From flavor-filled heirlooms to sturdier hybrids and tiny cherries, the range of tomatoes in cultivation today is more diverse than ever before. Even among the 700 plus varieties available, though, certain cultivars stand out. To find the best plant for your garden, and your kitchen, consider the time to maturity, growth habitat, disease resistance, seeds, and flavor.
Choosing a Tomato
With so many plants so easily available online and local greenhouses and markets, it can be quite difficult to come to a decision. Here are the key factors for finding the right one for you:
This indeterminate, heirloom is celebrated for its sweetly acidic richness. With large, smooth potato leaves, plants grow up to 4 feet over 80 to 100 days, maturing slowly but yielding large slicer fruits in pink, red, yellow, or black. All varieties have issues with common diseases, uneven ripening, fruit cracking, and aborted blossoms in humid heat. However, the Brandywine OTV (Off the Vine) stands out for big red fruits that are more disease and heat resistant.
Among hybrids, this French tomato ranks among the most prolific varieties. It produces clusters of generously-sized, round, red fruits with an extraordinary, full-bodied flavor. Plants are indeterminate with high stamina and exceptional disease and crack resistance that allows them to continue through autumn months. Unsurprisingly, this tomato can be tough to track down.
For a tomato cultivar with exceptional defense against diseases, look no further than the Green Zebra. This modern heirloom is abundantly productive under a wide range of conditions, though watering, hotter climates, and blossom-end rot can still be an issue. These small, amber fruits are striped with dark green and have a sweet, piquant bite to their sparkling, emerald flesh. They take between 75 to 80 days to ripen fully and come in Green, Black, Big, and Red varieties.
This world-renowned plum tomato is the basis for Roma varieties, with thinner, bittersweet fruits, and thicker flesh. They come from near Mount Vesuvius in Italy and provide a strong, blight-resistant canning fruit. The plants are indeterminate and grow up to 6 feet with 4-ounce fruits that can outlast most past tomatoes well into autumn. At the end of the season, you can ripen green fruits indoors, freeze tomatoes for winter use, and save seeds for the next year.
Cherry tomatoes combine wild currant and domestic tomatoes, going as far back as Aztec Mexico. Like other cherry tomatoes, this variety is small and round, bearing a clear resemblance to the popular Sweet 100 cultivar. Plants are large, vigorous, and sprawling indeterminates with regular leaves and abundant clusters of purple to mahogany fruit. These unique tomatoes burst with complex sweetness, but they are also open-pollinated and disease resistant.