Choosing Tomato Varieties
When we start to talk about tomato varieties everyone has their favourites. It is just about impossible to choose one best variety, however some are proven favourites and others are suited to different purposes such as salad tomato or sauce.
We also have the open pollinated and heritage tomatoes and modern hybrids they all have their strong points. Next we have what are called ‘early season’ tomatoes, generally those with a shorter growing season.
Roma is a very popular variety used both for eating as well as for making sauces. Recognised by its distinctive oval shape it also has good flesh and not to many seeds. San Marzano is another excellent sauce tomato as is KY 1.
Determinate and Indeterminate types.
Tomato plants are generally separated into two categories depending on growth habit. These two types are called Determinate and Indeterminate
Determinate are the bush type tomato plants are they are bred to stop growing at around around 1m – 1.5m (3′ – 5′) feet tall. They also tend to fruit earlier. Often grown in tomato cages. They tend to bear their fruit over a short period around 4 weeks so are popular for spacing. You do not prune a ‘determinate’ type tomato.
Examples of Determinate types include :
Roma : A reliable sauce or bottling tomato.
San Marzano:The well known Southern Italian tomato used for sauce.
Also look for San Marzano’ and ‘Amish Paste’.
The Indeterminate types just keep growing upwards and can reach 2 metres plus. They tend to fruit later and right up until the first frosts. These types require staking. They produce over a longer period so are great for home gardens. Indeterminate varieties vary in terms of pruning, some back to three or four vines, others remove the lower 30cm (12 inches) to lift them off the ground, increase airflow and stop fruit from touching the ground which increases the risk of pests and disease.
Examples of Indeterminate types include :
Cherokee Purple : Good flavour, colour in this indeterminate beefsteak style tomato.
Oxheart Red : Reall good salad tomatoes.
Beefsteak : Excellent flavour and a great sandwich or salad tomato
How do you tell the difference ?
Look at the growing tips if you find flowers or flower buds, it’s most likely a determinate type. If you see leaves is usually indeterminate.
Early season tomato Varieties
- Burnley Surecrop is an early tomato, heavy fruiting and a good taste.
- Rouge De Marmande is an early season tomato with excellent fruit.
- Stupice is a good early season tomato, maybe not the most flavorsome, but excellent for cooler climates
- Apollo is another early season tomato, but look for the Apollo Improved variety with better disease resistance.
Mid to late season
- Grosse lisse is an excellent smooth skinned tomato, a favorite with many Italian families, and the most widely grown tomato in the home garden, tall plants and heavy yielding, great flavour. Best suited to a warm climate.
- College Challenger is a little earlier than Grosse lisse
- Beefsteak is a good mid season performer on a smaller bushy plant
- Mortgage lifter is a heavy bearing variety with large fruit
- Tommy Toe is a largish cherry tomato, lots of sweet round fruit over a long season. Generally will need staking and many growers will take the top leader out when it reaches the desired height.
- Sweet bite is another cherry tomato with lots of small sweet fruit. Excellent in a large pot in a tomato cage where it will get some support to hold the weight of the fruit.
- Other cherry tomato types include Sweet 100 and Tiny Tim
Black, green and yellow varieties
- Green Zebra with its tasty green ‘striped’ fruit and Black Russian with its deep purple fruit are two of the ‘colourful’ varieties. Jubilee has golden yellow fruit