What Type Should You Grow: Tomato
Updated: Jul 21
The Juicy Fruit: The Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)
I hear it all the time - "I don't like tomatoes". Well neither did I, until I started growing my own. It makes a huge difference when you pick that tomato right off the vine and taste it fully ripened. Most grocery store varieties are dull and flavorless, but not when you grow your own. The best part - there are over 10,000 varieties of tomatoes. They come in all shapes, sizes with endless amounts of colors and flavors. With so many, you'll fall in love with more than one.
A Little Bit About Tomatoes
To start us off, the Tomato belongs to the Solanaceae family — it is also known as the Nightshade family: it is a family of flowering plants. Many members of this family contain potent alkaloids, which just means the stem, leaves and unripened fruit are poisonous to humans. The good news is that there are three crops that have been bred to be edible: tomato, eggplant and potato.
It belongs to the genus Solanum - tomatoes are known as Solanum lycopersicum it produces yellow flowers which grow into the amazing fruit that we know of today. Yes, I said fruit. Although in the culinary world we regard it as a vegetable, it's a fruit.
FUN FACT: a tomato is botanically classified as a berry.
Where did it come from? The tomato was originated from western South America and Central America and brought to Europe by the Spaniards in the 1500s.
DID YOU KNOW?
The lesser taste and lack of sweetness to the modern tomato is due to a breeding change in tomatoes so that they ripen uniformly red. They wanted to produce red fruit without a green ring around the steam. Prior to this change tomatoes use to produce more sugar during ripening and were sweeter and more flavorful.
Tomato Seed Types
Tomatoes were once all heirloom varieties, saved down from generation to generation, They were cross bread to create more disease resistant type tomatoes, we know them as hybrid tomatoes.
Heirloom versus Hybrid Tomatoes
Tomatoes fall in to two seed types: heirloom versus hybrid.
- Grown without crossbreeding for 40 or more years.
- Grown for flavor.
- They are open-pollinated, meaning pollen is carried by bees or wind.
- You can save their seeds and grow the same plant like year after year.
- It won't always produce uniform fruit and doesn't always have the best shelf life.
- Countless possibilities. If you can imagine the strangest-looking tomato possible, there is likely an heirloom variety similar to that.
- They have been crossbreed to have particular characteristics; resistant to heat or disease.
- Not necessarily grown for flavor.
- Generally produces more fruit per tomato plant.
- Consistency in shape, size and look and are more shelf stable
- You can save their seed but aren't guaranteed to have the same product grow next year, you actually may product undesirable fruit. So you'll have to continuously buy.
So which is better... it's a matter of ones opinion and use for the tomato. High flavor and something fun - heirloom it is. Planting for productivity and canning - hybrid will get the job done,
Tomato Growth Types
Tomatoes were once all vine growers, that are known as indeterminate tomatoes. They were bread over time to be stockier and bushy plants which we now call determinate tomatoes.
Determinate versus Indeterminate Tomatoes
Tomatoes fall in to two growing categories: determinate versus indeterminate.
- Grow in more of a bush form
- They usually stop growing around 3'-4' feet tall.
- Usually supported by a cage.
- When the flowers begin to blossom at the tips of the branches, the plant has reached its full height.
- Plants usually ripen all at once - this type of plant is good for people who like to can tomatoes.
- Can grow indefinitely until weather kills it.
- They usually stop growing around 6'-20' feet tall.
- At the beginning they require substantial caging or staking - whether that be a metal or string trellis.
- The plant will ripen all year long until the frost or disease kills the plant.
Tomatoes come in different shapes, sizes, and colors and are classified as different types! These tomatoes are categorized by smallest to largest.
6 Different Types of Tomatoes
There are dozens of varieties available in size and colour. It can be classified as a determinate or indeterminate, as mentioned above.
Glope-shaped and are the size or a big marble.
Cherry tomatoes are the closest descendant of the wild tomato and were they first of the species to be domesticated. The first cultivated tomatoes were the size of berries.
Their genetic make up has remained the same over the years. Is there a reason for that? Well cherry tomatoes are miniature predecessor version of traditional beefsteak tomatoes. Meaning that the larger bread of tomatoes that we see today are actually mutations of the smaller cherry tomato.
Eating as-is fresh is the best and the most delicious. They can also be grilled, put in homemade salsa, salads, tacos, wraps, burritos...
Varieties: Sun Gold, Tumbler, Sunrise Bumble Bee, Sakura, Red Robin, Black Cherry, Sweet Million.
This variety is considered a Cocktail Tomato, they are sought after for their sweetness. They develop a deep red colour and are bought with the vine still attached to them.
Larger than a pear or cherry tomato, but smaller and rounder than plum tomato.
To get more recognition with the public, Campari were branded as the "tomato lover's tomato". That slogan worked so well that within a few years of being introduced to the world they became a supermarket favorite.
Raw - Great tomatoes for snacking on! Often eating over a salads, charcuterie board, or when making bruschetta.
Cooked - Roasted in for pizza, sandwiches, or in salsa.
Varieties: Mountain Magic Coated,
The most commercially grown and distributed of all tomatoes. You most like know them as Roma Tomatoes.
Generally oval or cylindrical.
Their flesh to juice ratio is greater than most tomatoes. There is a heavier amount of flesh compared to most, making it a good option for making paste.
Under the plum category: there is considered 4 different types:
Small Plum Tomatoes: also known as grape tomatoes, they are just as sweet a cherry tomatoes.
Italian Style Plum Tomatoes: known to be the best for cooking.
San Marzano Plum Tomatoes: known for their long pointed shape.
Roma VF Plum Tomatoes: most commercial produced and distributed.
Tomato bred for sauce making and paste making.
Large Plum Tomato Varieties: Amish Paste, Optimax, Supremo, Golden Rave, Pozzano.
Small Plum Tomato Varieties: Prairie Fire, Sugary, Martino's, A Grappoli D'Inverno.
This category is one you see most often in the grocery store. These are medium in size slicing tomatoes that we see all year round.
Bred to be round with a thick skin, uniform spherical look with rarely any splits.... so deceiving.
They were bred to look like the perfect tomato. They ship well, are shelf-stable, and are extremely versatile for culinary use.
Anything: sandwiches, salsas, canning, juicing, grilling, burgers, burritos, tacos, pickling, fresh... you name it.
Varieties: Better Boy, Early Girl, Green Zebra, Moneymaker, Rutgers, St. Pierre, Sweet Tangerine, Valencia.
This type of tomato is popular among many gardener. As the name suggest: the tomato resembles a bull's heart. They tend to be very meaty with a small seed cavity, similar to beefsteak tomatoes, and can grow to over 1, 2, or 3 lbs in weight. Continuous praise over it's flavor, make it a must grow.
Broadly triangular in shape, can be smooth or ribbed. However even from the same plant the shape can vary with some being blocky or oblong.
They often have fern-like leaves and tends to droop more than most other tomato types. All Oxheart tomatoes have indeterminate growth, so make sure to have a game plan ready!
Excellent for slicing in sandwiches, chopped up in salads, enough flesh for canning but takes longer than plum tomatoes to thicken up.
Varieties: Anna Russian, Bulgarian Oxheart, Coeur de Boeuf, White Oxheart and Orange Russian.
Large, thick fleshed beefsteaks are the largest of the tomatoes. Compared to the half ounce of a cherry tomato, these beefsteaks can weight up to 1 lbs or more!
You won't find this variety of tomato in groceries as they are not as suitable to grow on a commercial farm as other types.
Large, slightly flat, sometimes lumpy, sometimes irregular: basically all the above.
They aren't going to support themselves, beefsteak tomatoes can reach up to 4lbs in weigh per tomato. Make sure you have a trellis or cage big enough to handle these bad boys! It can be classified as a determinate or indeterminate, as mentioned above. I once anchored my beefsteak tomatoes with strings to my house to keep them supported!
Ideal for sandwiches and burgers. But like all tomatoes it can be diced up in salads, made into a pasta sauce, or roasted as is with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Varieties: Buffalo Steak, Kellogg's Breakfast, Purple Reign, Orange Jazz, Solar Flare, Watermelon, Classic Beefsteak, Great White, Alice's Dream, Blue Beauty, Aunt Ruby's German Green.
Now that you have found out what type of tomatoes you will be planting, learn how to grow it!