13 Prize-Winning Tomatoes You Need in Your Garden

Not all tomatoes are created equal! The winners of taste trials and plant awards deserve a place in your garden. Garden expert Logan Hailey details the best prize-winning tomato varieties to plant this season.

A cluster of ripe, golden cherry tomatoes with a glossy sheen, basking in sunlight.

Contents

From dog shows to car races to chili cook-offs, people can make a competition out of anything. But did you know that tomatoes can also win prizes? Prize-winning tomato varieties are top choices for gardeners seeking superior flavor and performance. They have been tested, tasted, and proven to perform better than the rest. 

Whether you like old-time heirlooms or modern ultra-vigorous hybrids, let’s dig into 13 prize-winning tomatoes to grow this season!

‘Cherokee Purple’

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Cherokee Purple Pole Tomato Seeds

‘Pineapple Pole’

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Pineapple Pole Tomato Seeds

‘Cream Sausage’

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Cream Sausage Bush Tomato Seeds

13 Prize-Winning Tomato Varieties

Culinary taste trials and horticultural field experiments are just a few of the ways that professionals find prize-worthy tomatoes. The All America Selections (AAS) awards are the most common and widely recognized prizes for plant varieties. This non-profit organization provides independent garden testing of the top vegetables and flowers. They have worked since 1932 to evaluate plants and recommend superior cultivars for gardeners and farmers. 

The American Horticultural Society, agricultural universities, and culinary institutes also assess tomato varieties to find the most productive, flavorful, and award-worthy varieties. Don’t settle for regular old tomatoes. Grow any of these 13 prize-winning varieties to add a unique dazzle to your garden and kitchen.

‘Black Krim’

A close-up of ripe 'Black Krim' tomatoes arranged beautifully on a clean white ceramic plate.
These tomatoes are favored by chefs for their dense, low-water content.

One of the most unusual and highly coveted heirlooms, ‘Black Krim’ tomatoes originated in Russia or Ukraine. The variety is often traced to Krymsk, at the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains near Russia’s Black Sea, but others insist it was originally bred in Southwestern Ukraine. Soldiers likely brought the seeds to Russia after returning home from the Crimean War.

True to their name, the fruits are nearly black in color and loaded with a rich palette of flavors. The medley of sweetness, smokiness, and natural saltiness make this variety one of the top winners of taste trials amongst culinary enthusiasts. 

Chefs love ‘Black Krim’ because it is ultra-dense, with less water than other types. It is amenable to a huge diversity of recipes. Gardeners love it for its extreme heat resilience and continuous production throughout summer and fall. A strong trellis is essential for this large-fruited indeterminate variety. The vines can grow 6+ feet or longer, and the weight of dangling 10-12 ounce fruits needs robust support. 

Cultivation and Harvest

The plants are very sensitive to the cold and appreciate a head start indoors. Use row fabric or a cloche to protect young transplants in the spring. But don’t forget to remove the covers once the plants begin flowering. ‘Black Krim’ will fruit prolifically all season.

The fruits grow slightly flattened and ripen from the bottom up. In warm weather, they will turn almost black at full ripeness. It’s best to harvest when the fruits blush across the bottom half and remain a bit green on top. This “breaking point” is still considered vine-ripened and offers all the complex flavors without the risk of over-ripening or fruit damage.

Take note that ‘Black Krim’ may not ripen as dark in colder climates. The fruits may look more brownish or burgundy-hued with green on the shoulders. A low tunnel or greenhouse can help conserve more heat.

‘Cherokee Purple’

A close up of 'Cherokee Purple' tomatoes clustered on a vine, showcasing their deep, dusky purple hues.
Harvest these tomatoes when they are “blushing”.

Rumor has it that the Native Cherokee people were the first to cultivate and share this classic purple-hued heirloom. They shared the seeds with Tennessee gardeners, and the variety has been passed down through generations ever since. ‘Cherokee Purple’ is dark-hued and complex, but unlike ‘Black Krim,’ it is more acidic, with lots of smoky notes. The fruits are also larger and take longer to mature. 

‘Cherokee Purple’ is open-pollinated, which means you can save seeds and replant them for true-to-type tomatoes. The thick skins of the fruit have an earthy flavor highly suitable for fresh eating. A sandwich or burger with thick slices of this purple tomato tastes absolutely decadent! 

The partially-ripened fruits store moderately well on the counter or in the fridge. For optimal flavor, bring to room temperature before eating. This variety is not often available in grocery stores because of its perishability. You can extend its lifespan by harvesting fruits at the “blushing” half-ripe stage.

Cultivation and Harvest

This is a centuries-old heirloom revered in culinary and agricultural circles. The giant beefsteak-style fruits are dark reddish to purple or dusky-rose, growing up to five inches or more in diameter. The plants grow as rambling indeterminate vines that need a sturdy trellis. Consistent moisture is absolutely essential for ‘Cherokee Purple.’ Large fluctuations from dry to wet can cause issues with blossom end rot and fruit cracking.

You only need a couple of plants for prolific harvests. In small spaces, it’s best to prune off the suckers regularly to encourage a one-vine or two-vine system. Pruning encourages the plants to funnel their energy toward fruit production rather than excessive leaf growth.

‘Sun Gold’

Ripe 'Sun Gold' tomatoes dangle vibrantly on the vine, their golden-orange hues catching the sunlight.
The ‘Sun Gold’ tomatoes have a high Brix count.

Arguably the best cherry tomato on the planet, ‘Sun Gold’ has garnered international attention, including the prestigious British Horticultural Society (RHS) Award of Garden Merit. This is truly the king of all cherry tomatoes. The ultra-vigorous vining plants yield long trusses of orange-hued tomatoes all summer long. They are so delectable that you’ll eat half of them straight off the vine!

These little drops of sunshine have the highest Brix count on the market. The Brix rating measures the sugar concentration in the fruits. ‘Sun Gold’ tomatoes are consistently a 9-10 on the Brix scale, which means that the plants are exceptionally adept at converting sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water into sugary sweet glucose to fuel plant growth and fruit production. 

All science aside, ‘Sun Gold’ cherries don’t only taste sweet, but they have a nice tangy hue that adds tropical vibes to vibrant summer salads and roasts. Just a single ‘Sun Gold’ plant can offer an abundance of fruits for the entire season, but true cherry tomato lovers should grow at least a few to ensure they never run out of sweet fruits!

Cultivation and Harvest

Like all indeterminate tomatoes, ‘Sun Gold’ performs best with trellising and sucker removal. The seeds can be started indoors four to six weeks before your expected last frost date. As long as you provide full sunshine, compost-rich soil, and regular water, the plants grow prolifically. A midsummer side-dressing of Espoma Tomato Tone fertilizer ensures continued harvests throughout the fall. This slow-release organic fertilizer is rich in potassium to promote extra-sweet fruits.

An attention to color is essential for the best ‘Sun Gold’ flavor. The bottom tomatoes ripen first and then move up the trusses. You want to pick the most deep orange or tangerine-hued skins. I once invited my stepdad to harvest fresh tomatoes from a greenhouse I’d planted. He is slightly color-blind and was unimpressed by the flavor because the fruits he chose were still yellow and underripe. Rest assured; I found more fully ripened orange cherries so he could enjoy their full sweetness.

‘San Marzano’

Oblong 'San Marzano' tomatoes, their red and green skin vibrant against lush green leaves.
You can grow these at home with good seeds and soil.

A classic sauce tomato, ‘San Marzano’ tomatoes are considered the Ferrari of canned tomatoes. You can find them in stores with an extra high price tag or grow an abundance of them in your garden for super cheap. These Italian heirlooms are the best for canning because they are dense and richly flavorful. The elongated sauce-style tomatoes combine tomatoey intensity with sweetness, medium acidity, and low water content. 

‘San Marzano’ comes from the San Marzano region of southern Italy. Much like champagne or parmigiano-reggiano, this tomato is often listed in stores with a Protected Designation of Origin to demonstrate that it is authentically grown in the volcanic soils of Southern Italy. Of course, you can enjoy equally high-quality ‘San Marzanos’ in your garden as long as you source reputable seeds and prepare the right soil.

Cultivation and Harvest

Many ‘San Marzanos’ are determinate or bush varieties, which means they don’t require extensive trellising like many others on this list. However, the heirloom can also come as an indeterminate type that yields paste tomatoes all summer long. The plants are high-yielding and heat-resistant as long as they have loamy soil and lots of water.

Italians know tomato sauce best, so ‘San Marzano’ is the top selection for anyone who wants to preserve their harvest. The oblong fruits are best picked when 75-80% red and ripe on the vine. They should have a slight give when squeezed. Cut back on irrigation in the week before harvest to ensure extra concentrated flavors.

‘Chocolate Cherry’

Several ripe 'Chocolate Cherry' tomatoes, their glossy red skins catching the sunlight as they hang in clusters from the vine.
Manually disperse pollen by shaking vines or using a paintbrush on flowers.

They don’t taste like chocolate, but they are insanely sweet! These one-inch cherries have a stunning reddish hue. Whether you use them in salads, pastas, or for fresh snacks, they look as lovely as they taste. ‘Chocolate Cherry’ is a prolific vining tomato that regularly wins local taste trials as one of the best-flavored cherry tomatoes.

‘Chocolate Cherry’ fruits are crack-resistant, making them ideal for areas with lots of summer rains. The plants offer garden gems fairly early in the season. These tomatoes are the perfect complement for ‘Sun Gold’ in the garden and the kitchen. You don’t have to worry about cross-pollination, as tomato plants almost always self-pollinate. The “perfect” flowers have both male and female parts that naturally disperse pollen with wind, motion, or bees. If you notice a lot of flowers without much fruit, try shaking the vines or tickling the inside of the flowers with a paintbrush.

Cultivation and Harvest

This versatile heirloom grows vines from five to six feet long and matures in just 70 days. The fast-growing plants germinate best in the warmth of a germination heat mat. Only gardeners in mild climates should directly sow this plant when soil temperatures are at least 70-80°F (21-27°C). A tomato cage or stake is sufficient for support.

When ripe, cherry tomatoes’ long trusses change from striped green to dark chocolate brown. The ripe fruits may still have green streaking or orangish hues. Like all cherry tomatoes, the trusses ripen from the bottom up. It’s usually best to harvest the fruits individually rather than cutting an entire cluster at once.

‘Pineapple Pole’

Green and orange 'Pineapple Pole' tomatoes nestled among lush green leaves, showcasing their vibrant colors
Start ‘Pineapple Pole’ cultivar indoors before the last frost.

This stunning heirloom is sure to win a prize at your summer cookout. ‘Pineapple Pole’ is a beefsteak variety with tremendous bicolored fruits weighing up to two pounds! The dense-textured slicers have minimal seeds and loads of flavor, perfect for burgers, sandwiches, and salads. Their bright orangish-yellow skins offer complex low-acid tomatoey flavor with hints of fruitiness. They have a nice balance of sweet, savory, and tangy flavors that can adapt to a variety of dishes.

This high-yielding variety is especially appreciated for its meatiness. Like most beefsteaks, the fruits are dense, thick, and solid. You don’t have to worry about them soaking through your burger bun or sandwich bread. To reduce the water content even further, consider salting the slices before eating. Let the salt sit for a few minutes, then dab the tomatoes with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Salting enhances the flavor and textural experience.

Cultivation and Harvest

Grow these luscious orange tomatoes with a solid trellis. The plants take about 90 days to mature from transplanting and appreciate a head start indoors several weeks before your expected last frost. The indeterminate vines can reach six feet or longer, but you can save a lot of space by training them vertically and pruning away side shoots.

Space ‘Pineapple Pole’ at least 24-36 inches apart to encourage airflow and reduce competition. Soaker hoses or drip lines are ideal for irrigation. Run the lines underneath a one to two-inch thick layer of straw or leaf mulch. This will conserve moisture and reduce disease pressure by preventing unnecessary moisture on the foliage. The fruits are ready to harvest when they turn yellow-orange and feel slightly soft when gently squeezed. They are still considered vine-ripened if you harvest them when they are 70-80% blushed with orange.

‘Oxheart’

A close-up of a green 'Oxheart' tomato, showcasing its smooth skin and distinctive shape with slight ridges.
These are known for their ribbed texture and pointed tips.

Another classic Italian heirloom, ‘Oxheart’ has been a prize-winner in northern Italy for centuries or longer. This variety gets its name from the uniquely heart-shaped fruits. Also called ‘Cuore Di Bue’ (Italian for ox heart) or “pear of Liguria,” this dense and flavorful heirloom shines best when roasted. The fruits have very few seeds and cook down to a robustly thick sauce beloved by chefs. ‘Oxhearts’ are special because they are versatile as excellent paste tomatoes or fresh-eating slicers.

The ribbed texture and pointed tips of these sweet fruits add a distinctive flare to garden-fresh dishes. ‘Oxheart’ has a classic savory tomato taste with low acidity and balanced sweetness. It is perfectly complemented by fresh greens, mozzarella, and fresh basil. Basil also makes the ideal companion plant in the garden.

Cultivation and Harvest

This variety takes 70–85 days to mature from the transplanting date, so be sure to start early in cooler climates. The indeterminate vines grow six to seven feet long and should be trained from a young age while they’re still pliable. Tomato clips or twine are great ways to tie the stems up in the direction you choose.

The heart-shaped fruits typically start ripening around July and continue until the first frost. Harvest when the skins are bright reddish-orange. Regular harvests encourage more flushes of fruit. Be sure to plant in full sunlight to ensure maximum productivity. A lack of sunlight often causes pale foliage and few flowers.

‘Indigo Rose’

Dark 'Indigo Rose' tomatoes, ripening amidst lush green leaves under the warm sunlight.
The ‘Indigo Rose’ tomatoes combine robust health benefits with exceptional flavor.

Originally bred for its extra-high antioxidant content, ‘Indigo Rose’ is also a prize-winner for its aesthetic and productivity. These bluish-indigo fruits are strikingly unique in color and flavor. The dark skins are rich in anthocyanins, which are a class of nutritious flavonoids also present in plums and grapes. The purple fruits appear in midsummer in clusters of six or eight that cover the plants.

Professor and plant breeder Jim Myers of my alma mater, Oregon State University, released this variety in 2011. Intriguing, Myers was one of my professors and was known for his quirky personality and engaging teaching style on campus. ‘Indigo Rose’ was inspired by his desire to incorporate more nutrition into the food system. Many modern commercial vegetable varieties are lacking in nutrition due to a focus on productivity and storability. 

Thankfully, ‘Indigo Rose’ offers the best of both worlds, as the plants are very vigorous, disease-resistant, nutrient-dense, and strikingly flavorful. The two-ounce cherry tomatoes have sweet, acidic, balanced flavor infused into their purplish-brown skins and red centers.

Cultivation and Harvest

This semi-determinate variety is awesome for small spaces because it doesn’t require as much maintenance and pruning as vining types. A tomato cage or modest trellis will do. While some tomato varieties can reach their full flavor after harvest, it is very important to let ‘Indigo Rose’ ripen on the vine. You will know that the cherries are ready when they are 80-90% purple-hued. Some yellow or green may remain on ripe fruit tops.

‘Ace 55’

Ripe 'Ace 55' tomatoes, vibrant red and plump, hanging from lush green vines.
These grow on determinate bushes requiring minimal support.

Perfect for beginners, this award-winning heirloom has one of the lowest acid contents of red tomato varieties. ‘Ace 55’ is a crack-resistant, flavorful canning tomato that first gained popularity in the 1950s. The fruits weigh six to eight ounces and grow to five to six inches in diameter, making them perfect for packing into canning jars. The high-yielding plants are determinate bush types, which means a simple tomato cage is all you need to support them.

Cultivation and Harvest

If you want a huge harvest of classic red tomatoes all at once, ‘Ace 55’ is the variety for you. Unlike indeterminate varieties, this bush type ripens the majority of its fruit within a one to two week window of midsummer. You can plant multiple successions staggered several weeks apart to supply longer harvest windows.

The fruits ripen to a classic tomato-red about 80 days after transplanting. The globe-shaped tomatoes are best cut when they have a slight give to their skins. They thrive in full sun and need plenty of water. The plants are moderately resistant to Verticillium wilt and Fusarium wilt, making them ideal for disease-prone humid regions.

‘Supremo Bush’

A cluster of 'Supremo Bush' tomatoes nestled among lush green leaves, showcasing its striking crimson hue .
Oblong fruits are about 3.5” long and bright red when ripe.

Another classic determinate, this Roma tomato yields extra large oblong fruits. ‘Supremo Bush’ is a canning variety with deliciously dense tomatoes perfect for sauce or paste. They also have superior flavor suited to fresh salads and sandwiches. The plants ripen most of their fruits at the same time, so it’s important to have your preservation equipment ready about 70 days after transplanting. ‘Supremo Bush’ is exceptionally uniform, heat-tolerant, and disease-resistant.

Cultivation and Harvest

Start ‘Supremo Bush’ seeds indoors a few weeks before your last frost date. When transplanting, remove the lower sets of leaves to bury the plants extra deep. This well encourages prolific root growth and bushy, well-anchored plants that only require minimal support.

The plants grow about 36 inches tall and 18 inches wide, yielding three and a half inches long oblong fruits. The fruits are ready to harvest when they turn bright red and feel mildly soft. They have very few seeds and taste rich in thick tomato sauces.

‘Supremo Bush’ has an impressive disease-resistance package, including resistance to root-knot nematodes, Fusarium wilt, Verticillium wilt, bacterial speck, and spotted wilt. The compact, heat-tolerant plants are great for container gardeners and southern growers with sweltering summers.

‘Green Zebra’

A close-up of Green Zebra tomatoes with yellow hues and distinctive green stripes, set against a backdrop of lush leaves, showcasing the unique appearance of the fruit.
An heirloom hybrid tomato called ‘Green Zebra’ boasts disease resistance.

A prize-winning work of art, ‘Green Zebra’ is one of the only tomatoes that remain green when ripe. The dazzling golden-chartreuse fruits have forest green stripes and an amber blush when ripe. The smooth skins are reliably free of cracks.

They taste rich and complex, with notes of sweetness, tanginess, and zing. Unlike most green tomatoes, you don’t have to save these for the fryer. ‘Green Zebra’ is meant to be enjoyed fresh!

Cultivation and Harvest

These productive indeterminate plants start yielding about 75 days from transplanting. The fruits continue to ripen as long as the weather is warm. ‘Green Zebra ‘is heat-tolerant and drought-tolerant, especially if you provide a generous layer of straw mulch.

You may need to experiment with harvest times, as the two to three-inch fruits can vary in color. Generally, an amber-hued blush on the bottom half of the tomato indicates it is ready to eat. The yellowish and greenish stripes also brighten as they ripen.

‘Cream Sausage’

Green 'Cream Sausage' tomatoes dangle elegantly from a vine, showcasing their oblong shape.
This tomato was initially named ‘Banana Cream’ by its developer Thomas Wager.

A regular winner in our very own Botanical Interests staff trials, ‘Cream Sausage’ is a unique cylindrical tomato. The cream-colored or pale yellow tomatoes look like little sausages hanging on the vine. They taste superb straight out of the garden or cooked into a yellow pasta sauce or roast. This cultivar is highly productive, compact, and ideal for container gardeners.

‘Cream Sausage’ was developed by Thomas Wager of Washington. He originally named the variety ‘Banana Cream’ tomato, but it doesn’t taste anything like bananas. The determinate plants are bushy and easy to control, with ancestors in the Roma paste tomato group.

Cultivation and Harvest

These determinate plants ripen most of their yellow fruits at the same time, approximately 80 days after transplanting. The dense, low-moisture fruits are perfect for paste and canning but also taste delicious when sliced fresh.

Ensure at least 24 inches of space between plants and hold off on mulching until the weather warms. If you add mulch too early in the spring, the roots of the young plants may not get the warmth of the sun. As the weather heats up, apply the mulch over your irrigation lines to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and insulate the roots into the fall.

‘Golden Jubilee’

Vibrant ‘Golden Jubilee’ tomatoes, glowing with shades of orange, arranged against a backdrop of lush green leaves.
The ‘Golden Jubilee’ tomato was developed through traditional breeding methods.

A 1943 All-America Selections award winner, this sunshine delight is an American classic. The bright golden fruits have a firm texture and low-acid flavor perfect for tomato juice. They are also ideal for sauce and salsas because they have few seeds and a meaty, low-moisture interior.

‘Golden Jubilee’ is a disease-resistant indeterminate variety that yields copious amounts of three-inch fruits throughout the frost-free season. It took over six generations of breeding to “stabilize” this cross between ‘Rutgers’ and ‘Tangerine’ tomatoes. 

Traditional plant breeding is a lot like dog breeding; the breeder begins with two desirable parents, crosses them, chooses the best offspring, and starts the process again. The key difference between plants and dogs is the seed-saving process. ‘Golden Jubilee’ seeds took a long time to develop because some of the fruits would revert back to the standard red skin of the ‘Rutgers’ parent. But once it was finally released in 1943, this iconic cultivar has remained a garden staple ever since.

Cultivation and Harvest

‘Golden Jubilee’ is an indeterminate that requires staking or trellising. Take note that fruit may occasionally have green hues, but most of them will ripen to bright golden-orange. The ideal temperature for growth is between 60 and 85°F (16-29°C). Plants are resistant to Alternaria stem canker and easy to tend.

Final Thoughts

Why go through the trouble of trialing hundreds of varieties when someone else did the work for you? Plant experts and chefs are the best sources for determining prize-worthy tomatoes. These varieties have been tested for decades, ensuring prolific production and delicious flavor every season.

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