Kitchen Gardening

Discover (and Grow) Tomatoes in Surprising Colors

Colorful heirloom and open-pollinated tomato varieties are unique in the home garden and delicious on the table.

  • Grow some striped tomatoes! Photo by DoGoLaCa under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
  • Don't judge a tomato by its color; Black Krim has fabulous flavor. Photo by Rubber Slippers in Italy under the creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
  • White tomatoes are a good choice for those who prefer low acid. Photo by karendotcom127 under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
  • A gorgeous heirloom tomato salad.   Photo by mnapoleon under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

Heirloom and open-pollinated tomato varieties can have surprising colors and patterns. As gardeners (and the public in general) become more aware of the vast number of tomato varieties, pink and yellow types are popping up even in the produce aisles of savvy grocery stores. Yet many people have yet to see the full color spectrum such as black, purple, brown, white, as well as the striped and bi-colored variations (although, I’ll admit that the colors can be a bit subjective).

The striped and bi-colored types are the party favors of the tomato world and once you’ve grown several of these festive fruits, your vegetable garden will never be the same. Don’t let the unusual — often “dull” look — of the darker tomato colors fool you. Many of them have rich and complex flavors. They can be extremely sweet, subtle, or smoky.

To be honest, “white” tomatoes aren’t pure white. Generally, they’re an extremely yellow or a creamy color. They look tremendous in a tossed salad, very low in acid and make beautiful (and flavorful) white spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and even lasagna.

The lists below aren’t even close to exhaustive and with a little research, you’ll discover many, many more.

Striped and Bi-Colored Tomatoes

  • Big Rainbow – These 2 pound tomatoes have green shoulders, a yellow midsection, and neon red streaks running through them. Terrific slicing variety.
  • Copia – This newer open-pollinated variety that’s an extremely unique-looking tomato. The skin has fine striping of brilliant gold and neon red. The flesh is swirled red and yellow. It’s juicy and flavorful.
  • Green Zebra – A favorite chef’s variety that’s extremely striking in color with yellow-gold skin and stripes of lime green. It has a rich, sweet flavor that gives just a little bite – excellent taste.
  • HillBilly (Flame) – This is a 4″ – 6″, yellow, flattened fruit with rose “flames” on its skin and throughout the flesh. It’s been described as meaty, creamy, rich, and sweet. It’s also crack-resistant and makes a gorgeous slicing tomato.
  • Isis Candy Cherry -This is a sweet and fruity cherry tomato that comes in different shades with blushed patterns on them. Usually they have a “cat’s eye” at the blossom end.
  • Marizol Gold – This German heirloom from the 1800s. These are flattened, deeply ribbed, red and gold bicolor tomatoes. It’s a prolific producer with delicious flavor.
  • Mary Robinson’s German Bi-color – This is a large, yellow fruit that with lots of red shading and stripes. It’s sweet and mild in flavor.
  • Old German – Southern Exposure Seed Exchange introduced this Mennonite family heirloom in 1985. It has outstanding flavor and its color is yellow with a red center through the whole tomato. The fruits often weigh more than a pound.
  • Pineapple – This 2 pound tomato is beautiful to serve with its yellow skin and red marbling. It has a sweet and fruity flavor.
  • Striped Roman (Speckled Roman) – Striped Roman is an amazing-looking variety that you’ll never recognize as a tomato. The fruit’s unique shape is cylindrical, 3″ x 5″ long, and pointy. Their base color is red, but they have wavy yellow stripes. It’s a meaty and excellent-flavored tomato.

Black, Purple, and Brown Tomatoes

  • Black from Tula – This rare Russian heirloom ties for best-tasting black with Black Krim. The deep, purple-brown variety is a large, 8-12 ounce tomato with a rich, sweet, and spicy flavor.
  • Black Krim – This is one of the best of the black tomatoes. It’s a very juicy, dark red-purple fruit from Russia and was named for the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea.
  • Black Prince – This black-chocolate brown heirloom comes from Siberia. It has a deep and sweet flavor that’s wonderful on salads.
  • Cherokee Purple – This is a pre-1890 Cherokee Indian heirloom tomato that’s an old favorite. It’s a dark, purple-pink color and has a fabulously sweet flavor.
  • Eva Purple Ball – This German heirloom is a lovely and terrific performer in hot growing zones. The fruits are a rich, pink-purple color and weigh 4-5 ounces.
  • Gypsy – This colorful fruit is named for the Russian gypsies. It’s a very deep purple-maroon color and has great flavor.
  • Paul Robeson – This Russian variety was named in honor of the black opera singer and Russian equal rights advocate. It’s an extremely popular variety with seed collectors and connoisseurs. It’s black-brick in color and has a smoky, sweet, rich flavor that’s hard for gardeners to resist.
  • True Black Brandywine – Here’s one for the collectors out there. Apparently, True Black Brandywine came from the Quaker family of the renowned William Woys Weaver. This black-purple tomato dates back to the 1920s. The delicious fruits that have a sweet, earthy flavor.
  • Violet Jasper or Tzi Bi U – This delicious, high-yielding little fruit is an absolutely gorgeous violet-purple color striped with an iridescent green.
  • Vorlon – This heirloom is from Bulgaria but named after a fictional alien race. This lovely purple-black tomato has a rich, smoky, organic flavor. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds introduced it this year.

White Tomatoes

  • Cream Sausage or Banana Cream – Cream Sausage produces white to light yellow, sausage-shape fruits have a nice, sweet flavor. It’s perfect for salsas and makes a lovely cream-color cream sauce.
  • Great White – This creamy white, beefsteak tomato weighs in at 1 pound and is smoother than most of the beefsteak types. Baker Creek describes the flesh as tasting so fruity that it reminds them of a mix of fresh pineapple, melon, and guava.
  • Ivory Egg – This is a rare cream-color tomato that comes from Sweden. Ivory Egg has the shape and size of a chicken egg and the flesh is sweet and rich in flavor.
  • Shah/Mikado White – These creamy-white fruits are flattened globes with a hint of blush at the blossom end when they’re ripe. They have a seriously sweet flavor with a hint of pear.
  • White Queen – This almost white, 3 pound, round, and flat tomato has ribbed shoulders and possibly some pink streaks on the blossom end. Make a fabulous white pasta sauce.
  • White Tomesol – Those gourmet gardeners are going to love this heirloom. The fruit is a beautiful, cream-color and has a wonderful fragrance. It has exceptionally sweet flavor.
  • White Wonder – This white tomato variety was chosen for the famous Chez Panisse restaurant owned by Alice Waters. These are medium-size, creamy white fruits that have a sugary-sweet flavor and are easy to grow.

If you like heirloom tomatoes in fabulous color, check out Plant Pink Heirloom Tomatoes.


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