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What Color Says About Tomato Flavor

Tags: Heirlooms, Julie Martens

Take some of the guesswork out of choosing tomato varieties by learning a few basics about how tomato color relates to tomato flavor. This simple guide will help you fine-tune your choices and find just the right tomatoes to please your palate.

Red Tomatoes

Acidity Usually brings a higher acidity to the table.

Flavor Varies, but typically delivers classic tomato taste with plenty of juiciness. With paste types, flavor often intensifies as you cook them down to sauce or paste.

Use Slicing (especially beefsteak types), salsa, canning, sauce, paste, juice, salads.

Examples AtkinsonBetter BoyBonnie OriginalCelebrityHeinz ClassicJulietRed BeefsteakRomaRutgersSan Marzano

Pink Tomatoes

Acidity Offers a medium acid level—less than red, but more than striped (see below).

Flavor Similar to that of red tomatoes, but tends to be sweeter and somewhat milder. Several consistent taste-test winners (including Pink Brandywine and German Johnson) belong to the pink group.

Use Slicing, fresh eating, stewing, freezing. Most pink tomatoes work fine for canning as well, as long as you follow USDA guidelines for adding acidity.

Examples BradleyGerman QueenMartha WashingtonPink BrandywinePink Girl

Yellow/Orange Tomatoes

Acidity Delivers a low to sometimes medium acid level.

Flavor Varies from sweet (almost candy-like) to fruity.

Use Slicing, fresh eating, salads, juicing, salsa. Older canning books may advise against canning yellow tomatoes, but you can do it safely as long as you follow USDA guidelines (see link above)

Examples Golden JubileeLemon BoySun GoldSun SugarYellow Pear

Black/Purple Tomatoes

Acidity Tends to have a higher acid level, along the lines of a red tomato.

Flavor Complex flavor prized by chefs, who have described the taste using words like “smoky” and “rich.” Some gardeners who raise dark tomatoes have trouble sharing them because they’re that good.

Use Slicing, fresh eating, salads, cooking for sauce. Slices are eye-catching on a plate! In Russia, native land of Black Prince, the dark fruits are pressed to make an extract sold as Black Prince Tomato Oil.

Examples Black CherryBlack PrinceCherokee PurpleChocolate Sprinkles

Striped Tomatoes

Acidity Usually combines low acid with high sugar.

Flavor These bring a sweet, almost fruity taste.

Use Slicing, fresh eating, salsa. Most traditional canning recipes advise against using striped tomatoes, but USDA guidelines make no such distinction as long as you add a source of acid to jars. But really, this kind is just too delicious (and beautiful!) not to eat fresh. It’s the variety you’ll want to take to a summer picnic, but only if you have enough to spare.

Example Mr. Stripey


Article written by Julie Marten.

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