The tastiest tomatoes to grow according to green thumbs across Canada

Gardeners share their favourite varieties for salads, sauces and eating straight from the vine.

Gardeners share their favourite varieties for salads, sauces and eating straight from the vine

two images side by side. left: cherry tomatoes in the palm of a hand. right: a person holding a wooden box of tomatoes in a garden.
(Source, left: @emmabiggs_grows/Instagram; right: @fromsoiltosoul/Instagram)

There's nothing quite like picking a sun-warmed tomato fresh from the vine and eating it before you make it back into the house. Tomatoes are a heat loving crop that can be planted in the garden once the soil warms up in the spring, usually in mid-to-late May or early June, depending on where you live and the type of spring we're having.

"They are surprisingly forgiving," said Liana Glass, owner and farmer at City Beet Farm in Vancouver. "In some ways the plants are finicky — the leaves don't like to be wet, and they need more heat than certain other crops. But in other ways they let you get away with a lot, especially when they're small. You can, and should, bury them quite deep so they can grow new roots and have a strong base as they get big."

The tricky part might be deciding which seeds or seedlings to grow, since there are so many varieties. So, I reached out to Glass and a few more green thumbs from different parts of Canada for their recommendations based on flavour, productivity and other factors. Here's what they had to say.

"How does one choose only one tomato variety?... When it comes to the tastiest and most trustworthy in terms of yield and disease-resistance, there are two tomatoes I come back to every year. Sweet Million [is] an indeterminate variety that I find does great in grow bags or in the ground, and Manitoba Slicer is very productive up until mid fall in my Zone 3 prairie garden, as its name suggests!" 

- Maggie Wysocki, creator of From Soil to Soul and co-host of The Grow Guide Podcast. Gardens in Winnipeg.

"Striped German is a beefsteak-style heirloom tomato variety from Hampshire County, West Virginia, with an exceptionally complex and fruity flavour. What makes it so unique is its striking yellow-orange ombre exterior and juicy, deep apricot-coloured flesh. It's a wonderful slicer tomato that isn't too acidic, so those with sensitive stomachs can enjoy it too. Historically, the vines have been extremely productive, vigorous and healthy in my gardens." 

- Luay Ghafari, author of Seed to Table and garden educator and recipe developer at Urban Farm and Kitchen. Gardens in Toronto.

"Sungold tomatoes are super sweet bites of pure sunshine! I've been growing this vigorous cherry variety in my garden for almost 20 years and it's everyone's favourite. The cherry-sized golden fruits are very sweet and juicy and are delicious fresh in salads or straight off the vine. I also like to toss them in summer pastas with a handful of chopped basil." 

 - Niki Jabbour, author of Growing Under Cover and Veggie Garden Remix. Gardens in Halifax.

"My current favourite is the Tumbling Tom Red, just because it does so well in containers. I don't have much room for my garden, and the Tumbling Tom produced boatloads of cherry tomatoes into October, while remaining compact and solid. Honestly, most tomatoes don't make it inside for me to cook them, I just eat them right off the plant, but when [they] do I usually put them in a pan and bake them with a head of garlic. From there, it gets blended into sauce or soup."

- Mathieu Hodgson, landscape designer also know as The Laidback Gardener. Gardens in Montreal.

"I'll go with a wonderful variety called Rosella (not to be confused with a dwarf variety called Rosella Purple). It's a beautiful pink-purple cherry that grows in trusses on indeterminate plants. I think the balanced, fruity and rich flavour is fantastic! It's also quite a productive variety, which is great because I can never get enough of them. Perfect for snacking, and — if any make it into the house — in a salad with fresh basil, bocconcini cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Just thinking about it is making my mouth water."

- Emma Biggs, co-host of the Food Garden Life Show and author of Gardening With Emma. Gardens in Toronto.

"In the summer of 2014 [Duncan] visited an organic farm a friend of his was working on and tasted a Sun Sugar for the first time. It was the best tomato he'd ever had!... I love to grow it because Sun Sugars grow big, sturdy, indeterminate vines and have a relatively long production season. Duncan loves to eat the split fruits we can't sell during harvest, and we both love to cook them down into a cherry tomato pasta sauce — especially one full of garlic and basil we grew too." 

- Liana (and Duncan) Glass, farmers at City Beet Farm. Gardens in Vancouver.

As for me, when gardening in Dundas, Ont., I love growing different types of heirloom tomatoes. I grow some myself from seed and I like to support local seedling sales, like Funky Tomatoes. I grow a mix of cherry and grape tomatoes for snacking and salads, paste tomatoes for sauces, and slicing tomatoes for sandwiches, burgers, or just to enjoy on my plate. I remember taking a bite of my first Costoluto Genovese tomato and thinking "I need to grow this every year." This 19th century Italian heirloom variety has sides that are ribbed, so sometimes you can get some interesting shapes, like the heart in the photo. I think this tomato is best enjoyed fresh off the vine but some, especially those that are misshapen, end up in my sauces and fresh salsas.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.


Tara Nolan is the author of Gardening Your Front Yard and Raised Bed Revolution. She is also one-third of the popular gardening website Savvy Gardening.

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