Review of 17 heirloom tomato varieties I grew in 2021

Review of 17 heirloom tomato varieties I grew in 2021

What a funny year 2021 has been. If there is one thing that gardeners in the UK can all agree on, it would be that we have had a rather challenging growing season.

Rather unusually, we experienced frost most nights in April, with very little rain. This was followed by a deluge in May, which was also an exceptionally cold month. By the time June hit, many crops were already a good 3-4 weeks behind. With the exception of a week or two here and there, we then continued to have a particularly cold and wet summer.

Despite my outdoor tomatoes succumbing to blight quite early in the season, I feel extremely lucky to have had the crop I had. Fortunately, through meticulously checking my tomato plants daily, I managed to prevent blight from ravaging through my greenhouses. I will however, be the first to admit that whilst we have had a lovely crop of lovely tomatoes, I feel like the flavour of the tomatoes this year just haven’t been as good as previous years. I suspect this has much to do with the cold weather and lack of sunshine.

Despite all of this, I grew a fair variety of tomatoes this year. Here I have compiled a list of these tomatoes and have given my honest opinion on every single one. Hopefully this can help you if you’re stuck deciding which varieties to grow for next season.

Black Beauty

After seeing the entire Instagram gardening community rave about this tomato in 2020 it was number one on my ‘must grow’ list for 2021. It is a beautiful tomato and is definitely one of our top three in terms of flavour. The fruit is fantastic eaten fresh but it is also meaty enough to use for cooking too, making it a great all-rounder.

Crushed Heart

I had high hopes for this variety and it didn’t disappoint. It strikes the perfect balance between sweet and acid. It is also quite a meaty tomato which makes it great for cooking. We enjoyed this tomato both fresh and in sauces. Crushed heart also gets bonus points for being the second tomato of the season to ripen (beaten only by a cherry tomato).

Pork Chop

Beautiful yellow beefsteak tomato. Nice and sweet, with little acidity. If you prefer sweeter tomatoes, then this variety could be great for you. It is more suited for eating fresh rather than cooking, but I have made a deliciously sweet yellow tomato passata with it too. The downside is that this variety was one of the latest to ripen.

Our largest tomato of the season. This is a mishapen Pork Chop tomato, the result of a double flower which is not uncommon in beefsteak varieties.

Brads Atomic Grape/ blue berries

I was soooo looking forward to trying Brad’s Atomic Grape tomato this year. Unfortunately, despite sourcing my seeds directly from Wild Boar Farms, it definitely wasn’t this variety that I grew. Having browsed their website, I am convinced it is a variety called Blue Berries. However, I just can’t be 100% sure. These plants were probably the most vigorous of all my tomato plants so they get points for that. They are a bit on the acidic side for a cherry tomato, but that is something I am growing to like. Delicious and prolific, with lots of flavour.

Cosmic eclipse

Probably the most beautiful tomato I have ever seen. It is simply stunning. Almost too beautiful to eat. One more for eating fresh rather than cooking. Lovely flavour, although it is definitely more on the acidic side. The skin is also quite tough, in a way I don’t think I’ve experienced on a tomato before. I have also found that this variety seems quite prone to rotting quickly once harvested, resulting in a few of them sadly ending up in the compost bin. Still, overall it tastes good and is too beautiful not to grow again.

Barry’s crazy cherry

If you are short on space and want lots of cherry tomatoes, this could be a great variety to go for. This is a millefleur type of tomato, and it is the most prolific cherry I’ve grown. Interestingly, some of the tomatoes were deliciously sweet, whilst others were rather watery and tasteless. This tomato variety was one of the ones I was most excited to grow, but is hands-down the one I’ve been most disappointed about. This variety is not one that will be returning for me next season.

Gardeners ecstasy

Supposedly how Gardeners Delight used to taste, this tomato packs a punch of flavour. I grew a plant both outdoors and undercover. The undercover ones were significantly more flavoursome than the outdoor ones. The fruits were also smaller too, so it is definitely down to the greenhouse tomatoes having less water than the outdoor ones that were subjected to such a wet summer. This variety was the first of the season to ripen, and surprisingly it was an outdoor one that ripened first! This variety will be returning to my greenhouse next season.

These tomatoes are the red cherries with the pointy bottoms in the top photo on this post.

Artisan golden bumblebee

A beautiful streaked golden cherry tomato with superb flavour. These are quite large cherries, and were later than some of my other cherry tomatoes to ripen. These tomatoes are so beautiful, and equally as tasty. Another variety that will be returning next season.

Black cherry

As far as black tomatoes go, the colour of these tomatoes isn’t anything to shout home about. These are quite large cherries, and we had a good crop from a single plant. These cherry tomatoes are extremely tasty so will be another tomato I grow next season.

These tomatoes are the larger dark cherry tomatoes in the top photo on this post.

Sandul Moldovan

A fairly standard red beefsteak tomato from the Heritage Seed Library. Whilst these are supposed to be an inderterminate variety, they grew to be short, stocky plants. These were quite early to ripen which gave them bonus points. The flavour was good, but not as good as some other varieties on this list. This variety narrowly misses out on returning to next year’s garden. If I have more space in the future, I may try growing it again.

White queen

Another one from the Heritage Seed Library. If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this tomato. I just wanted to grow it because I’d never seen a white tomato before. The shoulders did turn yellow when ripening, so it wasn’t as white as I was expecting. The flavour was quite good. Again, another variety that has narrowly missed out on next year.

San Marzano

A classic sauce tomato. I was hoping for a better flavour from these tomatoes, but I suspect that is partly down to the particularly cold summer we had. It is very prolific, more so than the Crushed heart tomato. However, it was also one of my last tomatoes to ripen. I am not entirely sure if all San Marzano tomatoes are created equal, however, so it may be worth searching for better seeds. This tomato will be returning next year due to its high yield and uses for cooking.

Black Russian

I feel like the name of this tomato is a bit misleading. The tomatoes were red, with dark shoulders. Flavour and was average and yield was OK. One thing that I did notice was that it seemed particularly prone to splitting. Most of the earlier tomatoes I harvested from this plant had split. Overall it was pretty underwhelming, so I look forward to replacing this tomato with something more flavoursome next season.

Roma

Another saucing variety, however this one is a bush tomato. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any ripe Roma tomatoes due to blight arriving before they ripened. Due to the nature of bush tomatoes, it is much more difficult to keep blight in check. My Roma was my first casualty of the 2021 growing season, and I will not be growing it again. Living somewhere as wet as the UK, blight is all too common. For this reason I will no longer grow bush tomatoes, unless they are a very early cropper.

Cape Teaser

Another tomato from the Heritage Seed Library. Another bush tomato. These plants grew enormous and took up heaps of space. They were less susceptible to blight than my other bush tomatoes, however. The plants grew so huge and produced small trusses of currant sized tomatoes. I often found tomatoes once they had gone past their best because the tomatoes were so small among the mass of foliage. Flavour was OK, but nothing to shout home about. Another variety which won’t be returning for me.

Marmande

A classic French beefsteak. Semi-determinate variety. Another variety I had to remove before the fruits had the chance to fully ripen. We had a couple of tomatoes that had semi-ripened on the plant that were OK. Another variety that will not be returning due to its semi-bush type habit.

Green zebra

Another variety where I’m convinced I had a dodgy packet of seeds! The shape and colour of these tomatoes was not what I was expecting. I also struggled to harvest many of these, again due to blight. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough space in my greenhouse to squeeze one of these in, too. I have re-ordered seeds from Real Seeds, who I feel I can trust to supply me good quality seeds for this variety.

I would love to know your favourite varieties

I hope you’ve found this useful in helping you to decide which varieties you would like to grow next season. I would love to know what your favourite tomato varieties you grew in 2021 were, so please do leave them in the comments.



7 thoughts on “Review of 17 heirloom tomato varieties I grew in 2021”

    • Hi Deb, I grow all of my tomatoes from seed. I’ve sourced the majority of my seeds from Real Seeds, The Heritage Seed Library, Tomato Revolution, Wild Boar Farms (USA) and seed swaps. Premier Seeds Direct also have a decent range of tomatoes and their seeds are brilliant prices 🙂

  • I love heirlooms! My favorite is Brandywine Pink. I am growing it along with Black Krim, Pineapple, Mr. Stripey, Mortgage Lifter, Heirloom Green, Darkstar Beefsteak (cross between an Heirloom and a hybrid). Some of these are new to me. I have grown Cherokee Purple before and always had to cut off so much of it that wasn’t fruit, so I switched to Black Krim. Excited about Pineapple. Suppose to be a great yellow tomato. Looking forward to the season and to getting my seedlings out in the garden! Happy Gardening to you!

  • My most favorite of all time is green grape, a little bigger than a cherry, but so yummy. Also Dagma, Yugoslavian.

  • My favorites when it comes to flavor: large slicer– pineapple, German pink, green giant. For sauce- Italian heirloom, black trifele. For cherry – napa chardonnay, black cheery, orange bumble bee.. This year I’m trying out Taiga, Ananas noir, black from tula, mikarda sweet, lillian’s yellow, opalka, illini gold, Amish paste, cancelmo, black strawberry, Alice’s dream, blue beauty, Australian beauty and many more. I kept the black beauty and Paul Robeson from last year, they’re 2nd place.

  • My favorite slicing tomatoes is Anana Noir. It is very similar to the Anana (pineapple tomato) they both are pretty and tasty but for mye the production was higher with the Noir. My absolute favorite tomato is Principi Borghese, it is red cherry tomato, very prolific especially later in the year. The bulk of the plant is between 3 and 5 foot tall but very dense and bushy. They are not for fresh eating as they are not too flavorful when fresh. They are for dehydrating and they are amazing for that since there flavor really intensifies when dried. I love dehydrated tomatoes even more then fresh ones. This year I am testing out several slicing and cherrys as well as two paste tomatoes, Super San Marzano and San Marzano Redorta. Right now they are just starting to ripen and they both taste okay but the Redorta is really promising as the tomatoes are huge!. I will grow lots of them next year. Most of my tomatoes seeds come from tomatofest.com and some from rareseeds.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.