What Are Early Girl Tomatoes And How Did They Get Their Name?

Whether making the perfect addition when sliced on a sandwich, chopped into a salad, or topped on tacos, tomatoes are flavorful without being overpowering. Although there are few things as tasty as selecting a tomato that's been freshly picked, there are different tomato varieties that yield different flavors and various uses and can elevate the aesthetic of the dish they're included in.

While most tomatoes are red in color, heirloom varieties can have a range of hues from the traditional ruby color to golden, pink, and even a deep purple. Likewise, there are also different-sized tomatoes. These range from smaller cherry or, sometimes called grape tomatoes, which are used in salads or pasta dishes, to tomatoes that are better for slicing. There are also those that are best used for cooking, such as making tomato sauce or paste. When it comes to the slicer variety of tomatoes, there are a few that make great choices — one being the Early Girl tomato (Solanum lycopersicum).

How the Early Girl tomato came to be

To understand the importance of this type of tomato's name, you may want to speak to a gardener. These tomatoes were named for how they began to yield a harvest within two months of being transplanted into the ground. Tomatoes are grown from seed, usually indoors until the plant starts to sprout, and then it's hearty enough to be brought outdoors for direct planting into soil. 

Some varieties of tomatoes can take up to 100 days to bear fruit after planting, so when the Early Girl was discovered and developed in France by horticulturalist Joe Howland in the '70s, it caused a stir in the plant world. Howland sold the rights to the W. Atlee Burpee Company and PetoSeed and came up with the name to go along with the Burpee Company's popular Better Boy variety of tomatoes. Once the Early Girl seed became available in America, it quickly became a favorite among gardeners since it yields fruit about 60 days after transplant and continues to bear fruit throughout the summer.

What does an Early Girl tomato taste like?

Early Girl tomatoes are so named because of how quickly they grow, but there are a few other characteristics that differentiate them from other types of tomatoes. When it comes to the best tomatoes for eating fresh, especially for putting a slice on a burger, or a sandwich, it's best to opt for the types known as sandwich or slicer tomatoes. These are usually characterized by their round, slightly flat shape, thin skin, and rich, concentrated flavor.

Early Girl tomatoes impart a flavor that is usually on the sweeter side, and they have a slight tang to them when bitten into. They are slightly larger and rounder than Roma tomatoes, but they're not as big as larger slicing tomatoes like the beefsteak variety. Early Girl tomatoes are red in color when they're ripe and are about the size of a tennis ball. They are considered a slicing tomato, and they have a meaty texture, meaning there's a high amount of flesh to create a more concentrated taste.

How to cook with Early Girl tomatoes

The size, shape, and texture of slicing tomatoes are perfect for eating fresh on BLT sandwiches, cutting into wedges for salads, or using the slices in a Caprese salad. However, depending on the flavor profile of the slicing tomato, they may also hold up well and impart flavor when they're added to cooked dishes. Since Early Girl tomatoes are an early variety and have a rich flavor and meaty texture, they can also be used in dishes where cooking and simmering are involved.

Early Girl varieties have thin skin and cook quickly, so if you have an abundance of them, you don't have to just eat them fresh. Their size and shape make them perfect for roasting on a sheet pan and then pureeing into a tomato soup or tomato sauce. These could easily be thrown in to make a new and improved red sauce for your favorite pasta dish, rice-based meal, or even a casserole. 

How to grow Early Girl tomatoes

Whether you have a flourishing green thumb, you are a gardening novice looking to start growing your own food, or you fall somewhere in between, tomatoes are a forgiving crop to grow. Early Girl tomatoes can be grown in the ground or in a container, making them a great option for gardeners living in urban, suburban, or country settings. 

Tomatoes are productive plants, so long as they're kept in a warm growing environment, either in the form of being planted outdoors or in a greenhouse. Just keep them away from cold temperatures, as they aren't a plant that can survive in frost. No matter where or how they're grown, the plant needs to receive between eight to 10 hours of direct sun to thrive.

Early Girl tomatoes can be grown from seed or from what's known as a starter plant that gets transplanted into a garden bed or container. You can find seeds or starter plants at your local plant store or nursery or in the gardening section of major retailers. You can also order the seeds from a seed company's catalog or purchase them online.

Nutritional benefits of Early Girl tomatoes

If you want to improve your immune system and increase your intake of vitamins and nutrients, consider adding more Early Girl tomatoes to your meals. You can eat them raw or consume them cooked in other ways — however you decide to eat them, they bring a host of health benefits. According to WebMD, tomatoes contain lycopene, which gives them a vibrant red hue. It also helps protect the plant's fruit from UV rays.

Eating foods that contain the antioxidant lycopene can improve your immune system, protect your cells from damage, and prevent certain types of cancers. In addition to lycopene, tomatoes have high amounts of vitamins C, E, and B. If those health benefits weren't enough, this plant also contains beta-carotene and potassium, which can help improve heart health (via HealthLine). Whether you grow your Early Girl tomatoes or purchase them after they're fully ripe and ready to eat, add a few to your favorite sandwich or roast them for a delicious, flavorful sauce.