Flavor Descriptions of Heirloom Tomato & Pepper Varieties

It’s sometimes difficult to sort through the staggering array of tomato and pepper varieties available in today’s markets.  I try to help customers at the market by asking a series of questions, focusing on the ultimate use of their tomatoes.  This post offers descriptions of the growth habits and flavor of heirloom tomato and pepper varieties.

How to Decide Which Variety is the Best for You

The best way to sort through the huge variety of tomato and pepper varieties is to think about your end use. Start with these sample questions to refine the selection process, and then add your own questions to get to the best variety for “you”.

  • Do you make a lot of salsa?  
  • Are you at the cabin and away from home a lot?  
  • Do you entertain and want beautiful color and variety in your salads?  
  • Are you into DIY and want to dry, can or pickle your tomatoes?  
  • Are you a novice gardener and want the best chance of success?
  • Do you have limited space and need to grow on a deck or a patio?

Heirloom Tomato and Pepper Varieties Summarized by Growth Habits and Flavor

The following photos are signs I use at the farmers’ markets, and they are organized by color and/or type of tomato, primarily because these categories are easiest to explain to customers at a busy market.  For more specific information on size, growth habit, flavor, and disease resistance see this post which gives more in-depth information

Best Tomato Varieties for Early Tomatoes and/or Best for Disease Resistance:

Early Heirloom Tomato Varieties or Disease Resisant Varieties

Best Main-Season Tomatoes for Slicing & Fresh Eating (i.e., think BLTs):

Heirloom Tomato Varieties - Main Season Slicers

Best Beefsteak-Type Heirloom Varieties (think BLTs and bragging rights – generally later):

Heirloom Tomato Varieties - Beefsteak Types

Heirloom Tomato Varieties – Gourmet Black Varieties:

Heirloom Tomato Varieties - Gourmet Black

Best Heirloom Tomato Varieties – Sweet Orange Varieties:

Heirloom Tomato Varieties - Sweet Orange

Best Heirloom Tomato Varieties – Mild Yellow & Tangy Green:

Heirloom Tomato Varieties - Mild Yellow and Tangy Green

Best Heirloom Tomato Varieties – Gourmet Striped:

Heirloom Tomato Varieties - Gourmet Striped

Best Variety of Cherry Tomatoes (Heirloom & Hybrid):

sign - cherries (464x640)

Best Pepper Varieties – Hot & Spicy:

Pepper Varieties - Hot & Spicy

Best Pepper Varieties – Sweet:

Pepper Varieties - Sweet

Your selection of varieties will be much larger if you buy seeds and start your own plants. For a detailed tutorial on starting plants from seed, see this post.

Share some of your favorites?  I’d love to hear about the varieties you like or love, as well as the ones that haven’t done well for you in the past, for whatever reason.


  1. […] addition to unique flavors and colors, heirloom tomatoes have different growth habits, yields, etc. Click here for a summary of distinctive characteristics of heirloom […]

  2. Kristi Otto on May 11, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    So nice to talk to you today. Love your blog

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