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 — I bet you’ll want to grow one in your garden this summer!
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.
Ripening Season (early, late, etc)
Mid-season tomato that begins to produce fruit 75-80 days after transplanting. Expect to start harvesting in mid- to late-summer.
Tomato qualities: tart, sweet, firm, etc
Sweet and tart, but has an aroma associated with old-fashioned tomatoes.
Small size fruit (2 inches), weighting 3-4 oz.
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.
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.
Green Zebras are self-pollinating and only need natural pollinators like honeybees, bumblebees, and wind.
Green Zebras require normal tomato care.
At least 6 hours of sunlight each day.
Should be acidic (6.5 pH), well-draining, and amended with compost and decomposed manure to a depth of 24-36 inches.
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).
Once blossoms start to appear on your tomato plant, add extra compost, a cup of compost tea, or a slow-release tomato fertilizer on the soil near the roots. Do this every 1-2 weeks until the first frost of the fall kills the plant. Be careful not to add too much nitrogen as that could keep your plant from producing fruit (low-nitrogen fertilizers have “3” or lower as the first number).
Lush, bushy tomato plants won’t give you many (if any tomatoes) — you have to prune/pinch them aggressively! This short video will explain all you need to know about suckers and how to remove them so that your plants will produce the best yield of fruit.
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.
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.
When to Harvest 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.
What Does the Green Zebra Tomato Taste Like?
This tomato is described as flavor that’s both sweet and tart — i.e., tangy.
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!).
The Green Zebra’s flavor come through best in salads and salsas.
Canning / Freezing / Drying
Green Zebras can produce dozens of fruits per plant, so you may need to preserve your harvest.
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.
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.
Dried tomatoes aren’t just for red-colored varieties. Here’s an easy Better Homes & Gardens recipe for making dried 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
The Green Zebra is the work of dedicated tomato artist, Tom Wagner. No doubt his creation will some day take it’s rightful place as an official heirloom tomato. Today we get to enjoy this reliable variety that produces fruit both beautiful and delicious. I don’t know about you, but I plan to grow this tomato as soon as I’m able.
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.