Whether or not there’s any truth to the centuries-old notion that the tomato is an aphrodisiac, there’s a lot to love about the varieties of tomatoes available at farmers’ markets today. In red, yellow, green, shades between, speckles, and stripes, tomatoes at their peak production present seemingly too many choices. The names of the varieties are equally intriguing and colorful: Black Prince, Early Girl, Mortgage Lifter, Green Zebra, Ivory Pear, Pineapple.

These are only a few of the possibilities. Ed George of The Peach Farm, who grows more than 100 varieties himself, says he’s seen lists of at least 500 heirloom tomato varieties.

Farmers’ market shoppers have help with the dilemma of abundance: the person who grew the tomatoes is often there to answer questions and offer advice on selection. When asked which tomato is best, Bill Crepps of Everything Under the Sun responds with a question of his own: What are you going to do with it?

For slicing, he suggests the Marvel Stripe, a meaty tomato. For a strong-flavored sauce, Crepps advises, “You can’t beat an Early Girl.” That’s also his pick for gazpacho. The Early Girl, he says, gives the soup its classic, sharp tomato flavor.

Crepps acknowledges that customers often gravitate toward heirloom tomatoes, viewing these open-pollinated varieties as traditional and authentic. In response, seed companies have made more heirlooms available to farmers. But there simply isn’t a “best-tasting” tomato. As The Peach Farm’s George says, “You take 100 people, and they’re all going to like a different one. The tomatoes are all good in their own way.”

In Season

June, July, August, September, October

Recipes with Tomatoes

Tagliatelle with Squash Blossoms, Tomato, and English Peas

John Pauley, Mattarello


David Winsberg, Happy Quail Farms

Chicken Leg Confit, Marinated Fig and Tomato, Fried Bread, and Arugula

Daniel Corey, Luce

Beet Bloody Mary

Jessica Goldman Foung, Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook

Articles about Tomatoes

July 25, 2014

The Great Tomato Debate

Confused by terms like heirloom, open-pollinated, hybrid, and GMO? We’ll help you sort them out.

July 18, 2014

Meet Marcy

CUESA is excited to welcome our new executive director, Marcy Coburn! Find out what inspires her work.

July 11, 2014

Farm Tripping

Summer is prime time for agritourism. Here’s our list of local U-picks, tours, and other farm fun.

July 09, 2014

A Fond Farewell from Critical Edge Knife Sharpening

Bob Kattenburg retires after 19 years as the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market’s knife sharpener.

July 04, 2014

On the Farm at Marin Roots

Take a behind-the-scenes look at organic veggie growing with the young farmers at Marin Roots Farm.


CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and its educational programs. Learn More »