Tomatoes come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, flavors and COLORS!
Let’s celebrate the colors of seasonally fresh, sweet and juicy rainbow tomatoes all summer long!
Because heirloom tomatoes really DO come in every color of the rainbow!
There’s red, pink, orange, yellow, white, green, purple, almost black and practically infinite shades in between! And streaked and stripped tomatoes too!
Did ya know that there’s more than 15,000 known varieties of tomatoes (WHOA!)?!?!
So why do we always see the same few varieties of red tomatoes at the supermarket?
Because most of the supermarket varieties aren't heirlooms! They are hybrid tomatoes!
What are Rainbow Tomatoes?
First thangs first: let’s define our terms.
When the colors of the rainbow are creating by combining different tomatoes, we’re referring to those tomatoes as rainbow tomatoes!
They are not a variety of tomato.
Rather the term used to describe tomatoes of any shape, size and color whose colors collective create a rainbow.
What’s an Heirloom Tomato?
Heirloom tomatoes is an all-encompassing terms referring to varieties of tomatoes whose seeds have been passed down for generations.
These are in sharp contrast to the hybrid tomatoes most typically found at the supermarkets, which are hybrid tomatoes.
A hybrid tomato is the result of intentionally cross-pollinating two different varieties of tomatoes. This crossbreeding is done so that the resulting tomato has particular traits (such as improved disease resistance, more dependable yields, etc.).
Main Factors Differentiating Heirloom vs Hybrid Tomatoes:
- You can grow heirloom tomatoes from their seeds
- Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated (commercially grown hybrid tomatoes are not)
Heirloom tomatoes are often but not necessarily organic. They would still be called heirlooms even if they were treated with pesticides and other chemicals.
In theory, you can create a hybrid from heirlooms. If you’ve come across any heirloom hybrid tomatoes, please share in the comments below!
Heirloom Tomatoes come in a stunning array of colors and unique flavor profiles!
Why are Tomatoes Different Colors?
The color of tomatoes is genetic and encoded in the variety’s ancestry.
It is the result of both the pigments in the tomatoes skin and the color the interior.
For example, there’s yellow-green tomatoes as the result of a yellow tomato skin over a green interior and bright green tomatoes that come from a nearly clean tomato skin over a green interior. And there’s dark purple Cherokee Purple tomato, that’ often described as black, that has a deep crimson interior and a clear skin, which combine to give it its distinctive color.
Even within a single tomato color, there’s practically infinite hues!
Within the orange – yellow – white spectrum, fom pale lemon yellow to deep golden to bright orange and many many shades in between! These color variations are created by flesh pigments with clear or yellow skins.
Tomatoes within the purple to black spectrum retain some chlorophyll (green pigment) during ripening that combines with a crimson red interior to produces a darker red, including purple coloration.
The Colors of Heirloom Tomatoes
Different pigments in tomatoes tend to produce different balances of sugars and acids. For example, orange or yellow tomatoes often taste milder and less acidic than red tomatoes.
Let’s explore all the rainbow colors of heirloom tomatoes!
Red tomatoes: Typically, container a higher acidity than other tomato colors and deliver the classic tomato taste. Though there’s a whole wide world of variety just within the red tomato world!
Examples: Stupice, Costoluto and hessalonik
Pink Tomatoes: Tend to be sweeter and somewhat milder than their red counterparts, with medium acid levels (less than red but more than green).
Examples: the best know pink variety, Pink Brandywine, is prized for its intense tomato flavor and tangy taste.
Orange Tomatoes: Tend to be mild, sweet and are low-acid.
Examples: Persimmon tomatoes, Juane Flamme and Kellog’s breakfast.
Yellow & White Tomatoes: color ranges anywhere from a dark and bright yellow to a light practically white yellow. White tomatoes are not truly white but very pale yellow with clear or very pale yellow skin. The common factor is low acidity. The lighter colors have the lowest acid of any of the tomato varieties.
Examples: Yellow Pear, Gold Medal Yellow, Great White and White Wonder.
Green Tomatoes: Not to be confused with unripe tomatoes! They vary in sweetness, but the commonality of green tomato is a bright acidity.
Examples: Green Zebra and Green Moldovan.
Purple & Black Tomatoes: Purple or black tomatoes have a strong, robust, smoky flavor. They hold onto more of their chlorophyll than most other varieties and tend to have higher acid levels, along the lines of a red tomato.
Examples: Black Cherry, Black Beauty and Cherokee Purple.
Tomato flavor range from mild to sweet to tangy and even smoky, with vary degrees of acidity.
Where can I find Rainbow Tomatoes?
Head to your local farmers market in the summer to find the whole color spectrum of heirloom tomatoes!
Red, pink, orange, yellow, white, green, purple, black-ish and all the shades in between – get your rainbow tomato game on at your local farmers market!
Regardless of the color, a ripe tomato from the farmers market will taste better and be bursting with more tomato flavor than any you’ll find at the supermarket!
Stoked on all the colors of rainbow tomatoes?
Me too! Check out these dishes that celebrate rainbow tomatoes:
And check out these images of all sorts of delicious food featuring colorful tomatoes!
Are you super stoked on rainbow tomatoes too? I’d love to hear about it and see them too! Please leave a comment below and take a pic and tag it on Instagram with #chefdanielagerson. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to see more colorfully delicious food and all sorts of awesome adventures!
Let's make waves in the kitchen!