Tomato Varieties and
Types of Tomatoes

There are hundreds of tomato varieties. From marble-sized grape or cherry tomatoes, to juicy salad tomatoes, meaty paste tomatoes, and huge, sweet, beefsteak tomatoes. Their colors range from deep crimson to orange, yellow, green, purple, and chocolate.

Tomato Varieties—‘Sweet Cluster’
Tomato Varieties—‘Sweet Cluster’
© Steve Masley…Click IMAGE to Enlarge

Determinate Tomatoes are bush types that grow 2-3 feet (60-90cm) tall, then the buds at the ends of all the branches form flowers instead of leaves. They flower all at once, set and ripen fruit, then die.

Indeterminate Tomatoes are vining types that need caging or staking for support, but will continue to grow and set fruit until frost kills them. They’re generally later than determinate tomatoes, and produce larger crops over a longer period.

Indeterminate tomatoes set flowers on lateral shoots off the main stems. If trained to a single or double leader and given support, many indeterminate tomato varieties can reach 8-10’ (1.5-3m) tall.

For the home gardener, mixing types of tomatoes spreads the fresh tomato harvest over the longest possible season. Plant determinate or early indeterminate tomato varieties for early summer tomatoes, and salad or beefsteak tomatoes for mid- and- late-summer harvest. If you like thick, rich tomato sauces, be sure to include some paste tomatoes in the mix.

Cherry  |   Salad  |   Roma (Paste)  |   Beefsteak
Hybrid vs Heirloom Tomatoes  |   Growing Tomatoes

Tomato Varieties by Type of Tomato

Cherry and Grape Tomatoes

Cherry Tomato Varieties—'Sweet 100' 1
Cherry Tomato Varieties—
‘Sweet 100’
© Steve Masley
…Click IMAGE to Enlarge

If you’re growing tomatoes for the first time, or growing tomatoes in pots, Cherry Tomatoes are a good place to start. Cherry and grape tomatoes are small, usually less than 1” (2.5cm), and grow in large clusters.

They’re generally the best choices for cool-summer areas, and small fruit size means they’re more suitable if you’re growing tomatoes in containers. They’re also a hit with toddlers and kids, so if you’re trying to instill an appreciation for fresh foods in your kids, growing cherry tomatoes is a good start.

‘Sweet 100’ (F1 hybrid, Indeterminate, 65-70 days) is a great-tasting, prolific cherry tomato. The vigorous indeterminate vines produce dozens of irresistibly sweet, bite-sized tomatoes on long trusses.

Buy 'Sweet 100' Seedsicon

Tomato Varieties—'Sungold' on the Vine
Cherry Tomato Varieties—
© Steve Masley
…Click IMAGE to Enlarge

‘Sungold’ (F1 hybrid, Indeterminate, 65 days, resistant to verticilium and fusarium wilts 1 and 2) produces sweet, orange, 1” tomatoes that are perfect for salads. Its vigorous, indeterminate vines start producing early, and keep producing till first frost.     Buy 'Sungold' Seeds icon

‘Sweet Million’ (F1 hybrid, Small Indeterminate, 65-75 days) is similar to ‘Sweet 100’, but with more tomatoes per cluster. The indeterminate vines are smaller than ‘Sweet 100’.

‘Black Cherry’ (Heirloom—Open Pollinated, Indeterminate, 70 days) has large clusters of 1”, deep purplish-red fruit with true tomato taste, not just sweetness. Great resistance to diseases for an heirloom tomato.

Cherry  |   Salad  |   Beefsteak  |   Roma (Paste)  |   Hybrid vs Heirloom
Growing Tomatoes

Salad Tomatoes

Salad Tomatoes form 2-3” (5-7.5cm) diameter fruit, perfect for slicing on sandwiches or chopping into salads. They’re usually a little tarter and juicier than cherry tomatoes or beefsteak tomatoes, with some acid to balance their sweetness. Some have undertones of tropical fruits.

Salad tomatoes have more cultivars than any other type of tomato. Here are a few favorites:

Growing Heirloom Tomatoes—'Carmello' in Hand
Growing Heirloom Tomatoes—‘Carmello’
© Steve MasleyClick IMAGE to Enlarge

‘Carmello’ (Heirloom—Open Pollinated, Indeterminate, 65-70 days) is a midsize, 3-4” (7-10cm) tomato with a nice balance between acidic and sweet. Very productive, indeterminate vines produce late into the season. More resistant to wilts and diseases than many heirloom tomatoes.

Buy 'Carmelita' Seedsicon (a variant of 'Carmello').

‘Enchantment’, a.k.a. ‘Jewel’ or ‘Jewel Enchantment’ (F1 hybrid, Indeterminate, 72 days, resistant to verticilium and fusarium wilts 1 and 2, nematodes, and tobacco mosaic virus) is a 3” (7.5cm), oval salad tomato that grows in fat clusters spiraling around the vine. One of the most versatile tomatoes you can grow, it has great flavor, but is not so juicy that you can’t make a quick sauce without having to cook off a lot of water. Vigorous indeterminate vines can reach 10’ (3 m) if pruned and trained vertically.          Buy 'Enchantment' Seedsicon

Tomato Varieties—'Enchantment' on the Vine
Salad Tomato Varieties—
© Steve Masley
…Click IMAGE to Enlarge

‘Valencia’ (Heirloom—Open Pollinated, Indeterminate, 76 days) is a 2-3” (5-7.5cm) orange tomato with the texture—and flavor!—of a sweet, ripe mango. Not too juicy, very few seeds. If you haven’t tried it, do.

‘Tomosa’ (F1 hybrid, Indeterminate, 75 days) is another mid-size (2”–5cm), orange tomato that’s popular in European farmers markets. Tarter than ‘Valencia’.     Buy 'Tomosa' Seedsicon

‘Gill’s All-Purpose’ (Open Pollinated, Determinate, 80 days) is a northwestern favorite that also performs well in cool-summer areas. A versatile, 3-3 ½” (7-9cm), deep-red tomato with good sweet-tart balance, it’s great for fresh eating, canning or juicing.

Tomato Varieties—'Sweet Cluster' on the Vine 3
Salad Tomato Varieties—
‘Sweet Cluster’
© Steve Masley
…Click IMAGE to Enlarge

‘Sweet Cluster’ (F1 hybrid, Indeterminate, 65-75 days) is one of the hothouse tomatoes you see in big, pricey clusters in the middle of winter. Vine-ripened in the summer, it’s almost like a different fruit. Perfect balance between sweetness, tartness, and tomato flavor. The vigorous vines are easy to train ‘Italian Grandfather Style’

Buy 'Sweet Cluster' Seeds

‘Oregon Spring’ (Open Pollinated, Determinate, 60 days, resistant to verticilium wilt) is an early bush tomato that produces in cool-summer and short-season areas.

‘Early Girl’ (F1 hybrid, Indeterminate, 80 days) is a great tomato for early harvest and northern or cool-summer gardens. It produces clusters of 1½-2” (4-5cm) deep-red fruits with just the right combination of sweetness and true tomato flavor.

Growing Tomatoes in Pots, 'Early Girl' 1
Tomato Varieties—‘Early Girl’
© Steve Masley
Click IMAGE to Enlarge

‘Stupice’ (Heirloom—Open Pollinated, Indeterminate potato-leafed, 60-65 days) produces deep-red, 2” (5cm), oblong tomatoes. Starts early and produces continuously for the whole summer, even in cool-summer gardens.

‘Green Zebra’ (Heirloom—Open Pollinated, Indeterminate, 72 days) produces 2” (5cm) tangy green tomatoes that are a welcome addition to salads. Harvest when they develop a yellowish cast that contrasts with the darker green stripes.

Buy 'Green Zebra' Seedsicon

‘Polbig’ (Open Pollinated, Determinate, 60 days, resistant to verticilium and fusarium wilts and tobacco mosaic virus) produces early yields of deep red, 6-8oz fruit on vigorous bush plants. Good for cool-season and alpine gardens.

Left to Right: ‘Sweet Cluster’, ‘Stupice’, ‘San Francisco Fog’, and ‘Big Beef’
Click Any Image to See a Larger Version
Growing Tomatoes ‘Italian-Grandfather-style’:  Train the Plant to 1 or 2 Leaders and Spiral Them Up a Stake, Tying Every 8”.  Fruit Sets in Fat Clusters Along the Stake
Tomato Varieties—'Stupice' on the Vine
Tomato Varieties—'San Francisco Fog' on the Vine 1
Beefsteak Tomato Varieties—'Big Beef' on the Vine 2

Cherry  |   Salad  |   Beefsteak  |   Roma (Paste)  |   Hybrid vs Heirloom
Growing Tomatoes

Roma (Paste) Tomatoes

'Big Mama' Super Paste Tomato
'Big Mama' Super Paste Tomato

Photo from Cook's Garden

Roma (Paste) Tomatoes are dense Italian plum tomatoes like San Marzano, with sweet, firm flesh, high pectin content, not much juice, and few seeds…the perfect sauce tomato, since it thickens naturally and needs less cooking time to evaporate off excess moisture.

Their low moisture content gives them extended fresh storage time, and they’re great for drying or topping pizzas.

‘Big Mama’ (F1 hybrid, Indeterminate, 80 days produces huge (3" x 5"–7 x 13cm), heavy paste tomatoes that make excellant sauce, especially if sliced in half and fire-roasted first.

Buy 'Big Mama' Seedsicon

‘San Marzano’ (F1 hybrid, Indeterminate, 85 days, resistant to verticilium and fusarium wilt 1, tobacco mosaic virus, nematodes, and bacterial speck) produces high yields of heavy, 1 ½ x 5” (4 x 12cm) fruits. Vigorous indeterminate plants.

Buy 'San Marzano' Seeds icon

‘Principe Borghese’ (Italian Heirloom—Open Pollinated, Determinate, 80 days) stout determinate plants bear heavy crops of 1 x 2” (2.5 x 5cm) fruit. Stores well, not as susceptible to rots as many other tomatoes.

‘Amish Paste’ (Heirloom Paste Tomato, Indeterminate, short vines) has very high yields for a smaller tomato plant. Flavor intensifies with cooking.

Buy 'Amish Paste' Seedsicon

Cherry  |   Salad  |   Beefsteak  |   Roma (Paste)  |   Hybrid vs Heirloom
Growing Tomatoes

Beefsteak Tomatoes

Beefsteak Tomatoes produce large, heavy fruit, up to 1lb (0.45kg). These are the big, thick, meaty tomatoes that are so prized for sandwiches—and one of the main reasons for growing tomatoes. Some varieties reach 6” (15cm) in diameter. Beefsteak tomatoes need a longer season and more heat than smaller varieties.

Beefsteak Tomato Varieties—'Big Beef' on the Vine 2
Tomato Varieties—‘Big Beef’
© Steve Masley…Click IMAGE to Enlarge

‘Big Beef’ (F1 hybrid, 75-80 days, resists verticillium and fusarium wilts 1 and 2, nematodes, and tobacco mosaic virus) is an early beefsteak variety that’s a good choice for growing tomatoes in cooler climates. 4-6” (10-15cm) tomatoes, firm texture, good tomato flavor. Good performer in most areas.

Buy 'Big Beef' Seedsicon

‘Nepal’ (Heirloom—Open Pollinated, Indeterminate, 78 days) produces high yields of 4-6” (10-15cm), deep-red, juicy tomatoes on vigorous indeterminate vines. Produces in cool-summer gardens. Good disease resistance for an heirloom tomato.

‘Celebrity’ (F1 hybrid, Determinate, 95-100 days, resists verticilium and fusarium wilts 1 & 2, tobacco mosaic virus, nematodes, alternaria stem canker, and grey leaf spot) is a good beefsteak tomato variety for cool-summer gardens. Beautiful 3-4” (7-10cm), deep-red, globe-shaped fruits, with great flavor—all on a strong (3-4-foot–1 meter +) determinate plant.

Buy 'Celebrity' Seeds (Burpee)icon

Tomato Varieties—'Caspian Pink on the Vine 1'
Tomato Varieties—‘Caspian Pink’
© Steve Masley…Click IMAGE to Enlarge

‘Caspian Pink’ (Heirloom—Open Pollinated, Indeterminate, 80 days) produces large, firm, pink tomatoes, 5-6” (12-15cm) across. My wife’s favorite tomato. Good yields for a beefsteak variety, performs well in cool-summer gardens, moderate disease resistance.

Buy 'Caspian Pink' Seedsicon

‘Momatoro’ (F1 hybrid, Indeterminate, 70 days)  is the most popular tomato variety in Japanese markets. It produces 3-4” (7-10cm) dark pink tomatoes with just the right mix of sweet and sour.

‘Fantastic’ (F1 hybrid, Indeterminate, 85 days) is a popular, widely-available hybrid beefsteak that produces large yields of 3-4” (7-10cm), deep-red, firm slicing tomatoes on vigorous indeterminate vines.

‘Mortgage Lifter’ (Heirloom, Indeterminate, 85 days) produces very large (4-6"–10-15cm), sweet beefsteak tomatoes with classic tomato flavor. Always a great performer.       Buy 'Mortgage Lifter' Seedsicon

‘Persimmon’ (F1 hybrid, Indeterminate, 85 days) produces huge, sweet orange beefsteak tomatoes that are beautiful sliced.

Buy 'Persimmon' Seedsicon

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‘Black Krim’ (Heirloom—Open Pollinated, 80-85 days) is a chocolate-colored beefsteak tomato that forms 4-6” (10-15cm) fruit. Performs well in cool-summer areas, a rarity for a beefsteak tomato. Great tomato flavor, but it looks like a slice of kidney on a sandwich.

Buy 'Black Krim' Seeds icon

‘Costoluto Genovese’ (Heirloom—Open Pollinated, 80-85 days) is so heavily ribbed that it looks misshapen, but these are some of the juiciest, best-tasting tomatoes you’ll ever grow. These twisted, deep red tomatoes have orange shoulders when they’re ripe, so don’t leave them on the vine too long—usually not a problem since they’re so good!

Buy 'Costoluto Genovese' Seedsicon

‘Brandywine’ (Heirloom—Open Pollinated, Indeterminate potato-leafed, 85 days) is a classic beefsteak tomato. They have great flavor and consistently win tomato tastings, but they’re not very productive. A healthy brandywine may produce 8 large tomatoes in a 90-day season, but brandywines rarely stay healthy.

Buy 'Brandywine Pink' Seedsicon

If any wilts or bacterial diseases are floating around, Brandywines will get it before any other tomato in the patch. I’ve tried growing them in multiple gardens, multiple times, and the result is always the same—midway through the season, the Brandywines get sick and stop producing, even if every other tomato around them is thriving.

If you’re growing tomatoes, give Brandywines a try. The flavor is certainly worth the effort.

Cherry  |   Salad  |   Beefsteak  |   Roma (Paste)  |   Hybrid vs Heirloom
Growing Tomatoes

Hybrid vs. Heirloom Tomato Varieties

Growing Tomatoes ‘Italian-Grandfather-style’:  Train the Plant to 1 or 2 Leaders and Spiral Them Up a Stake, Tying Every 8”.  Fruit Sets in Fat Clusters Along the Stake
Hybrid Tomato—
‘Sweet Cluster’
© Steve Masley
…Click IMAGE to Enlarge
Buy 'Sweet Cluster' Seeds

Hybrid Tomato Varieties are bred for higher yields, disease resistance, ease of harvesting, or—in the worst case—extended shelf life.

Hybrid tomato varieties are crosses between different cultivars, and there’s little chance they’ll produce true to form from saved seeds—they usually revert to one of the parents, or some random combination of traits instead of the ones selected to increase yield and performance.

For decades, plant breeders and seed companies focused on producing tomatoes that work with large-scale, mechanized production. That meant determinate tomatoes, which are easier and more predictable to harvest, but they went a step further and selected for tomatoes with thick skins and less moisture.

The most egregious example is the “12-mile-an-hour” tomato. These “tomatoes” were bred to withstand the impact of the mechanical tomato harvester (12 miles per hour). They’re harvested just as they’re turning pink, and gassed with ethylene gas to give them a reddish color. Unlike any real tomato, these will last for months after harvest.

Tomato Varieties—'Carmello' on the Vine 4
Heirloom Tomato Varieties—‘Carmello’
© Steve Masley…Click IMAGE to Enlarge

Such “tomatoes” are easier to harvest and get to market, so they gradually displaced better tomatoes in supermarkets, and consumers came to accept these mealy imposters because they had no other choice.

Fortunately, home gardeners have always had a choice. If a hybrid tasted great or produced prodigiously, they’d plant it, but if it was mealy and bland, they could ask Mrs. Potreli down the street for some seeds for those rambling, tasty tomatoes from her garden.

Heirloom tomato varieties, prized for superior flavor or excellent performance under local conditions, have been passed down through families or from neighbor to neighbor and saved for generations. Heirloom tomato varieties are “open-pollinated”, meaning they’ll reproduce true to form from saved seeds.

These juicy, thin-skinned beauties can’t be shipped long distances, so large-scale tomato farmers—and companies that supply them seed—ignored them. Fortunately, home gardeners and local farmers preserved many from extinction, and thanks to organizations like the Seed Savers Exchange, they’re now more widely available.

When I started growing tomatoes organically, farmers and seed companies were asleep at the switch, and we were losing tomato cultivars at an alarming rate. Planting hybrid tomatoes was considered immoral, a capitulation to agribusiness seed companies.

Now, with the rise of the chef-driven local foods movement and the revitalization of farmers markets and small-scale vegetable farming and gardening, heirloom tomato varieties are avidly pursued, not just preserved.

Some organic gardeners remain heirloom tomato purists, and turn their noses up at the thought of growing hybrid tomato varieties, or hybrid varieties of any vegetable.

I am not among them. I’ve always grown tomatoes in challenging, cool-summer climates, where a limited number of tomatoes will work. If an heirloom variety produces well in my climate, I’m happy to grow it, but I’m just as happy growing a hybrid tomato variety that produces bumper crops of delicious tomatoes.

Recommended Heirloom
Tomato Varieties

These are the heirloom tomato varieties I’ve grown, and can recommend (by type of tomato):

    Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes: ‘Black Cherry’

    Heirloom Salad Tomatoes: ‘Carmello’, ‘Valencia’, ‘Stupice’, and ‘Green Zebra’. While technically not “heirloom” tomatoes, ‘Oregon Spring’ and ‘Gill’s All Purpose’ are open pollinated varieties that are old favorites of many home gardeners.

    Heirloom Beefsteak Tomatoes: ‘Brandywine’, ‘Yellow Brandywine’, ‘Costoluto Genovese’, ‘Black Krim’, and ‘Nepal’.

    Heirloom Paste Tomatoes: ‘Principe Borghese’, 'Amish Paste'

Descriptions of these varieties are found under each type of tomato, above.

Top of Tomato Varieties Page

Cherry  |   Salad  |   Beefsteak  |   Roma (Paste)  |   Hybrid vs Heirloom
Growing Tomatoes

Tomato Varieties  |   Starting Tomatoes from Seed
Growing Tomatoes  |   Tomato Hornworms  |   Other Tomato Pests
Tomato Diseases  |   Growing Heirloom Tomatoes
Growing Tomatoes in Cool-Summer Gardens

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