating to separate from the pulp for a few days, then rinse thoroughly and strain. Let them dry for several days to a week or more as needed. Store them in airtight containers and label them well with the variety name and the year collected. 

‘Bonny Best’ 

A bunch of 'Bonny Best' tomatoes, ripe orange and green, dangling from the vine, promising juicy sweetness. Crinkled leaves frame the cluster, hinting at the plant's vitality and the tomatoes' freshness in a lively garden scene.The ‘Bonny Best’ tomato is ideal for home gardeners preserving harvests.

Calling all tomato canners: ‘Bonny Best’ is a must-try tomato this season. Its sweet, tart, and tender fruits range from six to ten ounces, boasting a beautiful, rich shade of red. Stew them or cook them down into a delicious, seasonal sauce at peak performance for the best flavor. 

This variety was first introduced commercially in 1897 in Vaughan’s Seed Store catalog. It’s great for home gardeners who want to preserve the harvest or sell their product roadside and a great option for market gardeners

Fun fact: The first recipe for ketchup began in China and used a fermented fish sauce as the base.

‘Chadwick Cherry’ 

'Chadwick Cherry' tomatoes, their glossy red skins gleaming under sunlight, clustered on a vine. In the backdrop, lush green leaves create a blurred, natural tapestry, accentuating the vividness of the tomatoes.The ‘Chadwick Cherry’ tomato has exceptional flavor.

This mid-season cherry honors the late Alan Chadwick, the creator of the biointensive method of gardening. Fruits are one inch in diameter, a quintessential shade of tomato red, and tend to grow in sixes on a truss

‘Chadwick Cherry’ is one of the most flavorful and best-tasting cherries available on the market today. Vines are sturdy, and plants are fairly disease-resistant, performing better than many other heirloom varieties. 

When properly cared for, this tomato plant will remain healthy and produce for you until the first frost. 

‘Sunrise Bumble Bee’ 

A close-up of a 'Sunrise Bumble Bee' tomato, showcasing its rich orange hue and delicate texture. The tomato is nestled amidst lush green leaves and intertwined vines, adding a natural aesthetic to the scene.
Regularly prune the foliage of ‘Sunrise Bumble Bee’ to enhance resistance against powdery mildew.

This unique cherry tomato is bright orange and features red mottling and gold streaks, with the insides mostly orange. Fruits are tiny at about an ounce, slightly oblong, with a pointed end. The flavor is very sweet and tangy, with good texture and juiciness

Plants have moderate resistance to powdery mildew. To avoid this disease, provide good airflow with regular pruning of foliage and spent trusses and spacing, fertilize appropriately, avoid overwatering, and ensure access to full sun. 

If you grow your tomatoes to sell, definitely share this one with chefs and bring them to farmers’ markets. Their appearance alone will draw them in. 

‘A Grappoli D’Inverno’ 

Green leaves on a 'A Grappoli D'Inverno' tomato vine, showcasing its healthy growth and lush foliage. Juicy orange 'A Grappoli D'Inverno' tomatoes dangle gracefully from the vine, ripening into plump perfection.Tomato variety ‘A Grappoli D’Inverno’ has disease resistance and early fruiting.

Would you believe me if I told you Italian farmers used to hang full, fruit-filled vines of this variety to dry, and they would stay fresh for consumption all winter? These “mini Romas” also dry perfectly, making them great for adding to soups or winter egg bakes. Strain out the many seeds for better consistency when using these to make sauce.   

Space these at two feet spacing. Plants have good disease resistance and produce fruits early in the season. Germination rates are good. Bushy, compact growth habit is perfect for patio or small-space growers. 

Pro tip: Harvest before watering or heavy forecasted rainfall to prevent splitting. 

‘Alaska’ or ‘Alijaska’

A close-up of ripe 'Alaska' tomatoes, their vivid red hue hinting at peak ripeness. Green foliage embraces the plump fruits, framing them in a verdant embrace, a testament to the plant's health and vitality. A Russian heirloom tomato variety called ‘Alaska’ produces large cherry-sized tomatoes.

This short-season tomato is ideal for cooler climate growers, maturing in just about 63 days from transplant. Container growers also have success growing it for its bushy, compact growth habit and they don’t need support unless your region experiences volatile winds. 

Fruits from this Russian heirloom seed produce two-inch round, bright red, large cherry tomatoes. They’re the perfect size to quarter and add to fresh salads

Give this plant plenty of space to bush out and produce ample foliage with three to four feet between plantings or containers. 

‘Golden Jubilee’

A cluster of 'Golden Jubilee' tomatoes, displaying orange, yellow, and green shades, dangle elegantly from a vine, kissed by warm sunlight. Behind them, a blurred backdrop of a dark wooden wall adds rustic charm to the scene.The ‘Golden Jubilee’ tomato is a seedless variety bred from ‘Tangerine’ and ‘Rutgers’.

Yellow tomato juice, anyone? This golden beauty is mild but delicious, with low acidity, making it perfect for juicing, canning, and making fresh summer salsa. Plants are highly productive, and fruits are about three inches in diameter and six to eight ounces on robust trusses. 

‘Golden Jubilee’ was the 1943 All-America Selections award winner, taking six generations of breeding to get it just right. The result of breeding ‘Tangerine’ and ‘Rutgers’ is this moderately disease-resistant variety with great resistance to Alternaria stem canker. 

If you’re not a huge fan of seeds on your sandwiches, you’re in luck. This variety has very few. 

‘Gold Nugget’

A bunch of 'Gold Nugget’ tomatoes, gleaming golden and small, ready for picking. In the backdrop, a blur of green vines and leaves frames the cluster, promising a bountiful harvest.Compact ‘Gold Nugget’ tomatoes are ideal for small gardens or patio containers.

This determinate cherry tomato is a great option for cool-weather growers. It matures quickly and packs a punch of sweet, well-balanced flavor in one-inch oval, orangish-yellow fruits. Flavor lends itself well to fresh salads or mid-day snacking.

Plants remain compact, perfect for patio or small-space gardeners. This heirloom was developed at Oregon State University by Dr. James Baggett. It won the British Horticultural Society (RHS) Award of Garden Merit in 2011. 

Design idea: Place ‘Gold Nugget’ into an attractive container and place it among an edible, cottage, or pollinator garden for a unique flair and conversation piece. 

‘Amish Paste’

'Amish Paste' tomatoes, petite and crimson, arranged in transparent plastic bags. Each tomato reflects sunlight, creating a glistening spectacle, enticing the eyes with their radiant hue and smooth surfaces. The ‘Amish Paste’ tomato offers superb flavor with meaty innards.

These funky little guys have been on my must-grow list for years. ‘Amish Paste’ fruits are a bit larger than some other sauce tomatoes, weighing in at 8-12 ounces each

The innards are meaty with a good amount of juice, and the flavor is superb. Their consistent size and shape make processing easy. 

Pro tip: Rotate your tomatoes each year if you can to reduce pest pressure and keep disease at bay. 


A close-up reveals red 'Burbank' tomatoes dangling gracefully from a fuzzy green vine, their ripe allure captivating. In the background, lush leaves provide a verdant canvas for these ripe delights, hinting at nature's abundance.These tomatoes were popular in the 1920s and 1930s for their high yield.

I’m rounding out this list with a tomato that was part of Slow Food USA ‘s Ark of Taste in 2013. Varieties on this list have a deep heritage. Today, at least six seed companies carry this heirloom, and it’s making a comeback in gardens across the United States. 

‘Burbank’ was introduced by horticulturist Luther Burbank in 1915. It gained popularity in the 1920s and 30s for its high performance and good yields in drier areas. Fruits are a gorgeous bright red and two to four inches in diameter. Staking may not be necessary as plants stay fairly short and compact.

Plants are fairly disease-resistant, and the tomatoes hold up well after harvest. Skins peel easily in preparation for canning. If you can get your hands on some of these seeds, you can be a part of handing this heirloom down to the next generation of gardeners. 

Final Thoughts 

Growing heirloom tomatoes brings a new level of joy to gardening, carrying on the traditions of our ancestors and keeping the amazing flavors of the past alive. I hope you found something here you’d love to try, and if you do, save the seeds!

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