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The Green Zebra Tomato


If you’re looking for a tomato that’s got looks and taste, then you’re going to enjoy the Green Zebra tomato.  Somewhat new to the tomato scene, it quickly became a classic among striped tomatoes.  Its dependability in the garden has made it popular with home growers and its flavor had made a favorite with chefs for years.

If you’re unfamiliar with green tomatoes, the Green Zebra is a great introduction to green tomato varieties. Keep reading about this zesty tomato — we bet you’ll want to grow one in your garden this summer!

Closeup of three Green Zebra tomato fruit.
Once you’ve tried the Green Zebra tomato, you may become a fan of green tomato varieties.

History of the Green Zebra Tomato

The Green Zebra was developed in the early 1980s by Tom Wagner in Everett, Washington. In 1983 he officially debuted it in his Tater-Mater Seed Catalog.  Wagner was inspired to create a striped tomato like the Evergreen, but he wanted a striped tomato that wasn’t prone to cracking.  The Green Zebra delivered.

It’s not classified as an heirloom tomato yet (seeds have to be passed down for 50-100 years or more), but for now Wagner calls it an “heirloom by descent.”  Do yourself a favor and read the 2008 blog post he wrote about his Green Zebra tomato.

Characteristics of the Green Zebra Tomato

Green Zebra vines grow to 4-6 feet in length, are large, and require stakes or cages for support to keep fruit off the ground.  It’s an indeterminate variety with a moderate to generous yield of fruit that is yellow-green with darker green stripes.

Closeup of two Green Zebra tomatoes on a table.

Ripening Season

Mid-season tomato that begins to produce fruit 75-80 days after transplanting.  Expect to start harvesting in mid- to late-summer.

Tomato Qualities

Sweet and tart, but has an aroma associated with old-fashioned tomatoes.

Tomato size

Small size fruit (2 inches), weighting 3-4 oz.

Planting Zones

Just about all of them: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.

The Green Zebra does well in raised beds or large containers like wine/whiskey barrels.

Person planting a tomato in a half-barrel container.

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 tomatoes 24-36 inches apart.

Once planted, tamp the soil gently — don’t compact it. Water your newly planted tomatoes thoroughly, taking care not to get the leaves wet. You may also apply fertilizer at this time.

Pollination

Green Zebras are self-pollinating and only need natural pollinators like honeybees, bumblebees, and wind.

Plant Care

Green Zebras require normal tomato 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.

Green Zebra tomatoes growing on a vine.

Sunlight

At least 6 hours of sunlight each day.

Soil

Should be acidic (6.5 pH), well-draining, and amended with compost and decomposed manure to a depth of 24-36 inches.

Water

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. Provide an inch of water each week to keep the ground moist (not soggy).

Garden sprayer watering the base of a tomato plant.

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

Pruning and pinching are a tomato care technique that can help your tomato put forth its best yield. But you need to know when to do this and what tomatoes need it. To help you with this, visit our pruning tomatoes guide.

Overhead view of a tomato seedling.

Disease

Green Zebra tomato plants do not appear more or less disease-resistant than average tomato varieties, which means it can succumb to the common tomato 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 is your best defense against tomato plant disease.

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

Pests

Tomatoes suffer a number of pests including aphids, whiteflies, tomato hornworms, slugs, pill bugs, and rodents. Companion plants like marigolds, catnip, fennel, dill, basil, and cilantro repel common tomato pests. Netting helps keep out birds and larger pests, but can also 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 Green Zebra Tomatoes

Pile of picked Green Zebra tomatoes.

Because they’re green, it’s tricky to know when Green Zebra tomatoes are ripe.  The lighter green color will turn yellow-green, there will be a little blush on the bottom,  and you’ll feel some “give” when you gently squeeze the tomato.

Common Uses For Green Zebra Tomatoes

Fresh or chilled dishes are popular ways to showcase the flavor of Green Zebra tomatoes.

A Green Zebra tomato cut in half in front of whole Green Zebra tomatoes.

What Does the Green Zebra Tomato Taste Like?

This tomato is described as flavor that’s both sweet and tart — i.e., tangy.

Cooking

The “zingy” flavor makes this a prime candidate for that classic southern treat — fried green tomatoes.  If you’ve never tried these, you should!

To take things up another notch, make the fried green tomatoes recipe below and use them as the “T” in a BLT sandwich (you’ll thank me once you taste it!).

Eating Raw

The Green Zebra’s flavor come through best in salads and salsas.

Green Zebra tomatoes in a salad with prosciutto, cheese, olives, and oil.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Green Zebras can produce dozens of fruits per plant, so you may need to preserve your harvest.

Canning

Tomatoes are some of the easiest produce to can. Click here for an article that will tell you everything you need to know to safely can and store your tomato harvest.

Green tomatoes in a glass jar.

Freezing

Tomatoes can also be frozen, although you might never have thought about doing that. Frozen tomatoes become mushy when thawed out, so use them for cooked foods. For the best way to freeze your tomatoes, read this article.

Drying

Dried tomatoes aren’t just for red-colored varieties.  Here’s an easy Better Homes & Gardens recipe for making dried green tomatoes.

Recipe Ideas

Tangy Green Zebra Gazpacho

Green Zebra Tomato Caprese Salad

Green Zebra Tomato Ketchup

Fried Green Tomatoes

A plate of fried green tomatoes.

Health Benefits of Green Zebra Tomatoes

Tomatoes are high in 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. Tomatoes aren’t just delicious — they’re healthy too.

Where to Buy Green Zebra Tomato Plants or Seeds

Green Zebra tomato plants and seeds are available through several online retailers, including Amazon.com.

Where to Buy Green Zebra Tomatoes

Green Zebras aren’t a tomato that most grocery store produce departments will carry.  You may find them at specialty produce shops, farmers markets, or farm stands.

Wrapping Up the Green Zebra Tomato

Closeup of picked Green Zebra tomatoes.

The Green Zebra is the work of dedicated tomato artist, Tom Wagner.  No doubt his creation will someday take its rightful place as an official heirloom tomato.  Today we get to enjoy this reliable variety that produces fruit both beautiful and delicious.  Get some seeds and start growing these as soon as you can!

Have a tip about growing or eating Green Zebra tomatoes?  Share it in the comments section below! 

For more tomato reading, click here for our other tomato-related blog articles.