Scale = centimeters
  1. Indigo Rose
  2. Riesentraube
  3. Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye
  4. AAA Sweet Solano
  5. Snow White
  6. Trenton's Tiger
  7. Japanese Trifele Black
  8. Yellow Furry Boar
  9. Sweet Beverly
  10. San Marzano


In the summer of 2012, I grew ten different tomato varieties to see how well they would perform in my garden. I grew one plant of each variety, arranged in a single raised bed as pictured above. Although I did my best to provide identical circumstances for all varieties, there were some unavoidable differences caused by germination problems and weather conditions after transplanting into the garden.

Eight of the ten were planted from seed and grown in my living room for several weeks, then transplanted into the garden. They were transplanted in a zig-zag fashion, A→F→B→G and so on. Thus, A was the first to be planted outdoors and J was the last. Two of the ten (D and E) were purchased as seedlings from a professional nursery. The plants in the top row (A-E) were caged, while the plants in the bottom row (F-J) were tied to bamboo stakes.

My garden is in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has a mild, dry summer. There is very little rain from May through October, and the plants depend mainly on irrigation, supplied by hand watering with a hose. Temperatures hovered in the 70s during the day, rarely rising above 80, and generally sank into the 50s during the night. I began planting out seedlings May 1, and I started harvesting my first tomatoes in early August. Temperatures remained mild well into the fall, with no serious frosts until the very end of the year. All ten plants were still alive and producing into December. At that point I decided the weather was too cool for the remaining green tomatoes to ripen, and I pulled out all of the plants.

The main disease pressure in this area is early blight. All of my plants were affected by disease at some point during the season. The main pest pressure in my yard is from birds that peck at ripe fruits, leaving them with gashes susceptible to mold.

In the report that follows, I will describe how each variety performed with respect to yield, maturity, vigor, disease resistance, pest resistance, appearance, and of course flavor. For those who are impatient, however, I will begin with my personal ranking from 10 (worst) to 1 (best). Click on the link to jump to the individual variety, or continue to scroll down to read each report in alphabetical order.

Tomato Variety Ranking

  1. San Marzano
  2. Trenton's Tiger
  3. Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye
  4. Indigo Rose
  5. Yellow Furry Boar
  6. Riesentraube
  7. Japanese Trifele Black
  8. AAA Sweet Solano
  9. Sweet Beverly
  10. Snow White

AAA Sweet Solano

Source: Annie's Annuals and Perennials

This tomato is a stunning bright orange with faintly visible gold stripes that is just fun to look at. It produces consistently medium-sized, round fruit. For a non-plum tomato, the flesh is relatively dense, so it is not bad for making sauce—and the orange sauce is striking. The flavor is decent. It showed some disease susceptibility, but mostly confined to the foliage. The fruit matured quickly enough that I didn't get impatient waiting for it. It suffered a small amount of bird damage, yet still managed to produce a reasonable yield.

Indigo Rose

Source: Nichols Garden Nursery

The special feature of this variety is that the fruit turns dark purple where exposed to sunlight, remaining red where shaded. It produced an astounding yield of small, round fruit. I did find the new color dazzling (though as more such varieties are released, I'm sure the novelty will fade), but as the season wore on, I discovered that this tomato comes with serious drawbacks. For one thing, the purple color makes it very difficult to tell when the fruit is ripe. I had to feel each one carefully for softness. This brings me to the second weakness, which is that the tomatoes easily detach from the vine when disturbed, even when not fully mature. If they fall off as I am feeling them, I can just pick them up and eat them. However, if they are knocked off by birds or squirrels, they end up rotting on the ground. The third flaw is that the dark purple color is a huge draw for birds, who apparently consider these tomatoes to be the biggest blueberries they've ever seen. I had more bird damage on this variety than any other, and unless I want to throw bird netting over all of my tomatoes in the future, I will probably never grow a purple tomato again. The flavor wasn't bad, but it wasn't special enough to inspire me to go to extra lengths to obtain it. One interesting attribute, however, is that if one makes pickles out of the green (unripe) fruit, the purple color dissolves into the vinegar, turning it pink.

Japanese Trifele Black

Source: Seed Savers Exchange

This heirloom produces tomatoes of varying size—some are the compact size of a Roma, some are three or four times as big. The main attraction of this variety is the flavor. It is rich and sweet, making delightful sandwiches as well as sauce. Another benefit is that it was slow to show signs of disease. One downside is that it was comparatively late maturing for me, so I was harvesting many other varieties before these were ready. This led to the problem that the fruit hung on the vine so long that they began to rot from blight before they were ripe. Also, the frumpy pear shape with green shoulders wasn't as attractive to look at as some of the other tomatoes.

Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye

Source: Wild Boar Farms

This is a beefsteak type tomato, so it grew larger on average than the other varieties that I trialed. The lobed appearance and green stripes do make it stand out from the crowd, but I found that the taste was only average. On top of that, I didn't actually get to eat very many, because once the plant started to show signs of blight, it was quickly devastated. It wasn't the first variety to display symptoms, so I did harvest a couple healthy tomatoes toward the beginning of the season, but once the disease got a foothold, it progressed through both the foliage and the fruit faster than any of the other plants. A small portion of the stem remained green through the fall, but it couldn't produce fruit before the rot set in.


Source: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

When I saw this cherry tomato variety's branches frothy with hundreds of flowers, I thought I was in for a flood of tomatoes. Disappointingly, only a tiny fraction of the flowers actually produced any fruit for me. I don't know whether that was due to the temperature or amount of water the plant received or some other factor. It might have yielded better in a different year. Regardless, even a small percentage turned out to be a significant number of cherry tomatoes. The flavor is exactly the "classic" tomato that one might expect, which makes it excellent for fresh eating. The plant is relatively early maturing, and it continued spawning fruit all season until I pulled up the plant in December, at which point it left me with a substantial number of green cherry tomatoes that I could use for making pickles and relish.

San Marzano

Source: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

This variety is reputed to be excellent for cooking. However, I can hardly judge, because it took so long to mature that I barely managed to harvest any before the season ended. Granted, it was the very last seedling to be planted out in the garden, so it did have a bit of a handicap compared to the other varieties in the trial. I doubt it was enough to make so much of a difference, though. The plant itself was exceedingly small, reaching maybe two feet in height, if that. It produced a decent quantity of fruit for its size, but it couldn't compare to most of the other vigorous indeterminate varieties that grew into monsters five to seven feet tall. After the first couple of tomatoes, I was forced to harvest the remainder green.

Snow White

Source: Annie's Annuals and Perennials

This heirloom cherry tomato blew everything else out of the water. For one thing, the flavor is unbelievably sweet and fruity. It is definitely the best tomato I've ever tasted, and I took advantage of the berrylike sweetness of the fruits to make jam and dessert tarts with them. For another thing, the yield is incredible. Just one plant produced so much that even with making dozens into jam, there were still too many for me and my parents to eat, so I took a bunch to work to share. (They were universally popular among my coworkers.) It was the first of my tomatoes to begin ripening and continued going strong until I pulled it up in December. To top it all off, the light golden color is beautiful to look at—and not as attractive to birds as all the red tomatoes. Its only flaw is that it was one of the first varieties to show symptoms of disease, but the growth was so vigorous that it kept sprouting new vines faster than the blight could take them down. Of all of my plants, this was the only one that outgrew its cage by so much that it knocked the entire cage over and continued growing along the ground. It's unstoppable.

Sweet Beverly

Source: Wild Boar Farms

This cherry tomato ripened to a glowing golden orange. It produces a bountiful harvest of relatively sweet fruit that are quite attractive, looking like strings of Christmas lights on the vine. The major disadvantage is that it took longer to mature than the other two cherry tomato varieties that I tried, so I had to wait longer to eat it. It was also a less vigorous plant than the other two cherries.

Trenton's Tiger

Source: Wild Boar Farms

This is an absolutely gorgeous paste tomato. The shape and color remind me of a candle flame. Unfortunately, not only was it a very small plant—second only to San Marzano—it was the first to show symptoms of blight. It also displayed evidence of moderate bird damage. The yield was good for its size, and it had a relatively early maturity, continuing to produce fruit through the entire season, but the disease susceptibility was a huge flaw. A second problem is that, due to the low height of the plant combined with the length of the fruit, the tomatoes tended to drag on the ground, causing them to become more susceptible to insect damage and rot.

Yellow Furry Boar

Source: Wild Boar Farms

The most striking feature of this variety is the sunny yellow color. Just looking at it makes me cheerful. The color also made it less attractive to the birds than the red and purple varieties. It did have one major problem with its appearance, however, which is that it tended to develop a rough, scabby patch on the blossom end. That was a disadvantage for fresh eating, though it didn't affect the sauce potential. The flavor is light and pleasant. The plant itself is a potato-leaf variety with an unusual, bushy growth habit. It was one of the earliest to show signs of disease on the foliage, but the disease never affected the fruit.


Far and away the best variety for me was Snow White. It had almost everything I could possibly want—spectacular flavor, early maturity, prolific yield, beautiful appearance, the ability to shrug off disease, and a lack of appeal for birds. If only I could have all that in a larger tomato! I would love to decrease the skin : flesh ratio...I tried blanching and peeling the Snow Whites for making "berry" tarts, and that was a tedious task. For eating fresh, though, it couldn't be beat.

Second in flavor was the Japanese Trifele Black. If it had earlier maturity, I could look past the blah appearance and consider it a favorite.

Sweet Beverly was a lovely cherry tomato taken on its own. Its only problem was that it suffered in comparison to Snow White. It's a smaller plant with later maturity, lower yield, and less complex flavor. Riesentraube is an excellent cherry tomato for standard red color and classic flavor.

AAA Sweet Solano is a beautiful variety with decent size, yield, and flavor. Yellow Furry Boar has a delightful color, but is better for sauce than fresh eating due to its unfortunate tendency to develop blemishes.

The remaining varieties all had serious flaws that made them unsuitable under my gardening conditions.