If you’ve shopped at Rainbow Gardens during spring in the past years, most likely you’ve heard of or seen signs for the Rodeo Tomato of the year. Each year a tomato variety is selected by the Texas Agrilife Extension Service for the San Antonio rodeo to hold the title, “Rodeo Tomato. Sales of the selected Rodeo Tomato during the rodeo help fund the Junior Master Gardener Program, contribute to scholarships and help fund other countywide youth gardening activities.

The tomatoes selected for this honor have been researched and field tested in order to find tomato varieties that do well in our region. The tomatoes are tested and judged on color, production, texture, size, and flavor characteristics to determine a variety that would be appealing to the home gardener. The trials are also held to ensure that there will be a good seed supply to continue to grow commercial fresh market tomatoes that are suitable for our area.

A bunch of tomatoes

Whenever spring rolls around there is always a lot of interest in the current year’s winner. What also happens is that no matter how hard we try to balance the scales, the interest sometimes outweighs the supply. We bring in tomatoes early for the spring/summer season and they tend to get scooped up fast by gardeners who know you have to get ‘em while we got ‘em! The good news is today I am sharing all the past tomatoes that have held The Rodeo Tomato title.

If you can’t find this year’s variety (2023 selection is Thunderbird), you can choose another from this list and feel confident that you are getting a tomato that has a good chance of performing wonderfully for you. The rodeo has been giving tomatoes a title since 2000, so you have about 22 great Rodeo Tomatoes (give or take a few discontinued varieties) to choose from. Most likely, Rainbow Gardens will have quite a few of these in stock. Remember that when planting tomatoes late in the season, try to find the largest tomato plant you can find. No matter which type of tomato you choose, your goal is to have fruit set before the heat sets in and halts production.

Tomatoes on the vine.

Rodeo Tomatoes Through The Years

  • 2000: Dwf Cherry Surprise, Hoffman Cherry Surprise
  • 2001: Sunpride
  • 2002: Abundant Cherry Surprise
  • 2003: Jackpot
  • 2004: Amelia
  • 2005: Amelia (yes 2 years in a row)
  • 2006: Solar Fire
  • 2007: Top Gun
  • 2008: Christa
  • 2009: Dwf Cherry Surprise (aka. BHN 968)
  • 2010: Phoenix
  • 2011: Tycoon
  • 2012: BHN 602
  • 2013: Tygress
  • 2014: ValleyCat
  • 2015: BobCat
  • 2016: Red Deuce
  • 2017: HM 1823
  • 2018: Sunbrite
  • 2019: HM 8849 Harris Moran
  • 2020: Red Snapper
  • 2021: Ruby Crush
  • 2022: STM 2255 Hybrid
  • 2023: Thunderbird


~The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy