Top 10 Heirloom Tomatoes for 2012

"Black" tomatoes still reign with the best of the reds and pinks and cherry tomatoes grow in popularity.

Published on: Nov 22, 2011

Gary Ibsen, founder of TomatoFest Heirloom Tomato Seeds, Little River, Calif. author of The Great Tomato Book, and grower of 600 varieties of certified organic, heirloom tomatoes, announces the "Top 10" favorite heirloom tomatoes for 2012:

Black Cherry (purple/black)

Brandywine, Sudduth Strain (pink beefsteak)

Chocolate Stripes (red/green striped)

Blondkopfchen (yellow cherry)

Black From Tula (purple/black beefsteak)

Neves Azorean red (red beefsteak)

This is the Black Cherry heirloom tomato that was among the "Top 10" favorite tomatoes for 2012.
This is the Black Cherry heirloom tomato that was among the "Top 10" favorite tomatoes for 2012.

Amana Orange (orange beefsteak)

Azoychka (yellow/orange beefsteak)

Caspian Pink (pink beefsteak)

Lillian's Yellow Heirloom (yellow beefsteak)

The "Top Ten" heirloom tomatoes were selected from the top 20 most popular tomato varieties in 2011 from a TomatoFest customer base of more than 10,000 thousand home gardeners and tomato farmers. From these 20 tomato varieties, Ibsen and his panel, selected the final ten tomato varieties based upon what were determined to be the best tasting,

Other findings in the TomatoFest survey:

• In 2011 there was a big increase in first time tomato gardeners. There are more people wanting to grow foods at home in rural and urban areas. "The upswing in folks becoming new tomato gardeners or choosing to become small commercial farmers of heirloom tomatoes has been noticeable the past 3 years," says Ibsen.

• "Black" tomatoes are more popular than in any prior year. "Black" tomatoes are not really black," remarked Ibsen. "They cover a range of dark colors, including deep purple, dusky deep brown, smoky mahogany with dark green shoulders, and bluish-brown. The depth of colors is encouraged by a higher acid and mineral content in the soil."

"'Black' tomatoes are native to Southern Ukraine during the early 19th century. They originally existed in only a small region of the Crimean Peninsula. Soon they were showing up as new varieties in many shapes and sizes and began to appear throughout the territories of the former Soviet Union. Then they began turning up in the former Yugoslavia, Germany and the United States."

• There is a continued rise in popularity with the sweeter tasting, yellow/orange and bi-colored tomatoes. "I found a greater presence of these tomato varieties in the tomato mix selected by farmers for their produce market customers. While their priority is still to select varieties and colors most popular with consumers, more farmers are wanting varieties that will not only provide their customers new discoveries, but will also distinctively "stand out" in displays against their competitors," says Ibsen.

• There is a continued rise in popularity of cherry tomatoes in all colors. Ibsen says, "Being able to find 'clamshell' packs of multi-colored cherry tomatoes in the marketplace, has encouraged home gardeners to include different colors and flavors in selecting cherry tomatoes for growing at home."

• 2011 saw a surge in folks seeking 'canning tomatoes' for canning tomatoes at home. More first time canners, as well as people who used to can foods years ago, are getting back into it again.

• The "heirloom tomato classics," the old-time, favorite, red and pink beefsteak tomatoes, still provide the foundation of loyalty among tomato growers.

Gary Ibsen, author of The Great Tomato Book, founded TomatoFest Heirloom Tomato Seeds in 1991 and revitalized the appreciation and desire for heirloom tomatoes. In 2008 Ibsen retired from 18 years of producing the nationally celebrated Carmel TomatoFest event in Carmel to focus on their TomatoFest seed business.

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