Napa MG Tomato Sale Fans, its time to make your shopping list

Apr 5, 2023

Napa MG Tomato Sale Fans, its time to make your shopping list

Apr 5, 2023

For many locals, the UC Master Gardeners of Napa County's annual tomato sale is the true harbinger of spring. Details about the event on April 15 are at the end of this article. We are selling two dozen proven varieties this year, ranging from fat, red beefsteak to tiny, sweet cherries.  

We have eight classic red tomatoes, suitable for your favorite sandwiches and salads. Better Boy is a favorite; it is disease resistant, it is huge, and it produces all summer long into the fall. Bloody Butcher has a rich heirloom flavor and is ready to eat in eight weeks. It remains productive until frost. Early Girl is an early and heavy producer. It grows in clusters and has an excellent tomato flavor and aroma. Super Beefsteak is another large red tomato, averaging 17 ounces each.  As its name suggests, it is tasty and meaty. Mortgage Lifter is a favorite variety every year; its fruits are pink, huge, and full of flavor. Its unique name comes from a grower who developed it in the 1930s and sold the plants to pay off his mortgage!

We have three red tomato varieties that are good for container growing.  Super Bush is a good slicing tomato, specially bred to yield large crops on 2½- to 3-foot plants.  Celebrity also has an abundant yield of flavorful slicing tomatoes. Dwarf Hannah's Prize is a beefsteak tomato that weighs from 6 to 12 ounces and has a flattened form.  It is red with lighter striping and produces an abundant mid-season crop.

Many of our customers like to grow unusually colored tomatoes. Black Krim was originally grown in the Crimea near the Black Sea and has a rich taste.  It is a dark maroon color. Paul Robeson is named after the Black scholar/singer/actor/activist and has a sweet and smoky flavor.  It is very popular and always sells out. Pork Chop is a true yellow tomato, sweet with a hint of citrus. Kellogg's Breakfast is a sweet orange tomato.  Vintage Wine is pink with gold stripes and is also very sweet.  Because of its distinctive appearance as well as excellent flavor, it is popular with chefs. All of these are beefsteak tomatoes, and most are heirlooms.

We are also selling three slicing tomatoes that would look wonderful in a clear glass salad bowl. Green zebra is chartreuse with lime green stripes.  Don't let the color fool you—it is at least as sweet as a red tomato. Chocolate Stripe is dark brown with olive green stripes.  It is described as “rich, earthy, complex,” and it produces well into fall. Indigo Apple grows in clusters and is a huge producer.  It is a small beefsteak tomato--fruits weigh from 2 to 4 ounces.  Its unusual blue color (it ripens to almost black) comes from anthocyanin, the same substance that makes blueberries blue.  Again, these three are heirloom tomatoes.

Cherry tomatoes are always popular, probably because people like to eat them straight off the vine, still warm from the sun. That's when you realize that a tomato really is a fruit—some of these are as sweet as sugar. Sungold may be the most popular cherry tomato of all time.  Its golden orange fruit is sweet before it is fully ripe, so you have plenty of time to snack on it.  It is prolific and easy to grow, with the fruit appearing in large clusters.  What's not to like? Super Sweet 100 produces right up to first frost.  It has scarlet, cherry-sized fruits in long clusters.  Orange Hat is a new variety—a micro tomato that you can grow in a 6-inch pot!  It can be grown indoors on a sunny window sill, or in a container outside.  Consider it as an edible ornamental plant for your flower bed. 

Grape tomatoes are simply cherry tomatoes that grow in grape-like clusters. We have two this year—Juliet and Prairie Fire.  Juliet is a disease resistant prolific producer with a slightly elongated shape and very sweet flavor. Prairie Fire is the sweetest grape tomato of all.  It is a pointed fruit, red with pale gold striping and deep red flesh, and is perfect for container gardening.

Many people in Napa like to grow their own tomatoes for sauce and paste, and the sale will have three varieties that are perfect for that. Gladiator, a Roma tomato, lives up to its name—it is unbeatable in the arena of flavor, vigor, and size. The fruit is oval-shaped and the plant is exceptionally disease resistant. Inca Jewel is suitable for container growing, but does well in a small garden, too. These two tomatoes are hybrids. Super San Marzano is an heirloom, improved variety of San Marzano. It's a paste tomato with outstanding flavor, making it perfect for tomato sauce and salsa.

Recent rains have made us more optimistic about gardening this summer, and we can't wait to get started. However, it is still too cold to set out our tomato plants. Watch this space next week for tomato growing advice from UC Napa County Master Gardeners.


Annual Tomato Fest & Sale: This year's in-person sale will be on Saturday, April 15, from 9 am until 2 pm (or until sold out), at 1710 Soscol Avenue, cash or checks only, please. Plants are grown with care by our local UC Master Gardeners, and cost $5 each. The tomato fest features education tables staffed by our expert tomato growers. An online sale (credit cards only) follows the in-person event starting at 5 pm on April 15 until 5 pm April 16. 


Library Talk: Join UC Master Gardeners of Napa County and Napa County Library April 7 at 7:00 pm for a free talk on “Introduction to Companion Planting.” Companion planting has been used in various forms for thousands of years. It uses plant partnerships to improve the general ecological community of the garden and generate a well-balanced habitat in which all organisms thrive. The event is free but you must register to receive the zoom link:


Food Growing Forum: April 16, 2023 3:00 pm, by zoomWe'll focus on growing tomatoesExplore everything from planting tips, site selection, and soil prep, to tricks to growing the best-flavored tomatoes. Also learn how to avoid pests and disease and discover some tips on trellises and support. Find out what else you can plant and do now in your edible garden area as well. Event is free; sign up to get the zoom link at


Help Desk: The Master Gardener Help Desk is available to answer your garden questions on Mondays and Fridays from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the University of California Cooperative Extension Office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa. Or Send your questions to Include your name, address, phone number and a brief description of the problem.  For best results, attach a photo of the plant. You may also leave a voicemail message with the same information at 707-253-4143.