Green Zebra Tomato

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Green Zebra Tomato is a tomato variety developed in the 1980s that is now considered to be a classic among striped and bi-color tomatoes.

Technically it’s not an heirloom, since its history is not quite long enough yet. Green Zebra is not only tasty but it’s unusual. It brightens up salads and other dishes.

Green Zebra’s characteristic dark green and yellow stripes and simultaneous sweet and tangy taste have made it a favorite with chefs and restauranteurs. Newer variations blush reddish instead of yellow when ripe. (See a list of Green Zebra tomato varieties.)

Alice Waters of Berkeley, CA popularized Green Zebra at Chez Panisse, a well-known restaurant that uses local, organic foods and considered the birthplace of California cuisine.

What’s the history of Green Zebra Tomato?

Green Zebra Tomato

Potato and tomato breeder Tom Wagner of Everett, Washington developed Green Zebra. He used four heirloom tomatoes, including Evergreen, a medium-size green tomato. As Tom tells it, he first conceived the idea of a green striped tomato when he was growing up in the 1950s. At the time, he regularly ordered seeds from Gleckler’s catalog. Evergreen intrigued him. In his words, “I thought it was a crazy-looking tomato. It was late-maturing, and I didn't know when it was ripe. When is a green tomato ripe?” Tom felt that Evergreen’s fatal flaw was its tendency to crack – it is the perfect tomato for throwing, but fell apart in his hands. Right then, Tom determined that he would develop a green tomato that wouldn’t crack.

In 1983 Tom introduced Green Zebra Tomato in his Tater-Mater Seed Catalog. The catalog was published from 1983 through 1986 and has since become a research and development enterprise.

How do you know when a Green Zebra is ripe?

It can be hard to tell. There’s a lot of green! Try these harvesting tips:

  • Grasp the tomato gently, feeling for firmness and a slight “give,” much like when a red tomato is ready to pick.
  • Look for the Zebra’s light green stripes to turn yellow.
  • Watch for bottom of yellow stripes to begin to show a blush color.
  • Determine your favorite ripening stage over time If you prefer a more tart flavor, pick Green Zebras sooner. Leave Zebras on the vine if you want them to be sweeter. But be careful – fruit can get mealy if you wait too long to harvest them.

Learn more about Green Zebra Tomato seeds and plants.

Green Zebra Tomato
Type: OP (open pollinated)
Origin: Everett, WA, USA
Days to maturity: 75 days
Season: Mid-season
Foliage/habit: compact with medium cover
Fruit color: yellow/gold with dark green stripes; lime-emerald flesh
Fruit shape/size: globe, smooth, round, 2 inches
Disease resistance: not bred for resistance. The jury is out among home gardeners – some say Green Zebra is very resistant to disease while others say it’s not resistant at all.
Yield: moderate
Taste: old-fashioned, tangy, slightly astringent
Other strains: Big Zebra Tomato; Black Zebra Tomato; Red Zebra Tomato
Other notes: Follow Tom Wagner’s blog, Tater-Mater, as he develops additional Zebra strains.

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