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Too Many Choices?


How do you decide which tomato variety to buy with 83 one-of-a-kind heirloom and hybrid tomatoes to choose from? We’re here to help you! First, you need to decide which variety will grow well where you live. Our descriptions point out whether a particular variety does well in cooler locations in West Contra Costa or, whether it requires heat and will thrive in hot, dry East County.

We also note if a particular variety grows well in limited space and in containers or baskets. Then, it’s really a matter of personal preference. Do you want lots of cherries or perhaps paste tomatoes to make sauces? Are you intrigued by some of our more exotic varieties? Or, are you a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist and just want those large, juicy, old fashioned beefsteaks for long, hot summer days? Or, maybe you’re a pasta fan and want to fill your freezer with homemade pasta sauce for next winter.

To make your choices easier, just click on the link below and let Master Gardeners of Contra Costa guide you in selecting exactly the right tomato variety for your tastes and your garden. Click here to find the best tomato variety for you.[LINK]

This year Master Gardeners of Contra Costa are offering 83 varieties of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes. Where to start? For a successful tomato plant that will produce lots of wonderful fruits throughout the growing season you need to think first and foremost about where you are planting it. Choose a variety that fits with your micro-climate and space requirements. Then, think about what you want out of your tomato plant. Do you want a rich pasta sauce or a slicer for delicious BLTs or a ton of small cherries for the grandkids? To make your job a bit easier, we’ve made up a few shopping lists for different kinds of buyers: cooler climes, small spaces, traditionalist, the avant-garde and for the buyers in the hot and dry areas of the county. Here they are:

For our Cooler Climes Buyers:

  • Legend—blight-resistant, adapted to cooler climes, it will be the earliest-maturing slicers in your garden.
  • Gold Nugget—developed at OSU – where else for cooler climes? These ¾” golden fruits will mature in only 56 (!) days, continue from early season ‘til frost and have a rich, sweet flavor.
  • Black Sea Man—a hardy Russian heirloom that grows particularly well in cooler climes.
  • Stupice—a very cold-tolerant, disease-resistant and early tomato with delicious, 3-4 oz. fruits in clusters.
  • Fireworks—an early abundance of 8-ounce, meaty tomatoes with a sweet, well-balanced flavor.
  • Ilse's Yellow Latvian—a terrific yellow-orange, 10-ounce heirloom tomato with meaty walls for good tomato sauce or salsa.

For our Buyers with postage-stamp size yards:

  • Aurora—compact plants produce heavy crops of 6-ounce fruits with delicious, tomatoey flavor.
  • Bush Champion—a beefsteak developed by the Ball Seed Company for small spaces.
  • Lizzano—ideal for hanging baskets and containers, a cherry with a non-stop harvest of 1” fruits, perfect for snacks and salads.
  • Italian Roma Bush—the best small-space paste tomato around, producing enormous yields.
  • Super Bush—bred specifically for small spaces, this beefsteak tomato still has a big, old-fashioned tomato flavor.

For Traditional Buyers, some of our trusted and much-loved stand-bys

  • Bloody Butcher—with a name like that, you better be sensational—high-yielding, dark red and delicious!
  • Brandywine Pink—an Amish Classic, some consider the best tasting tomato ever.
  • Cherokee Purple—Pre-1890s’ heirloom with a delicious, old-timey flavor.
  • Mortgage Lifter— the legendary large (1-2 pounds!), tasty beefsteak on very productive, disease-resistant plants.
  • Thorburn's Terra Cotta—new to our collection, but first introduced in 1893, an eye-catching orange-pink, 10-ounce fruit with out-of-this-world flavor!
  • Sungold—positively luscious, apricot-orange cherries borne on beautiful, 15”-long trusses. Eye-candy that you can actually eat in your garden!

For Avant-Garde Buyers, here are some of our unusual varieties

  • Chef’s Choice Orange—All American Selections Winner, low in acid with good flavor.
  • Italian Red Pear—old Northern Italian stand-by, but new this year. Huge (8-18 ounce), tasty fruits.
  • Orange Parouche—a cherry with superb flavor, disease and crack-resistant and early, early to boot!
  • Pink Boar—bred by Brad Gates, a gorgeous tomato with deep wine color and metallic striping. Pomodoro Canestrino di Lucca—direct from Italy, a classic pasta tomato that is also great in salads.
  • Pomodoro Canestrino di Lucca—direct from Italy, a classic pasta tomato that is also great in salads.
  • Pink Tiger—showy pink cherry with yellow-orange striping with excellent, balanced flavor.

For Hot and Dry Climate Buyers, here are some varieties that need lots of heat

  • Boxcar Willie—10-to-16 oz. tomatoes with a rich, sweet flavor with just a touch of acid for tanginess.
  • Hawaiian Pineapple—the name says it all, these large, yellow, 1-pound tomatoes are sweet and fruity.
  • Kellogg’s Breakfast—a classic beefsteak with large orange tomatoes weighing up to one pound.
  • San Marzano Gigante—a prolific, classic pasta tomato with a long season with enormous, meaty fruits.

So many choices! For your convenience, we have a downloadable Shopping List for you to mark up.