When we talk about tomatoes, we’re really talking about options. A quick google search claims there’s over 15,000 types of tomatoes and over 3,000 types over heirloom varieties.
Does that make you panic a little? Me too. I can be indecisive when given 3 choices, let alone 3,000. The overwhelming possibility of options makes my head spin, and more often than not, if I’m not sure how to successfully start something… I just don’t. I like plans. I like backup plans. I like rules, and tips, and black and white THIS WORKS vs THIS DOESN’T. I like having the steps to be successful.
Gardening is supposed to be one of the most relaxing, rewarding hobbies there is. But when I got started, it felt quite the opposite. I can’t tell you how much I found myself (still find myself, on occasion) asking “Well, where do I start?”
We start with baby steps. Easy and simple baby steps. In today’s video I talk about exactly how I broke down the goals I wanted to achieve, what requirements those goals impose for how my tomatoes will need to be used, and then decided which varieties to grow.
For the best, clear look at this, please watch the video. Below I included just a few of the varieties we will be using, but in the video I spoke more in depth on other options.
Roma’s have less liquid, less seeds, and more flesh than your typical tomato , which makes these oval-shaped beauties ideal for canning and making sauces and salsa. They boil down faster, softer, and make your job easier when making tomato by-products from spaghetti sauce to salsa. These were our number one priority in tomatoes, because we want to make enough tomato-based products to last us from this harvest until the next.
Amish Paste Tomato
These deliciously meaty tomatoes can range in shape and size, from heart-shaped to strawberry and have an average size of 12 ounces. Always packed with flavor, this indeterminate is the dream variety to make sauces and pastes with. Originally commercialized in the 1990’s by seeds brought from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, these delicious and juicy bright red tomatoes are likely the kind you find in canned goods and sauces in the grocery store. But now with these seeds you have the chance to bring the grocery right to your garden. Excellent high yields, and only 85 days after transplant until maturity.
Black Prince Tomato
This indeterminate tomato, meaning it will grow as big and as much as you, and nature, will allow it. You can also train most indeterminates to climb. Voted the best tasting tomato in 2014, 2015, and 2017. This low-acidic variety takes about 75 days to maturity. This is my top pick for making diced tomatoes, so since it will be for canning I included it with the Roma’s. It isn’t a true Roma, because of it’s shape and being just a little juicier, but this tomato is a great example of a multi-functional option.
Another excellent nod to multi-functional tomatoes, these little beauties are excellent for serving, munching and adding to dishes. Probably the most diverse of all the types I’m talking about today, simply because cherry is just reference to their small size, and not indicative of their taste, color, or acidity. They are extremely popular with all tomato connoisseurs and garden munchers alike. These were our second priority, simply for quick eating convenience and the demand these hold at local farmer’s markets.
Black Cherry Tomato
High yields, lower acid, longer shelf life. What’s not to love? This indeterminate is perfect to start indoors. 70 days until maturity, and then you can enjoy the deep colors and unique flavors this plant has to offer.
Tommy Toe Tomatoes
The “cherry” tomato that can get rather plump. Can also be known as the “steakhouse”. A rather fun play on words, but this variety means business with very productive yields and loads of “old-fashion” flavor. Ideal to start indoors, this indeterminate needs 70 days to mature, and can be trained to climb up stakes or a trellis. Excellent choice to withstand high heat and humidity.
“Slicing” Type Tomatoes
Slicing, or beefsteak tomatoes, were somewhat low on my priority list, not because we didn’t want them, but because I felt we didn’t need that much of them because this type of tomatoes presence is rather fleeting. Their main function is to cut and serve immediately which is fabulous for a summer dinner, but my ultimate goal was to store a bounty for winter by canning and these just aren’t the top pick for that. They, however, could be the only reason you are even interested in growing your own. There’s many types to choose from and one of your biggest deciding factors will be space and taste.
This beautifully marbled bi-colored indeterminate tomato produces massive fruits. Ideal to start indoors, takes 90 days until maturity, but produces high yields. Perfect for slicing and sandwiches. This is an indeterminate variety, meaning it will grow rather large. if you’re filling a garden plot this, or something similar, may be your ideal slicing tomato
I didn’t talk about determinate plants in the video very much, simply because that type of plant isn’t something we need. We are interested in getting our plants to grow as big as much as they can, so we have stuck with mainly indeterminate types. However, if you’re pot-planting with very limitted space, these determinate varieities are worth mentioning.
Ace 55 Tomato
Have limited space? This determinate variety is great for container growing. Hello, balcony tomatoes. Very resistant, and the heavy foliage helps to protect the fruit from sunburn. For a red tomato, it has surprisingly low acid content with an overall sweet, smooth taste.
Another determinate tomato, this guy can easily adapt to hot and humid climates, as well as withstanding high temperatures, and produce a large yield. It doesn’t even bat an eye to high temps at night, unlike most tomatoes who like it cool while they sleep (something I relate to). Perfect for sandwiches, salads and slicing, especially in southern climates.
Understanding the tomato’s class, best helps you determine your need. From there, all you need to do is make your choice on what will fit your needs the most.
Just remember you don’t need to know everything gardening related to get started. You don’t need acres and acres. You don’t need a pristine green thumb. You just need to get started.
You can do this! You can grow your own food. And you can be on your way to gardening, homegrown dreams.
2 thoughts on “Talkin’ Tomatoes: Which Variety Fits Your Needs”
Definitely some useful distinctions! I had always thought of tomatoes in terms of ‘more’ tomato, ‘smaller’ tomato, or ‘bite sized’ tomato – so now I need to eat them all again to really explore the differences.
Do you find that it’s safer to keep tomatoes very spread out, or do they typically not spread disease at close distance?
I like any excuse to taste test tomatoes 😋 We have always placed our tomatoes fairly close and some years are worse than others for disease. I really think keeping watch for disease is more helpful than the spacing, and being ruthless in removing a plant if it’s significantly diseased so that the disease doesn’t spread. I’m especially being more reliant on companions like marigold and borage to be a good line of defense. This year we’re going to do a companion plant between every tomato plant because our garden is going to be bigger than we’ve ever done. I’m hopeful to limit disease this way 🤞