Why so many tomato varieties?
Tomatoes are either highly praised as wonderful or highly disliked as disgusting. I think of the children’s book “I Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato” written by Lauren Child which covers not only a child’s distaste for tomatoes but other vegetables as well. (Carrots? really?)
One thing is for sure, if you can include any of the many tomato varieties in your daily diet you have half the battle of the tomato won. I say this because I have two children who just can’t stomach a tomato. (Probably should have read them the book more often.) I have always had tomatoes at just about every meal whether it was in salads or sauces. “Why on earth don’t they like them?” Growing up with an older generation father, it was known in our house that nothing beats a sliced tomato with pepper on it, which was one of my dad’s favorite! When I was sick as a child, my mother would offer a sliced tomato with mayo, which became my go to sick food. This was not only comfort food for me but also helped nurture my love for all tomatoes. With that love came the desire to try different tomato varieties. There are so many tomato varieties out there now it is overwhelming on how to decide which one is best for your garden location to which one is best for your taste buds. Tomatoes are classified under two categories that indicate their growth pattern: Indeterminate and determinate. From these two categories, is where you get the heirloom, hybrid and dwarf tomato varieties.
Indeterminate is really the most popular of the tomato varieties because they can produce up till the first frost in the fall. This type of tomato plant eliminates the overwhelming need to harvest at one particular time that can have you scrambling to find recipes to use for all those beautiful tomatoes! Indeterminate produce a large amount of tomatoes that can be picked when needed for salads and certain dishes. Some examples can include heirlooms and most cherry types. Even many dwarf tomato varieties are indeterminate. Indeterminate tomatoes can grow very tall and take up a certain amount of space in most gardens. Because both tomato varieties are vine plants (one more than the other) they will need to be staked and supported. A sunny location is key to their growth and production. If you want kids to like tomatoes it is best to start with the sweet cherry types that can include Super Sweet 100 (just like candy) to the Sun Gold that has great flavor and color. Some other examples of indeterminate tomatoes are those that have a shorter mature date such as Early Girl and Fireworks. These can be ripe in only 50 to 55 days. Indeterminate tomatoes offer a variety of shapes and colors and are labeled in seed catalogs and on plant markers in your nurseries.
Determinate tomato plants tend to be more of a bush plant than a towering tree like an indeterminate plant. They still need to be supported to which the tomato cages work well for this. It keeps them contained and neat. A popular example of a determinate tomato is the Roma tomato which is used in tomato sauces for spaghetti, pizzas, and casseroles. These tomato plants produce lots of fruit and ripen about the same time which have you harvesting all at once. Popular names are Celebrity and San Marzano. There are dwarf determinate varieties as well that work in smaller gardens and containers. The Better Bush tomato is an example which matures fast and is great for slicing. There are also determinate cherry types such as Tumbling Tom Yellow and Patio Choice Yellow. Determinates are great for containers and raised garden beds. They are also labeled in seed catalogs and nurseries.
Tomato varieties and their cool names can go on and on with new and improved variations of hybrids coming out all of the time. As long as you understand a tomatoes’ growth pattern which is indeterminate or determinate you should be able to find one that fits your wants and needs. The introduction of dwarf tomato varieties has enabled anyone to garden without space or land. So even though it is confusing to know which tomato is best for your location or your taste buds it is fantastic to have so many to choose from. They even have a tomato that is best for fried green tomatoes, which one of my children will eat! So if you ever hear “I will never not ever eat a tomato” from your kids, have them help you plant and harvest a unique variety. Who knows, someday someone might come up with a moon squirter (tomato, of course) and every child will love them! Great book!