Even though we’ve already donated 2,000 pounds of vegetables to the Media Food Bank, Lucille’s Garden is still bursting with life.

We like to do a lot of experimenting in Lucille’s – just down the path from The Pollinator Preserve in case you’ve never been – and we love it when folks stop by to ask questions. I never get tired of sharing tips and knowledge about what we’re growing, especially when it comes to tomatoes, a true star crop this summer.

Lucille's Garden: a bounty of fresh produce.

Everyone who knows me knows I love everything about tomatoes.

I love eating them fresh from the garden, I love the way they look as they ripen on the vine, I love growing them…I even love the way the leaves smell. If I could make a perfume out of it, I would. 

I come from a family of tomato lovers. It was the first plant my mother taught me to grow from seed. We would start them on a sunny windowsill in mid-February and I loved watching their first little leaves unfurl as the winter sun came pouring in through the bare branches of the trees. My grandmother grew them too – always ‘San Marzano’ that she would plant with a handful of eggshells in the garden. She maintained – and my mother agrees – that they make the best sauce.

Still, we all have our favorite varieties. If I were to list all of mine here this would read like a seed catalog. So here are just a few that really stand out to me this year as good ones for the home garden.

Tomato ‘Sun Gold’

This is the very first tomato I ever grew. Tomato ‘Sun Gold’ is a very easy indeterminate tomato variety that is versatile enough to grow everywhere from in the ground in a big garden to a container on a patio. It’s a prolific producer as well, yielding a bounty of sunny gold cherry tomatoes that taste so sweet even my 4-year-old loves them. They are delicious eaten straight off the vine, in a salad, or even sautéed in a sauce until they just burst. Serve with pasta, basil, mozzarella, and a little balsamic. 

San Marzano: the delight of Italian grandmothers everywhere.

Tomato ‘Hungarian Heart’

If you are looking for an oxheart tomato look no further than ‘Hungarian Heart’. This was a new variety to me this year that I couldn’t resist trying out.

What is an oxheart tomato you ask? This incredibly versatile tomato type might just become your new favorite. Oxhearts are large like beefsteaks, and lower in water content, which makes them perfect for canning or for turning into sauce.

‘Hungarian Heart’ is a variety from Budapest that is very resistant to cracking and seldom develops a hollow core; just a rich tomato flavor in every slice. And with individual tomatoes that can weigh up to 3 lbs. ‘Hungarian Heart’ is a great one to have on hand when you want to make a giant pot of sauce.

I made my marinara this summer with a blend of ‘Hungarian Heart’ and ‘San Marzano’ and I thought it was delicious. Just don’t tell my grandmother.!

Check out the color on these gorgeous Indigo Rose tomatoes.

Tomato ‘Pineapple’

Ok, I’m going to admit this was a tough one for me. I just love so many classic beefsteak tomatoes. ‘Brandywine’, ‘Cherokee Purple’, ‘Black Krim’ – they are all so wonderful. I’m going to go with ‘Pineapple’ here because it was a newer variety for me to grow. I tend to prefer the darker reds and purples in my slicing tomatoes, but I took a risk with this vibrant, yellow and red striped beauty and boy did it pay off!

Tomato ‘Pineapple’ is so sweet that it’s almost tropical, with a smooth fruity flavor that is truly out of this world. If you are looking for a sweet, flavorful, and beautiful beefsteak tomato, consider this one. Bonus, like all yellow tomatoes it’s lower in acid so if you’re like me and sometimes make a full meal out of tomatoes, this one will be slightly easier on your stomach.

A bountiful producer, ‘Pineapple’ will yield fruits that can be up to 5 lbs.! An outstanding tomato all around and one I will definitely be growing again. 

The next time you visit Tyler Arboretum, be sure to stop by Lucille’s Garden to see all of these fantastic tomatoes in action. Happy growing!

These Sun Gold tomatoes are like eating little bursts of sunshine.

Tomato ‘San Marzano’

I wouldn’t be from an Italian family if I didn’t list this variety among my favorites. ‘San Marzano’ tomatoes are a prized staple in Italian cooking. They are known for their sweet but strong tomato flavor, and are juicy without being watery which makes them perfect for sauce. They are also slightly less acidic than other paste or plum tomatoes. But are they worth the hype? I think so.

I’ve made sauce with every type of tomato imaginable and I still think the sauces with at least some San Marzano are the best. It’s like my Italian grandmother used to say. She would only drive into South Philly for three things – good olive oil, good parmesan, and San Marzano seeds. 

A rich oxheart variety, it's easy to see how the Hungarian Heart got its name.

Tomato ‘Indigo Rose’

If you want a dramatic addition to your tomato garden, ‘Indigo Rose’ might be just what you’re looking for. This is a ‘blue’, globular tomato – slightly larger than the average cherry tomato with distinctive dark coloring. ‘Indigo Rose’ is deep blue-black on the top of the fruit where it is exposed to sunlight, and rosy red underneath when ripe.

This striking tomato has prompted lots of conversation here in Lucille’s. A later producer, ‘Indigo Rose’ will give you tomatoes into October, which is a bonus for everyone who wants fresh tomatoes into the fall. This variety pairs well with ‘Sun Gold’, ‘Sun Golds’ yield early and ‘Indigo Rose’ carries you into the colder months. With a lovely, classic sour tomato taste this variety goes very well on salads. 

A lesser known beefsteak variety, the Pineapple tomato is a winner.