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Jessica Walliser

Tomatoes come in all flavors ... as well as shapes, sizes and colors

Jessica Walliser
| Friday, May 1, 2015, 7:18 p.m.
Several varieties of slice tomatoes
Jessica Walliser
Several varieties of slice tomatoes

Here in Western Pennsylvania, we're crazy for tomatoes. Thousands of gardeners will head outside in just a few short weeks to plant these juicy, acidic fruits. By August, with any luck, we'll all be up to our elbows in ripe tomatoes and busy finding ways to prepare them in the kitchen.

Though round, red varieties certainly deserve a place in every garden, I'd like to introduce you to a few uncommon tomatoes that also deserve a home in your veggie plot. I've grown all of these varieties over the years, and I adore every one of them. Each offers a slightly different flavor, texture and appearance. Together, they make the most gorgeous sliced tomato plate imaginable!

Starter plants of most of these varieties, and many, many others, will be available from assorted vendors at Phipps Conservatory's May Market, May 8 and 9 on the conservatory's front lawn.

‘Pineapple': This gigantic, meaty tomato is a personal favorite for its beautiful orange-, yellow- and pink-striped, 1-pound fruits. Though this heirloom variety takes upward of 90 days to mature, it is well worth the wait. The flavor is very old-fashioned and simply delicious.

‘Japanese Trifele Black': Black tomatoes are very popular these days. They are high in anti-oxidants and have a very complex flavor. This particular cultivar bears pear-shaped, mahogany-colored tomatoes. The fruits reach about 3 inches in length, and the plants have leaves that are shaped more like that of a potato than a tomato. Very unique!

‘Ananas Noire': This open-pollinated tomato is plain incredible. The skin of the fruit is a mixture of green, orange, yellow and pinkish-purple. Truly breathtaking. The flesh is green with red markings and is super-sweet, with just a touch of acidity. Each fruit weighs about a pound and a half.

‘Green Tiger': I've grown another green variety called ‘Green Zebra' for several years and I enjoy the sharp flavor. This bullet-shaped fruit is a close cousin. They're shaped a bit like a Roma variety, but with a pointed bottom. When ripe, ‘Green Tiger' has yellow stripes on a bright-green background, and the vines begin to bear fruit about 70 days from transplanting.

‘Kellogg's Breakfast': A massive beefsteak tomato that easily reaches 5 inches in diameter, ‘Kellogg's Breakfast' produces orange fruits that have a classic tomato flavor. My family loves to eat them sliced and drizzled with a bit of olive oil, salt and cracked pepper. You can't beat this variety for its heartiness. The seed compartments are very small.

‘Costoluto Fioretino': This tomato has heavily ribbed fruits that are slightly flattened. It's an old Italian variety that matures to a brilliant red. These beautiful tomatoes are about 4 inches across and taste perfect right off the vine. Juicy and flavorful, they also make a great sauce.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com.

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to tribliving@tribweb.com or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

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