How to Choose the Best Varieties of Tomatoes

How to Choose the Best Varieties of Tomatoes

You may have noticed that tomatoes are among our all-time favourite veggies here at Seeds of Plenty. It’s a love affair that’s led to us stocking a massive collection of tomato varieties to suit every taste and every garden. From market garden standbys to the rare and unusual, we’ve got you covered. But how should you go about choosing the varieties that are best for you? Use these tips to make choices that are sure to satisfy. 

1. How Much Space Do You Have For Your Toms?

Different tomato varieties need more or less space depending on their growth habits. From micro tomato plants for balcony gardens to sprawling vines for those with ample room to grow, there’s a growth habit to suit your needs. Here’s a quick explanation. 

Indeterminate Varieties: These tomatoes produce highly productive vines that just seem to keep growing and bearing. Beefsteak is a classic example. For more compact fruits with an unusual twist, try Evil Olive. Choose indeterminate tomatoes if you have tons of space to grow in. 

Determinate Varieties: Unlike indeterminate varieties, determinate tomatoes grow to a specific size and the whole crop ripens almost at once - over two or three weeks. They’re better for smaller gardeners and the category includes dwarf tomatoes - a rather special form of determinate tomatoes. 

Dwarf Tomatoes: Ideal for urban gardeners with smaller veggie patches or those who grow in pots, dwarf tomatoes include some amazing fruit shapes and colours. They’re something of a specialty for us - we’ve really stocked up on these!

Micro Tomatoes: It’s not just the plants that are small - the little cherry tomatoes are cute too! If all you have is a window box, you can still grow tomatoes! Micro-Tom is a good example. 

2. What Do You Want to Do With Your Tomatoes?

Tomatoes are actually quite versatile across various culinary uses. For example, I love my Roma tomatoes, and although this is traditionally seen as a sauce or jam tomato, I think it’s great for salads and sandwiches too. 

Sauces: If you want to make sauces, you don’t want an overly juicy tomato, so Roma is great. Or, if you’re looking for something that takes less space, Sneaky Sauce could be the variety for you. 

Salads: Although fleshy tomatoes are nice in salads, the juicer varieties with lots of seed compartments are awesome. And of course, colour adds excitement, so you might want to look at gorgeously coloured varieties like Black Russian.

Stuffed tomatoes are a real treat, and here, you’ll want something with big fruit like Berkley Tie Dye Green or the potentially massive classic Beefsteak. 

Cherry Tomatoes are for snacking, salads, and roasting whole, and they’re a great way to add colour to a plate of food. We should say “colours” since you can get yellows, reds, pinks, greens, purple-blacks, and multicoloured varieties too. 

Sandwiches: Looking to make lots of sandwiches? Choose the meatier varieties that won’t make your bread soggy as quickly and consider choosing varieties with mid-sized fruit so that you don’t end up with half tomatoes in the fridge. 

General cookery: Skinning tomatoes to cook is a bit of a chore, so the medium to large-fruited varieties are for you. Meaty varieties won’t cook down as much, but you can use juicy varieties too. 

3. When Do You Want to Harvest Your Tomatoes?

As we mentioned, determinate tomato varieties bear crops that ripen over just a couple of weeks - almost simultaneously. That’s an advantage if you’re into making sauce, but it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker if you want harvests over a longer period. Simply stagger your sowings or choose indeterminate varieties if you have room for their vines. 

Some tomatoes take a little longer to ripen than others. That’s true of all the purplish to blackish varieties. As a rule of thumb for quicker-ripening varieties, the reds and yellows are usually faster. And, as you’d expect, there are varieties like Early Cascade that were bred for faster cropping. 

4. Disease Resistance for Tougher Plants

Who wants to choose a variety that’s prone to all sorts of problems? Not you! However, plant breeders and seed producers will have done a lot of the legwork for you. They’ll choose varieties that have good disease resistance, and they’ll ferment their seed properly to reinforce this. 

However, you do have a role to play, and that’s in choosing the right spot for your tomatoes. Unhealthy conditions will make any organism sick, and even the best tomatoes will succumb if you treat them badly enough. 

Tomatoes want well-drained, rich soil and plenty of nutrition to keep them strong and healthy, and if any of your plants does get sick, culling it before it can infect its neighbours will be a help. Most important of all: never grow tomatoes on the same soil for two years in a row. Grow something else for two years before going for tomatoes again. 

Quick story: I learned just how serious this is when I tried to cheat. I’d had a particularly bountiful harvest: enough surplus to freeze nearly a year’s supply off a patch about twice the size of an ordinary door (I’m not kidding!). I knew I was taking a bit of a chance when I sowed tomatoes in the same patch again, and I got my come-uppance! It was a very sad state of affairs!

5. Flavour

If you’re a real connoisseur, you’ll know that there’s a whole vocabulary that’s used just to describe tomato flavours. Some varieties produce sweet fruits, others are tart with a sharp, refreshing twist to the flavour. Others are tangy, and some have a good balance of all these flavours at once. There’s also the wonderfully-named umami flavour, which is hard to describe. It’s a kind of earthiness or meatiness. 

You can’t judge flavour just at a glance. For example, you might expect tomatoes that retain a green colour when ripe to taste tart - but that’s not necessarily true. Berkley Tie Dye Green proves the point. It has a gorgeous flavour spectrum, and not one of those flavours is tart. 

6. Looking for Something Unusual

Finally, there are people who want to grow unusually shaped or coloured varieties they won’t find in the shops. And here, you’re utterly spoiled for choice. Black, yellow, green, pink, pale cream, marbled, striped: it’s an almost endless succession of options. 

If you have an eye for the unusual, grow the whole tomato rainbow with our Cherry Mix, or zero in on stunners like Striped Antho, Lucid Gem, Atomic Grape, or any other remarkable variety that catches your eye. With over 100 varieties to choose from, you’re sure to meet your match!

Having a Tough Time Choosing? We’re Here to Help!

If you’re still having difficulty deciding on the ideal tomato varieties to grow this year, help is at hand. Tell us about what you want your tomatoes to do for you, and we’ll be happy to recommend varieties to suit your needs. Dan “the Tomato Man” is a true tomato expert - and something of a tomato evangelist in that he’s almost sure to suggest worthy varieties you haven’t tried before! As for me, I want to grow the ALL (but I haven’t yet)! 


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