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Hot Tomato Picks 2022

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This year we have a total of 83 tomato varieties, including a whole host of unusual heirlooms as well as a wide selection of very special hybrids with the disease-resistance some gardeners value, but also have the great, old-fashioned taste we all treasure in the heirloom tomatoes. These aren’t your store-bought, hard red rubber balls which are tomatoes in name only! As with our heirlooms, most of the hybrid tomatoes we’ve chosen would be difficult to buy locally.

Once again we’ve asked our Master Gardeners to tell us what their favorite tomato is. Since some Master Gardeners grow 10, 15, or more tomato varieties in their gardens, you can imagine what a tough question this was them.

Here’s this year’s list of “Hot Tomato Picks,” selected by our Contra Costa Master Gardeners and arranged in alphabetical order. You may want to add a few of these recommended tomato varieties to your shopping list.


Big Beef Big Beef (Indeterminate—73 days, VFTASt) Beefsteak. An unbeatable combination—big, tasty and early! This highly disease-resistant beefsteak hybrid also retains a rich tomato-y flavor and produces colossal (10-16 oz.), bright red fruits throughout the entire season. It is adaptable to a wide variety of growing conditions, even to cool, foggy West County. Now, that’s truly remarkable! Master Gardener, Robin Moore, wrote: "Big Beef was my garden’s champ last year. It pumped out lovely, tasty red orbs over a long season. I was fighting Verticillium Wilt. It was the most disease resistant variety I grew.” *Photo courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds johnnyseeds.com

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Bloody Butcher Bloody Butcher (Indeterminate—55 days). Slicer. The name alone should make it a favorite! It’s a sensational, multi-purpose slicing tomato, with an unbeatable combination—very early and high-yielding. Strong tomato flavor in medium, 4-ounce fruits that are—you guessed it—deep, dark red inside and out. Likes West County’s cooler climes One of our Master Gardeners wrote: “The description said ‘early’ but I had no idea. Bloody Butcher was the first to ripen in my garden and by mid-June my plant was loaded with tomatoes—3-6 tomatoes on each stem! I loved their tangy, tomato-y flavor.” *Photo courtesy of tomatofest.com

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Carbon (Indeterminate—90 days). Beefsteak. These deep red-purple tomatoes with dark-olive shoulders are worth waiting for because their complex, rich taste has won many taste awards. Plants yield prolific amounts of crack-resistant, 10 to 14-ounce dark fruits perfect for sandwiches and salads. Master Gardener, Sara Hoyer, wrote: “A must-have tomato! My favorite "black tomato" variety! It is a reliable producer of substantial harvests, which is a trait that can be hard to find in heirloom varieties. The flavor is rich and sweet with a hint of smokiness. Delicious! I have even had success growing this one in a large container.” *Photo courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds johnnyseeds.com

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Chef’s Choice-Orange (Indeterminate—75 days). Beefsteak. All American Selections Winner. An orange beefsteak with high resistance to tobacco mosaic virus is more productive and earlier than most orange beefsteaks. It is low in acid and has a good flavor and texture. Master Gardener, Bonnie Dwyer, wrote: -“This was our best tomato last year, always a winner, very productive with a wonderful flavor and a beautiful color.” 

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Italian Red Pear Italian Red Pear: (indeterminate—70-75 days) Beefsteak. This old Northern Italian variety is a very good producer of huge, tasty fruits. They’re great for salads and sandwiches. It’s really meaty and contains few seeds. Shaped like a purse that is gathered at the top, it’s early for such a large (8-18 ounce) fruit. Master Gardener, Greg Letts, wrote: “While this variety is new to the GTPS this year, I have grown it at home for several years. Not to be confused with the Yellow Pear cherries, Italian Red Pear is a larger pear-shaped beefsteak. It’s very productive, flavorful, and super versatile. It can be used a slicer, but is also great for sauce.”

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Mama Leone Mama Leone (Indeterminate—75 days). Paste. First listed in Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook in 2005 as “seeds given by one of their local customers who had immigrated to the US from Italy,” these 5 to 6 ounces, meaty, bright red tomatoes have very few seeds—perfect for your favorite sauce. One of our Master Gardeners wrote: “Mamma Mia! I love this tomato! It makes the richest pasta sauces. The plant bears abundant large fruits, very meaty and almost no seeds.” *Photo courtesy of Totally Tomatoes

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Orange Paruche (Indeterminate—67 days). Cherry. Early, early, early! And you’ll know exactly when it’s ripe, because it glows a brilliant, neon orange. One inch round fruits are thin-skinned and crack-and-disease-resistant with a superb flavor. Word has it that it tastes better than Sungold. Buy both and run your own backyard taste test. Master Gardener, Janet Miller. wrote: “We just added this to our collection last year, but this delightful cherry tomato quickly became a favorite of many Master Gardeners and our customers. Brilliant colored orange fruit born on branched trusses in abundance. A vigorous and productive grower that delivers flavor and sweetness.”

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Pomodoro Canestrino di Lucca (Indeterminate—80 days). Beefsteak. Found in every garden in Italy, we bring this heirloom directly to you from the Italian province of Lucca! You won’t find it any place else. Part of the traditional “Basket of Lucchese”—products selected for their authentic expression of Lucca—it’s a beautiful ribbed-basket, which is what “canestrino” means in Italian. These fruits are red with a blush of green at the collar, have firm flesh, low acidity and high sugar, and aren’t watery. Very versatile—great in salads or pasta, fresh or cooked. One of our Master Gardeners wrote: “This delicious tomato should definitely be in our Top Ten Hot Picks. After all, this is the only place you can buy it, short of going to Italy and we’re a lot cheaper! Besides it’s a vigorous plant that produces from mid-summer to long after other varieties have given out.” 

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Sungold-hybrid Sungold-hybrid (Indeterminate—65 days). Cherry. A positively luscious, bite-size golden cherry that isn’t fully mature until it turns bright apricot-orange with an intensified taste. Tiny globes along 15” fruit trusses on a vigorous vine. Flavor is fruity and tropical. Since it has a tendency to crack, you won’t find it in the markets, so you’ll just have to eat it like a snack! Master Gardener, Keith Silva, wrote: “So prolific! Kept on producing beautiful, yellow-orange, sweet cherries right through the entire summer” *Photo courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds johnnyseeds.com

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Vorlon (Indeterminate—80 days). Beefsteak. No wonder this is named for a fictional alien race on TV! It’s one weird tomato—a stunning purple-black beefsteak with a rich, smoky-earthy taste that Baker Creek called its “best tasting tomato” the last few years. 1-pound fruits appear mid-season. It also does well in coastal areas of our county. Master Gardener, Mary Jo Corby, wrote: “Always a big favorite of mine. It has a beautiful color and a rich, unusual flavor. I use this for just about anything.”


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