10 delicious types of tomatoes you can grow at home
Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables (or fruits!) to grow in a home garden. But it can be confusing finding the right type to grow when there are so many different kinds, each with its own unique characteristics.
To figure out what you’re looking for, it’s a good idea to know what you’re looking for in a tomato and what each tomato has to offer. Here are the most popular types of tomatoes you will find on the seed rack or at the garden store.
Heirloom vs. hybrid tomato
Heirloom and hybrid are two terms you will commonly hear when it comes to tomatoes. A hybrid tomato plant is a plant that is a hybrid of two different plants in one, while an heirloom has been bred from a single type of plant.
Benefits and downsides of hybrid tomatoes
Hybrid tomatoes are bred to contain specific characteristics like cold hardiness or disease resistance. They are very uniform and smooth in shape, so they can be the most appealing type of tomato to the eye. They also tend to grow more quickly and require less care and maintenance.
Some hybrids will not be as flavorful as heirloom tomatoes, and they may not match nutritional quality.
Benefits and downsides of heirloom tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes are a single species of tomato with its genealogy intact. They can be lumpy and look weird, but have a more organic look. Some people find them ugly, while others prefer the aesthetic.
The benefit of growing heirloom tomatoes is that they tend to be richer in flavor and more delicious. They are also denser in nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants. However, they may be finickier to grow, have more pests, and be more sensitive to temperature changes than hybrids.
Cherry tomatoes are a type of tomato that is small like a cherry. They grow in a variety of colors including red, orange, and purple. They are commonly used in salads and as a garnish, or as a simple snack.
While the fruit of the cherry tomato is small, they tend to be indeterminate plants, which means they grow large and sprawling, and require pruning. That means that most cherry tomatoes will not thrive in an indoor setting. If you want to grow cherry tomatoes indoors, look for a determinate breed that will thrive as a small bush.
Salad tomatoes grow to be about 2-3 inches in diameter and are great for slicing and putting in a salad or on a sandwich. They tend to be less sweet and higher in acid.
Pear tomatoes are small teardrop-shaped (or “pear” shaped), and grow in orange, yellow, and red varieties. Like cherry tomatoes, pear tomatoes tend to be indeterminate, so they succeed in growing best outdoors. They tend to taste sweet and mild and produce heavily throughout a longer season than other types of tomatoes.
Beefsteak tomatoes are one of the largest types of tomatoes and have juicy and meaty textures (hence the name). They tend to be pink or red and can grow up to 6” in diameter or 450 grams in weight. Beefsteaks tend to be on the sweeter end of the flavor profile.
“Slicer” tomatoes simply refer to tomatoes that are good to slice and put on a sandwich or salad. Slicers can be heirloom or hybrids and tend to include tomatoes around 2-3” in diameter. Slicers usually taste a little more acidic and bright, rather than being heavy and sweet.
Plum tomatoes (Roma and San Marzano)
Plum tomatoes include the very famous Roma and San Marzano varieties and are the best type of tomato for processing and making sauce. Plum tomatoes will not be the most flavorful type you can grow, but they have low water content which makes them good for sauces, pastes, soups, and drying.
You should choose “slicer” tomatoes over plum tomatoes if you want to cut them and eat them raw, but plum tomatoes like Romas are best if you want to roast or cook the tomato.
Bush tomatoes vs. vining tomatoes
“Bush” and “vining” are other terms you will commonly hear when you are looking into the different types of tomatoes.
Bush tomatoes refer to “determinate” breeds. They tend to be smaller, bushier plants that grow up to 3 feet tall. Bush tomatoes are great for container gardens, or even growing indoors if you have the space and lighting. They tend to produce a lot of fruit all at once and then die out, rather than slowly producing all throughout the season. If you want to plant bush tomatoes, look for seeds with the marking “DET” on the label.
Vining tomatoes are “indeterminate” plants that grow large and sprawling and require external support. You won’t have much success growing indeterminate breeds indoors, and they may also struggle in container gardens if they do not have adequate support. If you are hoping to grow vining tomatoes in your outdoor garden, look for seed packets that say “IND” on the label.
So if you’re looking for the perfect type of tomato to grow at home, you have a lot to think about. First, decide if the size and shape of the tomato is a priority. Then assess your space and decide if a vine or a bush or somewhere in between best fits your home garden. Then get your seeds and grow some delicious fruit!