9 Types of Tomatoes to Grow in Your Garden

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9 Types of Tomatoes to Grow in Your Garden

So Many Delicious Types of Tomatoes to Grow. Which Will You Choose?

Tomatoes are probably the most popular plant in the vegetable garden. Gardeners boast about how early they had their first ripe tomato each season, or the largest tomato, or the most flavorful, or the most prolific. People rarely ask a gardener about their cabbage or beans. It is all about the tomato.

If you have never grown your own tomatoes, you may be unfamiliar with how many different types of tomatoes there are. There are literally hundreds of tomatoes to choose from that range in size from the giant Whopper Tomato to the tiny grape tomato.

Tomatoes can be red, yellow, purple, black, brown or multicolored. Some tomatoes stay green even when fully ripe. There are heirloom tomatoes and hybrid tomatoes. Tomatoes can also be divided by shoot formations: determinate or indeterminate.

Ways to Get or Grow Tomatoes

If your only experience with tomatoes is at the grocery store, you have been limited to only a handful of varieties. The main concern for the large-scale tomato grower and the grocer is the ability for the tomato to ship and to have a long shelf life.

A grocery store tomato has a thicker tougher skin that won’t tear or bruise easily, and they grow to a uniform size to make them easy to package. Occasionally, there may be a yellow tomato available to purchase, and usually there are cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes. In other words, it is a very limited selection and flavor is not the top priority.

If you have a garden and grow tomatoes, you may have been starting them from plants purchased from the local nursery. This means you have expanded your tomato selection to five to 10 different varieties of tomatoes, and the first priority should be flavor. Realistically, the nursery grower has only a limited amount of space and will have to decide which varieties and how many plants to grow.

The final option is to start your own plants by purchasing tomato seeds. With seeds, you will have a huge selection of tomato varieties in each category. Who can resist a tomato called Black Krim, Mortgage Lifter or Cherokee Purple?

Starting tomato seeds is not difficult. Tomatoes like to be warm and have lots of light. Even if your home can’t provide those needs, there are seed starting kits that provide what you need and make the process easy.

Types of Tomatoes

The most common way to divide tomatoes is by shape and size. The shape and size will help to determine how the tomato is used. There are many different types of tomatoes, including:

1. Standard Globe Tomatoes

These tomatoes are the type you see in the grocery store. They are medium-sized tomatoes great for slicing or in salads. They are usually 2.5 inches across and very uniform. Most varieties are red, but there are some varieties in other colors like yellow or pink.

These tomatoes are versatile and, in addition to eating them fresh, they can be used for canning tomatoes, in cooked dishes, or juice. These tomatoes may look like the grocery store tomatoes but they won’t taste like it.

Your tomatoes are picked fresh and not kept in cold storage for an indefinite period of time. Not only that, but your garden tomatoes can be picked and eaten at the peak of ripeness for the most flavorful tomatoes you have ever tasted.

Examples of standard globe tomatoes include:

  • Early Girl Hybrid Tomato
  • Fireworks Organic Tomato
  • Celebrity Hybrid Tomato
  • Brandywine Heirloom Tomato
beefsteak tomato graphicbeefsteak tomato graphic

2. Beefsteak Tomatoes

These are some of the largest available in the tomato family. One slice will cover your sandwich. Typically weighing in at about a pound per tomato, some can double or triple that weight. These tomatoes are rarely seen in the grocery store.

They were bred for flavor and size and have a thin skin that makes them poor shipping tomatoes. They also need a little extra time to achieve their full size. That isn’t profitable for the commercial grower, but in your garden — and better yet, on your sandwich — these tomatoes can’t be beat.

Examples of Beefsteak tomatoes include:

  • Park's Whopper CR Improved Hybrid Tomato
  • Big Beef Hybrid Tomato
  • Kellogg’s Breakfast Organic Tomato
  • Big Rainbow Heirloom Tomato
  • Mater Sandwich Organic Hybrid Tomato

3. Plum Tomatoes

Also known as paste tomatoes, these tomatoes were bred for making tomato sauce. These tomatoes are an oblong shape about two to three inches long. They have few seeds and are mostly solid pulp, making them ideal for making sauce or tomato paste. They are also great for dehydrating or making sun-dried tomatoes.

Examples of Plum tomatoes include:

  • Costoluto Genovese Italian Heirloom Tomato
  • Supremo Hybrid Tomato
  • Organic Roma Tomato

4. Cherry Tomatoes

This type of tomato is small and can be popped right into your mouth, whole. They are usually under an inch in diameter. Most cherry tomatoes are round; however, there are also some that are more oblong in shape, called grape tomatoes, and there are some that are pear-shaped.

This is a favorite tomato to eat fresh; however, it also is a great choice for grilling or in salads. Cherry tomatoes can be red, yellow, orange or purple. Place a bowl of cherry tomatoes in different color varieties on your table or countertop. Not only do they look beautiful, but they provide a great tasting nutritious sweet snack.

There are also some cherry tomatoes that are perfect as a container plant. They stay nice and neat but produce lots of tomatoes right on your porch or patio, ready for you to grab a few each time you walk in or out the door.

Examples of Cherry tomatoes include:

  • Gum Drop Black Hybrid Cherry Tomato
  • Esterina Organic Yellow Cherry Tomato
  • Patio Choice Red Cherry Tomato
  • Yellow Pear Organic Cherry Tomato
  • Supersweet 100 Hybrid Cherry Tomato
  • Sweet Hearts Hybrid Grape Tomato

5. Oxheart Tomatoes

This type of tomato is shaped like a strawberry or a heart. They most resemble a globe tomato in appearance but have a pointed bottom. Oxhearts are generally heirloom variety tomatoes and have fewer seeds, many of which have the consistency of the paste tomatoes.

Examples of Oxheart tomatoes include:

  • Oxheart Pole Heirloom Tomato
  • Kosovo Heirloom Tomato
  • Yellow Oxheart Tomato

These five categories aren’t the only way to divide tomatoes. They can be divided by color as well. In addition, there are organic tomatoes. These are seeds or plants that are non-GMO and have been grown under the stringent guidelines of the National Organic Standards Board.

The soil is tested to assure it is free of chemical pesticides and herbicides and are only grown with approved fertilizer and pest control methods. Many gardeners adhere to organic gardening methods in their home gardens and want the tomatoes to be grown organically also. It starts with the seeds and, because of increasing demand, more and more varieties of organically grown tomato seeds are available.

Origins of Heirloom Tomatoes

Another way of separating tomatoes is heirloom versus hybrid tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes are tomatoes that have survived the test of time. They have been around for generations and often the seeds are saved and passed down through families. Heirlooms are open pollinated and self-fertile, so the tomato seeds will grow into a new plant identical to its parent. 

These heirloom varieties are important for several reasons. One is that these heirlooms are often the plants that the new and improved varieties came from. It is important to keep the original seeds. 

Many of the heirlooms are similar to native plants. They became heirlooms because they were uniquely able to withstand and thrive in the local environment, both soil type and climate. 

With plants, one size does not fit all. A plant that does extremely well in the heat of the south may be unable to cope with the cool northern garden conditions — and vice versa. A tomato that does well in arid or drought areas may not survive in a garden in an area with high humidity. 

heirloom tomaot seedsheirloom tomaot seeds

Types of Heirloom Tomatoes

It is important to have these heirloom seeds, especially in this time of climate change and unpredictable weather conditions. There are many examples of heirloom tomatoes, including:

  • Ferris Wheel Tomato — Developed in Wisconsin, this is a large pink tomato. This tomato was added to seed catalogs at the turn of the century.
  • German Red Strawberry Tomato — This is a sweet, heart-shaped tomato that is said to taste like candy.
  • Mortgage Lifter Tomato — Developed in West Virginia in the 1930s, the country was suffering from the Great Depression at the time. This tomato is reportedly so delicious that the tomato breeder was able to pay off his mortgage with the proceeds from the sales of his tomato plants.
  • Pineapple Tomato — This tomato is known for its fruity flavor and delicious sweetness. This is a large tomato that is yellow with red marbling. Pineapple tomatoes have low acidity and are one of the sweetest tomatoes you can grow.

The Origin of Hybrid Tomatoes

Hybrid tomatoes have been bred to encourage the best traits of a tomato. That is how we have a tomato that can be shipped. Those tomatoes needed to have a stronger skin and they needed to be able to be stored for an extended amount of time. Other tomatoes are bred to have a sweeter flavor, be disease-resistant or to make higher yields.

The goal is always to improve the tomato in some way. These tomatoes are not open pollinated so if you planted the seeds from these tomatoes, you won’t get a tomato that is identical to its parent. The only way to get the same tomato is to buy the same new seed each year.

Determinate vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes

The last method of dividing tomatoes is by the growth habit of the plant itself. There are two types of tomatoes: the determinate and the indeterminate. A determinate tomato will only grow to a certain height and it will stop. The fruit that is on the plant at the time it reaches full size is the only fruit it will grow. It is an annual vegetable that will only live one season.

An indeterminate tomato will keep growing as long as conditions are supportive. In the tropics, tomatoes can easily grow to 25 feet and more. The plant will continue to set fruit as it grows. In the garden, your indeterminate tomato can quickly outgrow the typical tomato cage that supports it.

These tomatoes will continue to grow until there is a frost or you decide to prune the plant to force it to ripen the fruit already on the plant. These tomatoes are a perennial plant and have the potential to live several years. 

They require the right conditions including warm temperatures, fertilizer for adequate nutrients, and they must remain pest- and disease-free. In the home garden, both types of tomatoes are usually treated like annuals.

Optimize for Cooking

Even though there are tomatoes that have been developed for specific purposes, remember that tomatoes are interchangeable. Any tomato can be used for sauce, but if you use a juicier tomato, it will take longer to cook down to the thickness of sauce you want.

Any tomato can be used on a sandwich, but a globe tomato will need a couple of slices to cover your burger versus the beefsteak tomato that hangs over the side of your sandwich with just one slice. If you are making fresh salsa, no one will be able to tell what type of tomato you used.

Have fun growing tomatoes in your garden. If you have a small garden and space is limited, choose the type of tomato that you use the most or the one you need for the use you want to put it to. Don’t forget about using container gardens to add a couple more tomato plants when there is no more room in the garden.

Save room for at least one heritage or heirloom tomato in your garden this year.  Follow these suggestions to optimize the best choice for taste, size and usage in your kitchen.