Thorburn’s Terra Cotta


  • Grown, sold, and described by Bunny Hop Seeds
  • Plant growth: indeterminate
  • Leaf type: regular leaf
  • Time to maturity: midseason
  • Approx. number of seeds per pack: 15+
  • Germination tested after Hot Water Seed Treatment for Fungal and Bacterial Diseases

“Thorburn’s Terra Cotta” has to be one of the most beautiful tomatoes I have grown. From the outside, it resembles Elser Farm’s Brown Derby. But when sliced, the beautiful pink (I think there may be beta-carotene in this one) blends with the ochre/orange and green seed gel to create tomato art. The texture is plump and smooth, while the flavor is full-bodied, tomatoey, and perhaps a bit sweeter than EFDB. This variety showed excellent vigor in my hot and humid climate.
As for the history, with the help of friends, I have located two resources of information. First is a post by William Woys Weaver from 2013 ( He stated: “The [J. M. Thorburn & Company] firm introduced the Terra Cotta Tomato in 1893. … it was featured in a chromolithograph that served as the frontispiece for the 1893 catalog. … the tomato is unusual because of its color. Thorburn claimed it was unique in many other ways too: flavor, keeping qualities, and a good shipper. … the road to genetic recovery was a bumpy one … a brown-fleshed grandfather may be in the genealogy. Nor do we know who actually created the tomato. Thorburn acquired it from a farmer or plant breeder; that much is clear. … I do not think it was fully stable …Seeds for the Terra Cotta Tomato came into the Roughwood Seed Collection in 1993. … These were a gift from an old farmer who was selling his ancestral property to a developer and wanted his heirlooms to find a new and safer home.”
A second resource stated, “In beginning his experiments, the “Peach” was one kind selected by Mr. Carman as the female parent, while the favorites of the day were chosen as the males. Not one of the plants grown from this seed bore Tomatoes which resembled the “Peach” mother; not one developed its characteristic downy skin. The best of these cross-breds were chosen as the female parents the next year, and were crossed with ‘Ponderosa,’ ‘Ignotum,’ ‘Stone,’ etc., and ‘Terra-Cotta’ is one of the results.”
I am using the original spelling and punctuation shown in the 1893 Thorburn’s seed catalog. Other versions exist.

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