7 Unique and Unusual Tomatoes That Wow in the Garden

Bored of classic red tomatoes? These striking, rare tomato varieties will add a pop of color and unique flavor to your garden and recipes. Garden expert Logan Hailey offers 7 seed recommendations and tips for ensuring abundant harvests.

Assorted tomatoes in a colorful heap, showcasing vibrant reds, yellows, and greens.

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If you’re bored with regular ole’ red tomatoes, spice up this season’s garden with a rare selection. There are over 10,000 varieties grown globally, yet most of us are only exposed to a dozen or so different types. Commercially grown tomatoes often lack flavor due to breeding for high yields and long storage. Garden store types may have more aroma, but they still cater to mainstream tastes. 

While there’s nothing wrong with a delicious classic red slicer, experimental gardeners and chefs are seeking something more extravagant and strange. These 7 unique and unusual tomatoes are sure to wow your garden this season!

‘Green Zebra’

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Green Zebra Pole Tomato Seeds

‘Artisan Tiger Stripes’

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Artisan Tiger Stripes Blend Pole Cherry Tomato Seeds

‘Black Krim’

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Black Krim Pole Tomato Seeds

7 Unusual Tomatoes to Wow in Your Garden

A variety of tomatoes ranges in shades from deep crimson to vibrant red, resting under the warm sunlight.
Different varieties of tomatoes are bred for specific traits.

Plant breeding can produce some incredibly strange and beautiful specimens. Fortunately, it doesn’t require genetic modification (GMOs). While genetic modification uses high-tech lab equipment to splice genes from one species into another, traditional plant breeding simply crosses together different plants to choose desirable traits. 

Just like dog breeds are bred and raised for certain purposes, like greyhounds for racing or shepherds for herding, different varieties are crossed and selected for unique attributes.  These unusual tomatoes add a flair of color, unexpected flavor profiles, and striking forms that can improve the diversity of your summer garden and meals.

‘Green Zebra’

A close-up of 'Green Zebra' tomatoes hanging elegantly from the vine.
This indeterminate tomato variety was released in 1983.

Golden green tomatoes with forest green stripes are unknown to most gardeners. How could a tomato embody the strange aesthetic of a garden zebra yet retain the ultra-sweet flavor of old-time slicers? ‘Green Zebra’ finds a balance between the two.

This indeterminate (vining) variety was developed by organic plant breeder Tom Wagner of Everett, Washington. Though the seeds weren’t released until 1983, he first came up with the idea in the 1950s when he wondered if a green tomato could be developed for ripe eating. Most green tomatoes are unripe and left for frying or tossing in the compost pile. This cultivar proves that green and yellow hues can still yield juicy, sweet fruits.

Wagner took several heirloom parents and crossed them together for sweet, low-acidity, well-balanced flavor. When ripe, the enchanting colors glow yellowish-green with an amber blush. The smooth skins are highly crack-resistant, making this variety ideal for areas with summer rains.

Cultivation

Fresh 'Green Zebra' tomatoes, striped with green and yellow hues, cradled among lush foliage.
These plants blend hybrid resilience with heirloom flavor and texture.

‘Green Zebra’ is a fast-maturing small slicer that starts fruiting about 75 days after transplanting. They average two to three inches in size and grow from vigorous vines that reach up to 6 feet or more. Trellising or support is required. An A-frame, T-post, or cattle panel trellis works well. Be sure to install the trellis at the time of transplanting so you can begin training the plants while young. ‘Green Zebra’ requires a minimum of six to eight hours of full sunshine.

The plants are remarkably heat and drought-tolerant, offering the resilience of a hybrid mixed with the classic flavor and texture of an heirloom. Still, consistent moisture is helpful for maintaining continuous harvests throughout the frost-free season.

Harvest and Cooking

A cluster of 'Green Zebra' tomatoes, their striped green skins catching the light in a vibrant display of colors.
‘Green Zebra’ tomatoes are ideal for sweet and tangy salads.

We most often identify green tomatoes as unripe, so how will you know when ‘Green Zebra’ is ready to harvest? The zebra-striped fruits turn from light green to a deeper golden-chartreuse with distinctive stripes. The blossom ends blush reddish-amber, and the texture turns softer with a slight give. 

It may take a few harvests to identify the perfect ripeness window. Don’t be afraid to cut one open and give it a taste. Sweet flavor and moderately juicy insides are great indicators of ripeness. 

In the kitchen, ‘Green Zebra’ is best suited for fresh eating in sweet and tangy salads. The petite fruits are slightly larger than cherries but much smaller than standard heirloom slicers. They taste decadent in salsas, caprese, or cheese boards. Salt, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sharp cheeses are the perfect complement to the flavor of ‘Green Zebra’.

‘Artisan Tiger Stripes’

Smooth-skinned 'Artisan Tiger Stripes' tomatoes, each adorned with vibrant stripes that catch the light beautifully.
This was developed for flavor and heirloom-like attributes.

Most cherry tomatoes are rounded and spherical, but ‘Artisan Tiger Stripes’ are tear-dropped and elongated. This unique blend of unusual tomatoes offers striped, colorful, crack-resistant fruits in a rainbow of hues. Each two inch fruit displays a unique pattern of vibrant red splashed with yellow, orange striped with gold, or green splattered with pink and blush.

This cultivar was developed for tantalizing flavor and eye-catching aesthetics. Like ‘Green Zebra,’ it has many attributes of heirloom plants with the vigorous growth of hybrids

The seeds arrive in a blended packet, with each type color-coded using organic food colorings. The uncolored natural seed yields green-striped fruits. The red-hued seeds ripen to pink fruits, and the yellow-dyed seeds yield orangish-blush fruits. For the best results, plant all three types in the same bed so you can harvest a medley of colors at once. 

Cultivation

Pale green and orange 'Artisan Tiger Stripes' tomatoes hang from a vine, soaking up sunlight.
Ensure soil temperatures reach 70°F before planting outdoors.

‘Artisan Tiger Stripes’ is an indeterminate pole variety. The vines can grow six feet or more and need support to keep them upright. Trellising and pruning are very helpful for ensuring healthy, disease-free plants. Aim to remove suckers as often as possible because side shoots detract from fruit production. If you snap off the suckers as they appear, the plant can funnel most of its energy to one or two central vines that will fill with flowers and fruit.

This eclectic cherry tomato blend is very frost-sensitive and should not be planted outdoors until soil temperatures are at least 70°F (21°C). Northern growers can start inside four to six weeks before transplanting, then move outside one to two weeks after the average last frost date. A heat mat is useful for germination in cell trays. Southern growers can direct seed as long as ambient temperatures are above 45°F (7°C) and soil temperatures are between 70-90°F (21-32°C). 

Seeds take 5-10 days to emerge and 70-80 days to begin fruiting. Ensure plants have at least 24-36 inches of space between them. Overcrowding can cause reduced vigor and problems with foliar diseases. 

Harvest and Cooking

Ripe 'Artisan Tiger Stripes' tomatoes arranged on a wooden surface, showcasing hues of orange and green.
Refrigerating tomatoes won’t ruin their flavor if they start to blush on the vine.

These mixed green, pink, and gold-striped cherry tomatoes are fairly easy to harvest. The fruits change to deeper hues of their respective colors when ripe. The skins are crack-resistant but will slightly soften once they’re ready to harvest. You can easily pluck each cherry from the vine and store on the countertop or in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use. 

Contrary to urban myths, refrigerating will not destroy their flavor. As long as the fruits begin blushing on the vine, they will have a concentration of vine-ripened sugars. Refrigeration can protect them from over-ripening without reducing the overall taste. However, many chefs prefer to bring the tomatoes back to room temperature before eating. 

Salt will enhance the sweetness and aroma of ‘Artisan Tiger Stripes.’ Toss the sliced cherries in a colander with salt and let them sit for a few minutes before incorporating them into salads, sauces, pastas, or side dishes.

‘Black Krim’

'Black Krim' tomatoes with a red hue and a glossy sheen, catching the light beautifully.
Its distinctive flavor makes it prized by gardeners and chefs globally.

An iconic Russian heirloom, ‘Black Krim’ is one of the most unusual tomato varieties you can grow. The indeterminate vining plants yield baseball-sized dense fruit with ultra-rich flavors and hints of natural saltiness. The almost-black tomato reliably produces in extreme heat and fruits continuously from summer until the first frost of fall. 

Like many heirloom seeds, ‘Black Krim’ has fuzzy origins. Some say it came from Krymsk, a city in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains along Russia’s Black Sea. Others insist that it was bred in Southwestern Ukraine, and the seeds were brought to Russia during the Crimean War of the early 19th century when soldiers returned home with seeds for their wives to grow. 

Regardless of its history, ‘Black Krim’ remains a rare yet highly coveted tomato variety for gardeners and chefs worldwide. The balanced earthy, smoky, and sweet flavor is sure to wow you in the garden and kitchen.

Cultivation

 A close-up of 'Black Krim' tomatoes, varying in shades from green to deep crimson, hang gracefully among foliage.
Gradually introduce heat-tolerant plants to cooler nights outdoors using row fabric.

Strong support is essential for this rambling indeterminate variety. The large 10-12 ounce fruits dangle on heavy vines by the dozens, which means you cannot settle for a weak trellis. ‘Black Krim’ also requires consistent moisture and full sunlight. Without the proper conditions, this heirloom may struggle to produce its large, aromatic fruits.

It’s best to start ‘Black Krim’ indoors two to four weeks before your expected last frost date in the spring. Use a heating mat to ensure the soil mix is at least 70-90°F (21-32°C) for proper germination. Sow seeds ¼ inch deep and thin to one plant per cell. Plan to transplant about one to two weeks after the last frost date when the weather has thoroughly settled. 

It is very important to harden off these plants by gradually introducing them to cooler nights outdoors. ‘Black Krim’ is very heat tolerant but more sensitive to the cold. Row fabric is helpful in northern climates to help the plants establish in outdoor beds. However, don’t forget to remove the covers once the plants begin flowering. 

Harvest and Cooking

Hands carefully picking 'Black Krim' tomatoes from the vine, with leaves surrounding the harvest scene.
These tomatoes ripen to a brownish-burgundy hue with green shoulders.

‘Black Krim’ clearly communicates when it is ready to be harvested. The slightly flattened fruits will turn near-black in warm weather, but you can pick them while they are still half green and firm. As long as the bottom-half of the fruit has started to blush, the fruits are still vine-ripened. They can continue ripening on your counter and still reach their full flavorful glory. They may also have tones of red and orange. 

Cool-climate growers may notice that ‘Black Krim’ does not turn as “black” when ripe. The fruits turn more brownish-burgundy with hints of green on their shoulders. 

This heirloom is infamous for its ultra-rich flavor profile. Many even prefer ‘Black Krim’ over the iconic ‘Cherokee Purple.’ This tomato is ideal for enjoying fresh on sandwiches, burgers, caprese, or simply sprinkled with salt. It has a low acid content and lots of sweet smokiness. The brownish-red flesh adds a striking contrast to yellow and orange tomatoes.

‘Pineapple Pole’

Ripe red ‘Pineapple Pole’ tomatoes nestled among green leaves, showcasing their glossy texture.
This tomato is prized for its rareness and meaty texture.

Tropical flavors are fairly unusual in temperate climate gardens. Aside from prolific ‘Pineapple Ground Cherries,’ the ‘Pineapple Pole’ tomato is one of the only annual fruits with a distinctive pineapple fruitiness. This beefsteak-style variety is a regular winner of taste test trials. The giant fruits have very few seeds and a complex, low-acid flavor that balances sweetness with tang.

‘Pineapple Pole’ is an orangish-yellow heirloom with red streaks. It is considered one of the rarest tomato varieties, but the seeds have recently become more widely available. The luscious meaty texture is perfect for thick slices on a juicy burger or summer sandwich. It is not as watery as other heirlooms, yet super aromatic. Best of all, this variety is outrageously high-yielding, so you only need a few plants to meet your tomato needs for the summer.

Cultivation

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

In spite of its prolific growth, ‘Pineapple Pole’ is easy to tend. The plants take longer to mature than other varieties—around 90 days from transplanting—but the extra large beefy fruits are worth the wait. This low-acid slicing tomato will reliably yield all summer as long as nighttime temperatures remain above 45°F (7°C).

It’s best to start this cultivar indoors two to four weeks before your last frost date. Only the warmest-climate gardeners should direct sow the seeds. ‘Pineapple Pole’ demands warm soils, full sunshine, and a generous dose of all-purpose fertilizer that is high in potassium. Each plant needs 24-36 inches of space and a solid trellis. Sucker removal enhances overall production.

Harvest and Cooking

Green 'Pineapple Pole' tomatoes arranged neatly on a rustic wooden surface.
Enhance its meaty texture by salting slices briefly before use.

The peak of sun-ripened deliciousness occurs when the yellowish-orange fruits deepen in color. They may have red streaks on the skin and a slight give when gently squeezed. You can also harvest a bit earlier when the bottom of the fruits begins to blush orange. 

Because this is a giant beefsteak type, cracking is possible. Avoid over-watering during the fruiting stage. You can cut back on irrigation for a few days to a week before a big harvest. However, avoid drought-stressing the plants.

‘Pineapple Pole’ wins many taste trials for its fruitiness. Mix it with sharp cheeses, aged balsamic, or any classic BLT recipe. This dazzling orange tomato can also be incorporated in salsas and sauces for a nice tangy flavor. The meaty texture is accentuated when you lightly salt the slices, let them sit for a few minutes, then pat dry with a paper towel. The salt sucks out excess moisture to enhance the sugar concentration of the fruit.

‘Indigo Rose’

A close-up of 'Indigo Rose' tomatoes, showcasing their unique round shape and deep purple hue.
This variety was bred for nutrition and sweet flavor.

One of the newest and most coveted unusual tomatoes on the market, ‘Indigo Rose’ is an ultra-nutritious and delicious cherry tomato. The abundant clusters of purplish-brown cherry tomatoes contain high amounts of anthocyanins, antioxidants known to boost human health. 

One of my college professors, Jim Myers of Oregon State University, bred this variety specifically for its nutrition and sweet flavor. It is rare to find a cherry tomato that is so deeply saturated with vibrant purple hues. When you cut them open, they have bright red flesh. The gorgeous fruits are as delicious as they are attractive. If left on the vine to ripen, each cherry matures with a balanced flavor profile of sweet, acidic, and savory tastes.

Cultivation

'Indigo Rose’ tomatoes nestled among vibrant green leaves, showcasing their deep purple hue against a backdrop of lush foliage.
Start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before transplanting.

‘Indigo Rose’ is a semi-determinate vining tomato growing about five feet in height. It needs a moderately supportive trellis or tomato cage to hold the leafy vines and big clusters of six to eight fruits. This is an open-pollinated variety with superb resistance to early blight and powdery mildew. It is particularly suited to humid climates like the Northwest and Northeast. 

Start ‘Indigo Rose’ seeds indoors four to six weeks before you plan to transplant. The plants require the same warm soils and bright sunlight as most other tomato varieties. They take 80-90 days after transplanting to mature the first fruits.

Harvest and Cooking

Red and black 'Indigo Rose' tomatoes arranged alongside a pair of hands, resting casually on a wooden table.
Be cautious with their use in salsa due to potential color issues.

This is a variety worth waiting for; allow the fruits to fully ripen brownish-purple on the plant. Picking too early may compromise the nutrition and flavor. ‘Indigo Rose’ cherries are best enjoyed fresh, sliced, and mixed with salt.

They taste lovely alongside ultra-sweet ‘Sun Gold’ orange cherry tomatoes. You can also roast them for a pop of deep reddish-purple color. While you can use them in salsa, the purple skin hues may yield an unappetizing color. 

‘Chocolate Cherry’

A close-up of 'Chocolate Cherry' tomatoes clustered on the vine, displaying their rich brown color.
Indeterminate ‘Chocolate Cherry’ tomatoes produce crack-resistant, flavorful fruits.

They don’t taste like chocolate, but they do have a delectably sweet flavor. ‘Chocolate Cherry’ is a prolific vining tomato that yields burgundy red and purplish cherry tomatoes averaging one inch in diameter. This unique variety is known for its abundant yields. The seemingly endless trusses of six to eight fruits ensure continuous harvests until the first frosts of fall. 

‘Chocolate Cherry’ tomatoes are crack-resistant and perfect for snacking. They were developed by Aaron Whaley, the founder of Seed Savers Exchange. This classic heirloom is open-pollinated and can be replanted for true-to-type plants next season. The fruits are highly uniform and retain their dark purple color once sliced.

Cultivation

A close-up of 'Chocolate Cherry' tomatoes showcases their glossy, dark skin, hinting at their rich flavor.
Use drip irrigation to maintain moisture and prevent foliar diseases.

You only have to wait about 70 days from transplanting to start snacking on these fruits. I love this variety because it yields so consistently. Once flowers begin forming, expect ripe cherries several times a week, all summer long.

This indeterminate vining variety needs moderate support from a trellis. Pruning is recommended because the vines can get out of hand in optimal conditions. You can remove suckers once or twice a week to train the plants in a two-leader system. Two leaders mean two primary vines that are left to fruit. Removing the side shoots reduces the overall foliage, which can help with disease prevention. It also enhances overall flower and fruit production.

Be sure to feed ‘Chocolate Cherry’ with lots of compost and balanced, slow-release fertilizer. The plants do well with a layer of straw or leaf mulch and consistent moisture from drip irrigation, soaker hoses, or an olla. Avoid overhead irrigation, as this can lead to foliar diseases like powdery mildew. Sprinklers also waste a lot of water because so much moisture is lost to evaporation before it reaches the plant’s root zone. 

Harvest and Cooking

A cluster of chocolate cherry tomatoes are slightly dusty in the sun.
These tomatoes are perfect for snacking fresh.

‘Chocolate Cherry’ tomatoes look like chocolate-covered cherries when they’re ripe. The dark purple skins turn almost brownish-burgundy. Cherry tomato trusses ripen from the bottom up, so wait until the upper fruits blush purple before harvesting a full cluster. You can also pull the lower ones first to prevent over-ripening.

Like most of the rare cultivars on this list, ‘Chocolate Cherry’ fruits are best for fresh snacking. I can’t help but pop them in my mouth every time I pass by the plants. They taste exceptional in a fresh salad with olive oil, sea salt, and cubes of sharp cheese. You can blend them with other cherries on this list for a spectacular side dish to bring to summer barbeques. 

‘Oxheart’

3 orange almost ripe oxheart tomatoes grow on a plant.
‘Oxheart’ tomatoes are renowned for their classic tomatoey flavor.

The unique shape and flavor of ‘Oxheart’ tomatoes have earned them a place in the fanciest Italian kitchens. The name comes from the heart-shaped, deeply ribbed fruits. Sometimes called ‘Cuore Di Bue,’ Italian for ox heart, or “pear of Liguria,” after the northern Italian region, this variety has a long history of culinary use in sauces and roasts.

If you’re looking for classic tomatoey flavor with a dense texture, this is the heirloom for you. ‘Oxheart’ shines when it is roasted, but it also tastes perfect when sliced with mozzarella and fresh basil. The heart-shaped fruits also stick out in the garden because of their elongated shape.

Cultivation

 ‘Oxheart’ tomato plants showing green foliage intertwined with ripening red and green fruits.
Grow this sensitive heirloom tomato in full sun after the last frost.

‘Oxheart’ takes 70 to 85 days to mature from transplanting. It’s best to start this indeterminate vining cultivar indoors. The seeds need to be sown about ¼ inch deep in soil that is 70-90°F (21-32°C). A soil thermometer probe and heating mat are recommended for the best germination.

Like most tomatoes, this heirloom is very sensitive to cold weather. Don’t move the plants outside until the spring weather has fully settled. Grow in full sunshine without any shadows or shade from neighboring plants. Provide a trellis or tomato cage, and ensure each plant has 24-36 inches of space in every direction. You can only get away with tighter spacing if you train the vines upward and prune regularly.

Harvest and Cooking

A cluster of red 'Oxheart' tomatoes, featuring a single yellow tomato nestled prominently at the center.
‘Oxheart’ tomatoes are renowned for their classic tomatoey flavor.

Harvest these gorgeously unusual tomatoes when they turn orangish-red. The hearts will have a light give when you squeeze them, but avoid squeezing too tightly, or they may bruise. At full ripeness, the fruits are bright red. They may take longer to ripen than other varieties, but it is worth the wait! 

Many taste trials confess that ‘Oxheart’ is the most classic tomatoey-flavor of all tomato varieties! They are complex, sweet, and luscious. Roast them for a decadent sauce, or cook into any sauté for a rich, smooth flavor. You also can’t go wrong with fresh, chunky slices sprinkled with salt. Canners and preservers also love ‘Oxheart’ for its low water content, making it the ideal multi-purpose intermediary between paste tomatoes and slicer varieties. 

Final Thoughts

Life is too short for boring tomatoes! When choosing a rare or unusual variety, follow your eyes and your tastebuds. Strange heirlooms and unique varieties are typically just as easy to grow as any other tomato plant. The key is to know when to harvest the ripe fruits. Take note that it can be a bit harder to identify ripeness in rare multicolored varieties. Study the seed packet and online photos to ensure you harvest at the peak of flavor, sweetness, and textural enjoyment.

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Close-up of a man's hand holding a giant, ripe, ribbed tomato with shiny bright red skin, growing among green foliage.

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