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Kalyn's Kitchen

Friday Night Photos: 2009 Garden Update #7 (Documenting My Love for Green Zebra Tomatoes)

Green Zebra TomatoesThis hasn’t been the greatest gardening year at Chez Kalyn. The summer started out with weeks of rain, I was seriously distracted by house renovations, and then I got mixed up on my renovated sprinkling system and the tomatoes went for weeks with no water. Most of my plants are just surviving, but the one very bright spot in this year’s gardening adventure is the discovery of Green Zebra tomatoes. Every year I try a few new tomato varieties, so when a fellow gardener suggested that I might like Green Zebras, I got one plant (even though I had been unenthused about Striped Zebra tomatoes last year, so don’t get confused and buy those instead.) Now it’s official, Green Zebras are my favorite tomato of all, bumping Brandywines out of the top spot!

Wikipedia claims the Green Zebra is not an heirloom tomato, but then Aunt Martha’s Garden is selling Heirloom Green Zebra seeds, and I found other places also claiming Green Zebras were heirlooms. I’m inclined to think Wikipedia is right though, because heirlooms tend to be less unformly shaped. (Links to seed purveyors are merely to illustrate the plant and are not an endorsement of that site.)

This is my attempt at showing the color changes this tomato goes through as it ripens. The small front tomato (far left) is not ripe, and the green and yellow striped tomato at the end (far right) is almost too ripe. Many times when I go out to pick these, I judge ripeness by the feel, but usually the ripe ones are starting to show at least a bit of yellow color to the skin.

A commenter on the last garden update asked if I’d show what these look like when they’re cut open, so here they are in all their lime-green deliciousness. This is a small tomato, about the size of a pool ball.

This is one of my favorite ways to eat then, simply cut into chunks, drizzled with some very good olive oil and seasoned with sea salt, then sprinkled with goat cheese. I shared this, but I could have easily eaten it all myself as a lunch.

And if you happen to be making a salad to take to dinner with friends, the Green Zebras can get along well with other tomato varieties too. (I dressed these tomatoes with basil vinaigrette and served them with lots more fresh basil cut in chiffonade strips sprinkled on top.)

If you have a garden, how’s your tomato crop doing this year? And if you have a favorite tomato, I’d love to hear what it is in the comments.

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39 comments on “Friday Night Photos: 2009 Garden Update #7 (Documenting My Love for Green Zebra Tomatoes)”

  1. Green Zebra was bred by Tom Wagner (who’s still very much alive) so not sure of it is really heirloom, it hasn’t been around that long yet. I always thought of heirlooms as being passed down a few generations.
    Tom Wagner has bred plenty more tomatoes as well as potatoes and knows a lot about them and even has a forum to help amateur plant breeders.


  2. I haven't tried growing them from seeds. As soon as tomatoes start showing up in the stores, I just keep looking until I find them. Last year I found some at Home Depot, but usually I have to get them at a garden store.

  3. I LOVE Green Zebra tomatoes but have a hard time finding them here in WA. Do you get starter plants or do you order from the Aunt Martha's seeds that you mentioned? Thanks!

  4. These tomatoes look like such fun! I'll have to keep an eye out for these ones. There is just nothing like a warm, sweet tomato straight out of the garden in the middle of summer.

  5. After a week out of town, returned to find my tomato plants in a container are okay, still green, but several have grown quite a bit; however on one side of the container, a lot of the leaves are yellow. I assume it was because I placed the container to catch the sprinkler system while I was away and it may have been over watered.
    Still thinking of those incredible green zebra tomatoes, Kalyn, from your garden. I will plant them next year.
    Cheers, Wanda

  6. Dan olive tomatoes are another variety I have never tried! (And I'm very impressed you are saving the seeds for next year's tomatoes; I usually just buy plants from the garden store!)

  7. I just started a garden this year with my spouses purcahse of 8 Olive tomatoe plants as part of a school fundraiser. Needless to say, I've got enough olive tomatoes to make salads and salsa for a long time. I recently found some green zebra tomatoes at my local farmers market and fell in love. I've saved seeds from one (the ones I got had very few seeds) and hope to get at least one plant from that for next year.

  8. Jay, another tomato variety I haven't heard of! Making a note of all these for next summer. Very jealous you have tomatoes that long; here we sometimes have tomatoes into October, but usually not much longer.

  9. We're in SoCal, where it gets over 100 degrees in the summer, so it's been a challenge for us Midwesterners to find a variety of tomato that will grow, much less thrive in this climate. The best growing tomato we've found is the Juliette, an indeterminate small plum-shaped tomato. It tastes great & will produce lots of little gems right up until Christmas or beyond, depending on when the first hard frost comes.

  10. Kelly, I've never tried growing tomatoes indoors, but it sounds interesting. Sorry to hear about the bad luck this year.

    Annalea, making a note of Matt's Wild Cherry tomato, haven't heard of that before.

  11. I'll have to try Green Zebras . . . they sure look intriguing. :o)

    My tomatoes are suffering from the fact that I have small children to take care of before the garden, and no sprinkler system. (This year's garden is in a few largish pots on the back patio, as we're in a rental, and there's no. garden. space.)

    My favorite tomato is Matt's Wild Cherry. They're currant tomatoes, no more than 1/2" across, but their flavor is the best of any tomato I've ever eaten, hands down. We got our first seeds from Johnny's, but I believe that other places have them now.

  12. I'm in Rhode Island and first we had June with no sunshine, then the blight took over. I thought my tomatoes had escaped and were going to make it, but last week I discovered blight on the fruit. Darn it! I suppose I can cut off the bad bits, cook them and can them. But it's not the same as having nice lovely fresh tomatoes.

    I have one indoor plant going and hope I can get tomatoes through the winter. I managed to force tomatoes off of my indoor plants up until January last year.

    Fingers crossed that next year is better.

  13. Flavor is subjective of course! And I kind of like tart flavors, so that might be why I like this tomato so much. I think I like the flavor best when they're barely starting to show some yellow.

    Brandywines are great too! They've been my favorite for a long time before this.

  14. I live in Utah and planted 25 tomato plants this year (first real year with tomatoe plants). I ordered an heirloom mix from White Flower Farms in Connecticut and Green Zebras was one of them. We have been enjoying them. I was wondering when to pick them. I have been picking them when they turned yellow. They are a bit tart. Are they less tart when not so yellow? Brandywine was also one of the kind in the mix and it is my new favorite. Large, beautiful fruit! Thanks for your post!

  15. Katrina and Kevin, aren't they great!

    Winnie, thanks. Got a new lens and I'm having fun with it!

    Kellypea, I agree, just tart enough to make it interesting.

    Christine, I'm glad you got that greenhouse. It's been a very weird year for tomatoes here.

    Pam, I'm guessing you'd like them a lot!

    Amy, ditto for you, I'm guessing you'll like them.

    Sonja, it sounds like I should try black zebra too for next year, thanks for the tip!

  16. Yummy! From all the heirloom tomatoes I planted this year, the green and black Zebra are by far my favorite.
    Unfortunately, all others did not turn out well… Guess it must be the wired weather this year – I live in the midwest too….

  17. I just got some green zebra tomatoes in my CSA basket along with some other beautiful heirloom tomatoes. We haven't eaten the green zebras yet so I am glad I saw your post.

  18. I have got to find some of those and try them!

  19. It really hasn't been warm enough where I live for tomatoes this year, but I've got some in the greenhouse that are just now beginning to color up. I bought some green zebras from the farmers market this morning and will slice them up tonight. Great photos!

  20. Love this type of tomato — so beautiful with others in pasta salads. The tartness is perfect!

  21. Beautiful photos Kalyn!

    Yes we have had a generally poor season for tomatoes here on the East Coast, but I have still had many wonderful tomato-based meals from my garden.

    I did not plant green zebras this year, but I will next year, for sure!

  22. Kalyn,
    I LOVE green zebras! I only found them for a couple of weeks here but man are they good.

  23. So that's what they're called! Someone gave me a bunch of different tomatoes, and these were my favorites, too!

  24. Sparow, thanks. Now I'm starting a list for next year! I'm trying to remember if I've ever grown sungold tomatoes (it sounds familiar) but Cherokee Purple is new to me for sure.

  25. I agree with Paula–this year I discovered that Cherokee Purples and Sungolds are my new favorites. Not a bad tomato season for a first-year garden (the soil isn't built up very well, yet) and we had some end rot. Interestingly, the paste tomatoes (Roma and Viva Italia) along with the Sungolds have been the least affected by the blossom end rot and blights.

  26. Paula, will have to make a note of those types. Brandy Boy sounds especially interesting, all the flavor of Brandywine with the good qualities of Better Boy?

    Wanda, glad Jim got to have a taste, and thanks again for a great dinner!

    Micki, I bought this tomato as a small plant. I've never been able to get organized enough to start many of my garden plants from seed, although I have high hopes of doing it now that I'll be home. Thanks for asking to see the inside, it was fun writing about them.

    Paz, they are so yummy. Hope you are getting at least a few tomatoes in spite of the blight.

    Tammy, thanks for the recipe for fried tomatoes made from these! I'm just imagining how wonderful they must taste!

    TW, so sorry about the bad tomato year in the East.

    Nika, now that is truly sad. 🙁

    Carole, glad you are at least getting a few tomatoes and avoiding the blight.

  27. Kalyn,
    Thanks so much for taking the time to post this; very interesting and the photos are terrific. My lonely NYC tomato plant has produced exactly six tomatoes this year; not bad for a city slicker who has been rained on constantly it seems, and we have been able to eat all six of them and have had no blight. Will look for this Green Zebra now thanks to you.

  28. No Tomato Claus visited my garden this year.

    The grinch came and killed all 60 tomato plants I raised from seed.

  29. It has been a sad season for tomatoes in the Northeast, and I am missing the Green Zebras, which I fell in love with last year. If I can't have a taste, it's so nice to have a glimpse of yours!

  30. I got several heirloom varieties this year and I fell in love with the green zebras. Every word you say is true, they are so good! My husband will eat them like apples if I don't hide them. I love to make a multicolored tomato salad with them, as you did, but the best way to eat them is as Fried Green Tomatoes! Slice the firm ones (not yellow yet) as thinly as possible, coat in spelt flour, and fry on both sides in a little light olive oil. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and eat them while they're still warm! My daughter's piano teacher from Alabama said this was the "genuine Southern" recipe. 🙂

  31. I'll have to look for these tomatoes here and try your recipe.


  32. Yum….I'm so glad I asked about seeing the inside of these tomatos. I don't know why I assumed they would be green on the outside and red inside (where is my gardening brain?). I will definitely to try to find some at the farmers market and definitely try to buy a plant next spring.
    Did you buy started plants or do the seed thing? My mouth is watering. Great photos too. Thanks.

  33. I vouch for the delectable taste of your Zebra Green Tomatoes, Kalyn. Thanks for sharing them for our dinner with our long time friend, Sheila. The tomato medley went perfect with our meal yesterday and Jim and I had them again tonight….(there was one little green tomato piece left and I gave it to him).
    Wonderful taste!

  34. Cherokee Purple and Sungold are two of my favorites, but Brandy Boy (Brandywine/Better Boy cross) is up there too. I have lots of basil too

  35. Amber, so sorry to hear it. I guess on the East coast they have the tomato blight, so it could always be worse. I think this is the least tomatoes I've ever had by this time of year.

    Julie, I noticed after I wrote this that the same Wikipedia post that says they're not heirlooms calls them heirlooms in a different place, too funny. Good for you having a good tomato year! I wonder if those round orange tomatoes are Abe Lincoln tomatoes. They're round orange tomatoes barely bigger than cherry tomatoes and super sweet.

    Katie, don't you think they have the best flavor! I wish I had two plants of these; next year two plants for sure!

  36. I picked up my first green zebras at the farmers' market the other day and instantly fell in love. I was cutting them up to put in a bean salad, but barely had enough left for the salad when I was finished munching on them. I can't wait to get more tomorrow, and I will definitely plant some when I have the space for a garden. I'm glad that we both discovered them!!

  37. Those are fantastic! I say if you call them heirlooms, they're heirlooms!

    My tomatoes are doing FABULOUSLY well, thank you! Two plants are growing in an old double sink, reaching almost over the 6' fence. One is growing a "patio" variety (like Romas, but rounder) and the other is heavy with cherry tomatoes. My favourite variety I've only seen in BC – tiny, perfectly round orange tomatoes so sweet they could be turned into a cobbler and eaten for dessert. Yum.

  38. We've had such a cool summer here in the midwest, my tomato crop is really suffering! I planted 12 tomato plants, the only ripe tomatoes I've had so far have been the cherries. I'm thinking I'll have to find a use for the hundreds of green tomatoes I'll have when the first frost hits.

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