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The Alicante Tomato

Described as an “improved Moneymaker variety,†the Alicante tomato is one of the most popular tomatoes currently being grown in gardens in the UK.  It’s an easy-to-grow, reliable tomato that produces moderate to moderately-high yields of flavorful fruit.  For these reasons it’s a favorite among beginner gardeners, or gardeners who don’t want fussy, high-maintenance tomatoes.

Keep reading to learn about this tomato that’s taken the UK by storm.  You may decide to start an Alicante tomato trend in your own garden!

Closeup of three red tomatoes growing on a plant similar to the Alicante tomato.

History of the Alicante Tomato

Introduced in 1966, the Alicante tomato comes from Unwins, England.  There’s no information as to how a tomato with English roots got such an exotic name.  Interestingly, Alicante is the name of a coastal town in Spain known for celebrating tomatoes in its cuisine.  (Did a Brit visit Alicante in the 60s, fall in love with the local food, and later name this tomato in honor of the experience?)

We’ll never know for certain if this place of tomato delights contributed to the Alicante tomato’s Spanish-origin name.

Characteristics of the Alicante Tomato

The Alicante tomato is an indeterminate heirloom that grows 6-7 feet tall and requires support structures to keep vines and fruit off the ground.  It’s a low-maintenance tomato that produces good harvests of deep red fruit.

Red tomatoes growing on the vine.

Ripening Season

The Alicante is a mid-season tomato, with fruit taking 70 days to mature.

Tomato Qualities

Alicante tomatoes are round or slightly oval shaped, with smooth, thin skin.  They have a “traditional” texture and are juicy.

Tomato Size

Alicantes are medium-sized tomatoes (the size of golf balls), weighing 4-6 ounces.

Closeup of three red tomatoes on the vine.

Planting Zones

Alicante tomatoes can be grown anywhere in the country where daytime temperatures are between 70-85 degrees and nighttime temps are between 59-68 degrees.  If daytime temps go higher, the plant won’t produce fruit as well.  If nighttime temps fall lower, it also affects fruit production.

In colder zones, greenhouses protect against chilly nights and in hot zones, coldhouses provide relief from extreme heat.

Size and Spacing

Tomato seedlings should be planted deeply with only the top 1-2 sets of leaves showing (after planting, pinch off the others). Moisten the soil prior to planting.

Plant young Alicante tomatoes 2-3 feet apart and remember to put support structures in place for future growth.

Pollination

Most tomatoes don’t need help with pollination.  If you have bees and wind, those will get the job done.

Closeup of a bumblebee on a tomato blossom.

Plant Care

The following sections will provide highlights about tomato care. For a complete guide on optimal tomato plant care, from planting to harvesting and storage, please check out our article on How To Grow Tomatoes: The Complete Guide For the Best Tomatoes.

Sunlight

Tomatoes need 6-8 hours of sunshine a day.

Soil

The ideal soil conditions for tomatoes are well-draining, loamy, slightly acidic (pH 6.2 – 6.8), and amended with compost.  Adding crushed or ground eggshells to the soil prevents blossom end rot.

Water

Tomatoes need soil that’s consistently moist, never soggy.  If soil dries out between watering, the fruit cracks.  To retain soil moisture, spread a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around your tomato plants, but keep the ground clear of mulch three inches around the base of the plant. Water on a regular basis at the base of the plant to keep the foliage dry. Most tomatoes need an inch of water each week.

Fertilizer

Tomatoes require specific nutrients (such as calcium) to produce their best crops of fruit. To learn how to determine what your tomatoes need and when they need it, consult our ultimate tomato fertilizer guide.

Pruning/Pinching

Alicante tomatoes produce their best crops of fruit when they’re pruned. Lush, bushy tomato plants won’t give you much, if any, fruit so pinching suckers should be a regular part of your tomato care.

To help you with this, visit our pruning tomatoes guide.

Person pinching suckers from a tomato plant.

Disease

Reports are that Alicante tomatoes have good disease resistance, but it’s still wise to take normal precautions.  All tomatoes are susceptible to diseases like blight, fusarium wilt, Septoria leaf spot, Verticillium wilt, and Southern bacterial wilt. Keeping the foliage dry by watering the base of the plant and removing any foliage in contact with the soil are your best defenses against tomato plant disease.

To learn how to detect, treat, and take steps to prevent diseases, read our tomato diseases guide.

Pests 

It’s an unpleasant truth: growing tomatoes means dealing with pests. Aphids, whiteflies, tomato hornworms, slugs, pill bugs, stink bugs, and rodents are just a few to be on the lookout for. Companion plants like marigolds, catnip, fennel, dill, basil, and cilantro repel common tomato pests. Netting keeps out birds and larger pests, but may interfere with beneficial insects and pollinators.

For information to help you spot, eliminate, and deter 15 different pests, visit our guide on common tomato pests.

When to Harvest Alicante Tomatoes

Check your Alicante tomatoes in July for fruit that’s ready for picking.  You’ll harvest tomatoes until the first frost comes.

After picking, Alicantes are one of those tomatoes that continue ripening on window sills or under newspaper.

Picked red tomatoes on a table.

Common Uses For Alicante Tomatoes

Alicante tomatoes are “all around†tomatoes.  They’re good for using fresh and in cooked tomato recipes.

What Does This Tomato Taste Like?

An Alicante tomato is described as full-bodied with an “old-time” sweet tomato taste.

Cooking

Sauces, spaghetti, chili, soups, stews, casseroles – Alicantes work for various cooked dishes.

Dish of seafood paella with tomatoes

Eating Raw

Use Alicantes for salads, sandwiches, burgers, salsas, bruschettas, and other fresh tomato recipes.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

The Alicante is noted for being a good canning tomato.  You can also freeze or dry them for later use.

Recipe Ideas 

Paella With Shrimp and Tomatoes (substitute fresh Alicantes for the canned diced tomatoes)

Spanish Rice

Pan Con Tomate

Sofrito Sauce (again, substitute fresh Alicantes for canned tomatoes)

Jar of homemade tomato sauce.
Tomato salsa in a glass jar. Homemade spicy tomato sauce with chilli, garlic and lime. Close up and horizontal orientation.

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Tomatoes don’t just look pretty — they’re healthy foods!  All tomatoes are high in fiber, vitamins C and K, potassium, and folate. They’re also one of the best dietary sources of lycopene, an antioxidant credited with reducing the risks of heart disease and cancer.

Where to Buy Alicante Tomato Plants or Seeds

Alicante tomato plants aren’t popular in the US, so starter plants will be hard to come by.  You can check with local nurseries and garden centers to ask if they carry them.  Seeds are easier to get since those can be ordered from online retailers or Amazon.

Where to Buy Alicante Tomatoes

Since Alicante tomatoes are heirlooms — and an uncommon one in this country — you may have a hard time finding the fruit to buy.  It’s always worth a look at local farmers markets and roadside produce stands to see if they’re available. 

Wrapping Up the Alicante Tomato

Clusters of red tomatoes on plants.

An English tomato with a spicy Latin name — the origin story of the Alicante tomato might never be known.  But the mystery is what makes this nearly fool-proof tomato a fun addition for any kitchen garden.  Use these tasty tomatoes to whip up Spanish tapas or seafood dishes to create your own seaside vacation cuisine.

Do you grow the uncommon Alicante tomato in your garden?  If so, let us know all about it in the comments section below!  To read about other tomato varieties to plant in your garden, click here for our tomato blog posts.