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5 Heirloom Tomato Varieties that Embody the Essence of Summer

There’s nothing that embodies the essence of summer quite like a beautiful, juicy heirloom tomato. While we enjoy eating our winter vegetables, we look forward to biting into an heirloom tomato during the peak of summer, letting the juice roll down our arms. We imagine farmers plucking a fresh German Johnson from the vine, pulling out a pocket knife, and slicing the fruit to enjoy as a reprieve from the heat. They’re just that good.

If you are just now starting to branch out into the world of heirloom tomatoes, it may be quite daunting to know which heirloom tomato to try first. Because we love introducing you to new, unique fruits and vegetables, we want to kick start your journey with 5 favorite heirloom tomatoes among the Happy Dirt staff.

1. Brandywine Heirloom Tomato

Two bright red Brandywine tomatoes resting in woman's hands.
Photo via Sweet Yards Seed Co.

Not one, but two Happy Dirt staff love the Brandywine variety. Brandywine tomatoes date back to 1885 and are plump, beefsteak-shaped fruits. They are perfect for slicing and have a sweet, tangy flavor. When asked what they taste when biting into a Brandywine heirloom tomato, Happy Dirt’s grower services coordinator, Taylor Holenbeck, said, “Tastes like a deep ocean with a gentle summer breeze.” Happy Dirt’s purchasing assistant, Hannah Taylor, said, “They taste like sunshine: deep, complex, and sweet.”

How To Enjoy: Taylor and Hannah both enjoy using Brandywines to make tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches — a summer staple.

2. Mr. Stripey Heirloom Tomato

Bright red and yellow Mr. Stripey heirloom tomatoes cut into three slices, resting on a bright green plate. Two full red and yellow striped tomatoes resting next to the plate and a bunch of the same varietal sitting in a blue and white patterned bowl.
Photo via Tien Hung, of Delectable Day

Eric Chen, who leads Happy Dirt’s local and specialty sales, loves a Mr. Stripey heirloom tomato for its name, color, and taste. The Mr. Stripey is yellow with red stripes and is considered a beefsteak tomato because of its size. It’s juicy, meaty, and sweet.

How To Enjoy: Eric enjoys Mr. Stripey heirloom tomatoes by themselves, with salt, on salads, or with mozzarella.

3. Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes

Over twenty red, yellow, green, and multicolored tomatoes laying in a produce box, awaiting shipment.
Photo via Farm to Jar

Our QIC assistant, Shatia Freeman, loves the mixed heirloom tomatoes from Fishel Organics.

Fishel Organics grows a wide variety of unique heirloom tomatoes that they pick and mix together for us. It’s a great way to try a variety of special heirloom tomatoes. The tomatoes in the mix are often on the sweeter side.

How To Enjoy: Shatia likes to eat mixed heirloom tomatoes with a little bit of salt and vinegar.

4. Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato

Dark red-purple bunch of tomatoes resting next to woven brown basket.Photo via The Foraged South

Happy Dirt sales manager, Laura Cloak, loves one of the most popular heirloom tomatoes of all time: the Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato. A retired chemist from Raleigh, North Carolina introduced and named the Cherokee Purple tomato in 1990, but the heirloom variety dates back to pre-1890s. This heirloom variety is sweet and very rich with a smokey flavor.

How To Enjoy: Laura enjoys a Cherokee Purple tomato and peanut butter (sometimes with cheese). We’re very intrigued.

5. Chocolate Stripes Heirloom Tomato

Five green and red striped tomatoes with their green stems, resting on a wooden picnic bench in the NC summer.
Photo via MIgardener

The Chocolate Stripes heirloom tomato is quite a stunner. It is a beautiful mahogany red with olive green stripes and is considered to be a “black tomato”. Happy Dirt’s sales assistant and pantry buyer, Fiona Matthews, says it tastes sweet, rich, and earthy.

How To Enjoy: Fiona uses the Chocolate Stripes heirloom tomato for her tomato sandwiches. She toasts sourdough, spreads mayonnaise on both sides, and sprinkles salt and pepper on top of the tomato slice.

When you’re shopping for tomatoes during the summer months, choose the heirloom tomatoes. Once you’ve tasted a slice of Brandywine or Mr. Stripey, you’ll start to crave that first bit of tomato as the warm days of summer approach.

If you’re a buyer and want to add more heirloom tomatoes to your produce section, send us an email to learn more about what’s fresh in our cooler. You can also request our bi-weekly availability list. If you’re a farmer and are curious about how to connect your heirloom tomato varieties to tomato lovers, we want to hear from you as well.

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