No matter what time of year it is, it’s always a good time for some tomato-y goodness. In spring and summer, the warmer weather and sunny skies have us craving tomato-studded garden salads and juicy slices in our burgers and sandwiches. When the mercury drops, we reach for hearty chillies, comforting tomato-based soups, and spaghetti bolognese. And, of course, it’s always a good time for pizza!
Tomatoes are the cornerstone of so many of our favourite dishes, and since we’re clearly eating them, we might as well grow our own! Homegrown tomatoes are fresher, more nutritious, and often tastier than the ones you get at the grocery store. They’re also tons of fun to grow. This year at Salisbury, we’ve stocked up on a huge selection of tomatoes to suit all your favourite recipes. Whether you’re trying your hand at a Victory Garden, or you’re a beginner looking for a perfect first tomato plant, here’s a rundown of the different types of tomatoes and why they’re great!
Determinate vs. Indeterminate
Before we get into specifics, it’s worth noting that all tomatoes fall into one of two categories: determinate or indeterminate.
Determinate tomatoes produce all their flowers at once, which then mature into fruits for one big, juicy harvest. For these tomatoes, it’s best to plant them a few weeks apart to stage their harvests over a longer period of time.
Indeterminate tomatoes are fruiting machines””once they mature, they’ll start popping out flowers and fruits continuously until the plant dies. With indeterminate tomatoes, one or two plants should be plenty to keep you stocked all summer.
Whether a tomato variety is determinate or indeterminate is a product of its specific genetics; you can find both determinate and indeterminate slicer tomatoes, for example. If you have a preference, double-check the specific variety before you bring it home!
Most of the common tomato varieties you see at the grocery store are considered slicer tomatoes. These medium-sized tomatoes fit nicely in your hand, and they’re usually the first type people think of when they hear the word “tomato.” However, even though the size of the slicer tomato makes them a supermarket standby, they’re anything but average; there are tons of varieties of slicers, many of which are ready to eat earlier in the year than other types.
Best For: Slicer tomatoes, as their name suggests, are often sliced and used as toppings for sandwiches, burgers, and wraps. They’re also great for cutting into wedges for Caprese or garden salads.
Popular Varieties: Early Girl is a hit with beginner and experienced growers alike. This indeterminate variety only needs about 52-62 days to start producing edible fruit, so they’re great for impatient gardeners or those who like to stage their harvests throughout the season. For folks who like a little something different, Lemon Boy has the fresh tomato flavour you love hidden inside cheerful, bright-yellow skin. Lemon Boy matures in 75-80 days.
Small Fruited Tomatoes
As you might have guessed, these are your “cherry” or “grape” tomatoes””mini-sized fruits that pack conveniently into small spaces without the need for cutting. Small fruited tomatoes are perfect for popping into your mouth, and each fruit packs a satisfying burst of intense tomato flavour. Small fruit tomato plants are great projects for kids, as the fruit is a great size for snacking on straight off the plant!
Best For: Dipping, veggie trays, eating whole, and tossing into lazy weeknight salads.
Popular Varieties: Sungold tomatoes are known for their intensely sweet flavour and appealing golden-orange colour, which kids seem to adore. They mature at around 57 days, but the fruits are so sweet, they’re perfectly tasty up to a week before full maturity. For those who like a more savoury snack, Sweet Million has a more balanced flavour and bears tons of bright-red fruit. However, they’re a slightly longer wait at 65 days to maturity.
If you live for rich, red sauces, sauce tomatoes are a clear winner. These tomatoes are specially bred to contain lots of flesh and very few seeds, and they’re a “must-grow” if you plan to preserve part of your tomato harvest to use through the fall and winter. You can generally tell a sauce tomato apart from other varieties thanks to their elongated oval shape””think the “Coneheads” of the tomato world. (Am I the only one who remembers that movie?)
Best For: As the name implies, these guys can’t be beat for making homemade tomato sauces and pastes. They’re also excellent for stewing!
Popular Varieties: Maturing in 70-90 days, San Marzano tomatoes are considered the gold-standard paste in Italy””and you could make a very compelling argument that Italians are the global tomato sauce experts! Roma III tomatoes come in a close second if you can’t get your hands on any San Marzanos. Maturing in around 76 days, their rich tomato flavour makes a perfect base for your favourite pasta and pizza sauces.
The “gentle giants” of the tomato world, beefsteak tomatoes combine big size with traditional, mellow flavours. The most recognizable beefsteak varieties look like they’re so full of delicious juicy flesh, they’re about to burst off the stem! Beefsteaks are “meaty,” with more flesh than seeds, which makes them great for tomato lovers who crave a slice they can really sink their teeth into.
Best For: Their enormous size makes beefsteaks very general-purpose, but they’re considered the absolute best tomatoes for making salsas and pico de gallo. The slices are great for grilling or topping burgers and sandwiches, but you can also get away with using these big bold varieties for making sauces.
Popular Varieties: Big Beef is a little rounder than other Beefsteak varieties, but this is one generous plant. Once it hits maturity at about 80 days, it’s like someone broke the tomato faucet. If you can only plant one tomato variety this year, this ultra-productive, multi-tasking variety is up to the task. Alternatively, Better Boy is an earlier variety with excellent flavour, ready to eat in 70-75 days.
Now for the fun stuff! Heirloom tomatoes are so named because they’re special varieties that have been passed down for generations, rather than “hybrids” which are newer and developed to have specific benefits. Their larger seeds can be saved to plant again next year. Lots of people adore heirloom tomatoes because they tend to have some really unique colours and flavours that you simply can’t find anywhere else!
Best For: Tomato enthusiasts who love experimenting! You can find an heirloom variety for just about any purpose, but their fascinating colours, shapes, and patterns make them excellent choices if you really want that “wow” factor. If appearance matters to you, you’ll love these photogenic tomatoes.
Popular Varieties: Black Krim has a reputation for its deep, dark colour that looks striking in the garden or on your plate. Meanwhile, Green Zebra features spectacular green-and-yellow stripes that are so pretty, you could throw a bunch in a glass bowl and use it as a simple-yet-striking centrepiece.
There really is a perfect tomato for every occasion, so try a few varieties this year in your garden! These and many more tasty new tomato varieties are now available on our GrowStore. Ketchup with your favourite varieties today, while supplies last.