We recently asked garden experts Scott Daigre, Mark Anderson and Yvonne Savio to share their favorite tomatoes and comment on the debate over hybrid versus heirloom varieties. Now it’s your turn. Readers wrote to us from all over California as well as Washington state and Louisiana to share their tomato successes and thoughts on heirlooms and hybrids. Was there a consensus? Read their responses to find out:
My favorite tomato from last year’s crop was a smallish yellow orb called a Lucid Gem. It was the taste test pick at our third annual Tomato Madness party. The Lucid Gem was voted the tastiest of my 37 homegrown varietals last year. Watch out: I have 51 different kinds of tomatoes growing now!
Brad Finn, Santa Clarita
I grow 20 to 40 plants each year in ground and in pots. I usually go for a wide variety of heirlooms, because they are so interesting and flavorful. One tomato that really stands out is Pink Berkeley Tie Dye. Large, meaty, juicy tomatoes with the intense flavor of a Purple Cherokee, but covered in gold stripes! Just gorgeous to look at and to eat. Second place would go to Aunt Ruby’s German Green Tomato, which is also big, juicy and meaty and mild, not acidic. I hit the mother lode with one of those plants last year! I didn’t prune it and it was a cascade of big tomatoes deep into the season.
Kaye Kittrell, Los Angeles
My favorite tomato is the Hillybilly/Flame. I love the taste — a splendid combination of sweet and acid. The tomato’s visual presentation is why I grow them. The reds, pinks and yellows on the skin offer a hint at what is inside. I never tire of cutting one open and just looking at it and enjoying its beautiful colors and patterns. It is almost a shame to finally eat them. I always do though.
Thomas Harkins, Hacienda Heights
I love the Persimmon tomato — large fruit, very meaty and it makes wonderful salsa.
Lettie Silva, Denair, Calif.
My favorite last year was Cherokee Carbon, a cross between Cherokee Purple and Carbon tomatoes. They were tasty and productive and had good resistance to diseases that are common to backyard tomatoes. I saved some seeds and every one germinated this year. Don’t know whether they will be Cherokee Carbon or not, but in any event I should have some great tomatoes.
John Sauln, San Diego
I have 42 tomato plants. I planted them three weeks ago. My favorite variety is Momotaro. It has a distinctive pink color and sweetness.
Billy Steinberg, Brentwood
My favorite tomato is the Persimmon. It is a beautiful golden yellow tomato and is very prolific. It’s a medium to large tomato and is delicious fresh, roasted or canned. Juicy and rich.
Carol Krusesky, Winthrop, Wash.
Paul Robeson is the best. Mr. Stripey is next. Then Old German. Of course the Brandywines and Cherokees. I grow 30 to 40 heirlooms every year and would never (with few exceptions) give up shape, color, etc. for hybrids/determinates.
Maureen Kopko, Los Angeles
I plant Early Girl and Big Beef. One produces right away and for most of the summer. Tastes good too. Big Beef produces large, delicious fruit right into fall. One Big Beef is still alive from last year and has smaller fruit with good flavor.
Kathy Horbund, Venice
My favorites agree with the expert — Cherokee Purple and Black Krim. Great taste (I like dark tomatoes) and great production.
Mike Celeste, San Dimas
Our favorite tomato, which we’ve been growing in a very large pot since 2015, is Sweet Cherry 100. We live about 1.5 miles from the ocean, so it’s been difficult to grow tomatoes that don’t succumb to mildew. But SC100 is fabulous, combining an enormous yield and wonderful sweet flavor. A big plus is that in our area SC100 lasts through the winter, this year providing us with tomatoes through February. It also reseeds, which I didn’t think hybrids could do. We don’t always pick tomatoes in time and a few fall into the pot where, surprisingly, a few seeds sprout and grow into new plants that are just as wonderful as the parent. In the spring, I usually keep the most vigorous reseed plant and put in a new one from a local nursery. We planted in fortified potting soil from the nursery without local dirt mixed in and don’t use any other fertilizer.
Mag Parkhurst, Westchester
Brandy Boy has been a delicious success here in River Ridge, La., for the past four years. Misshapen sometimes, but just so good.
Velma Kantrow, River Ridge, La.
I always include at least one Sungold cherry tomato (it’s a heavy producer and wonderful tasty bite), Cherokee Purple for the lovely complex taste (some are show-stoppingly huge beefsteak-sized), Black Beauty (for color and taste), Berkeley Pink Tie Dye (stripey hot pink and lime green, juicy and great flavor).
Rebecca Ruvalcaba, Los Angeles
I have lived in the same location for over 30 years and grow veggies in raised beds with drip irrigation. I have grown at least 20 different varieties of tomatoes, but for our use we prefer the Juliet. It is an indeterminate grape hybrid and fruits average 2-inches long by 1-inch diameter and there are lots of them. Cherry style varieties Sun Gold and Sun Sugar are like candy. Juliet has a skin you can live with, has incredible disease resistance, good flavor, crack resistance and hangs off the vine in a ripe state longer than any other tomato I grow. When we can’t use or give enough away we put them fresh picked, single layer, about a pound, into a food-saver bag, vacuum-seal them and freeze for later use in things like pot roast. .
Larry Sweet, San Jose
Brandywine, hands down, is my favorite. That being said, I count myself lucky to get three or four in a season, which may be the result of living so close to the beach. But they are heavenly, big, meaty without being too firm. They are low acid, which I prefer, and make wonderful sauces for fish and any number of pastas in no time. Yep, it is Brandywine.
Lynda Adams, Newport Beach
I have a Box Car Willie that I’ve gotten three crops from and I’ve recently cut it back for the third time and it is sprouting green leaves. Such fun to watch.
Sue Carlton, Arcadia
My favorite is the determinate hybrid, Bella Rosa. Uniform size and color, lots of fruit and meaty for the salsa I make with them.
Terry Ruhland, Peoria, Ill.
I am retired and growing tomatoes is my hobby. I lecture at garden clubs and organizations throughout Southern California. My favorite heirlooms are probably the Brandywines and Cherokee Purple. These are thin-skinned beefsteak-size with great homegrown flavor. For hybrids, Better Boy would be my No. 1 favorite for beefsteak-size tomatoes. Better Boys are thin skinned and nice and sweet once vine ripened. Probably one of the best and easiest tomatoes to grow in Southern California.
Dave Freed, Cypress
My favorite tomato is Taxi, an easy growing bush type determinate plant that can be grown in a pot and typically does not require staking. It’s a bright yellow tomato that grows between the size of a golf ball and baseball. It has a meaty flesh with a mild-tasting sweet flavor. The acid level is pretty low and it’s great for salads, salsas and sandwiches. Can you say, “my favorite time of year”?
Marvin Mitchell, Inglewood