All Posts   Posted:   April 7, 2015 by Nicole Forbes - Dennis' 7 Dees Education Director

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. If your sun exposure is limited remember a rule of thumb: the larger the fruit the more sun needed for ripening.

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

Cherry and Grape Tomatoes

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.
  • ‘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.     
  • ‘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’.
  • ‘Chocolate 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.
  • ‘Snow White’ (Heriloom-Open Pollinated, Indeterminate, 70 days) “White”- pale yellow with a sweet fruity flavor; delicious, snacking or salad tomato.

Salad/Slicing 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:

  • ‘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.
  • ‘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.
  • ‘Moskovich’ (Heirloom-Open Pollinated, Indeterminate, 65 days) This Russian heirloom is a grower favorite! Extra early, high yields of 4-6 oz., deep red fruit with fantastic flavor!
  • ‘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. Try ‘New Girl’ for improved flavor.
  • ‘Bloody Butcher’ (Heirloom-Open Pollinated, Indeterminate potato-leafed, 60 days) A small 3-4 oz "cluster" tomato. Fruit are deep red in color and have a nice tomato flavor. Production is really good, but where this open-pollinated tomato really shines is its earliness. It ripens in only about 60 days, making it ripen about the same time as Early Girl, but this tomato is much tastier.
  • ‘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.

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.

  • ‘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. [icon]
  • ‘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.
  • ‘Caspian Pink’ (Heirloom—Open Pollinated, Indeterminate, 80 days) produces large, firm, pink tomatoes, 5-6” (12-15cm) across. Good yields for a beefsteak variety, performs well in cool-summer gardens, moderate disease resistance. [icon]
  • ‘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
  • ‘Persimmon’ (F1 hybrid, Indeterminate, 85 days) produces huge, sweet orange beefsteak tomatoes that are beautiful sliced.
  • ‘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; great tomato flavor.
  • ‘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! [icon]
  • ‘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; they are prone to diseases. [icon] 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.

Recommended Heirloom Tomato Varieties

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

  • Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes: ‘Chocolate Cherry’, ‘Snow White’
  • Heirloom Salad Tomatoes: ‘Carmello’, ‘Valencia’, ‘Stupice’, ‘Bloody Butcher’ ‘Moskovich’ and ‘Green Zebra’. While technically not “heirloom” tomatoes, ‘Oregon Spring’ is an open pollinated variety.
  • Heirloom Beefsteak Tomatoes: ‘Brandywine’, ‘Yellow Brandywine’, ‘Costoluto Genovese’, ‘Black Krim’, and ‘Mortgage Lifter’, ‘Nepal’.
  • Heirloom Paste Tomatoes: ‘Principe Borghese’, 'Amish Paste'

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. If your sun exposure is limited remember a rule of thumb: the larger the fruit the more sun needed for ripening.

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

Cherry and Grape Tomatoes

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.
  • ‘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.     
  • ‘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’.
  • ‘Chocolate 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.
  • ‘Snow White’ (Heriloom-Open Pollinated, Indeterminate, 70 days) “White”- pale yellow with a sweet fruity flavor; delicious, snacking or salad tomato.

Salad/Slicing 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:

  • ‘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.
  • ‘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.
  • ‘Moskovich’ (Heirloom-Open Pollinated, Indeterminate, 65 days) This Russian heirloom is a grower favorite! Extra early, high yields of 4-6 oz., deep red fruit with fantastic flavor!
  • ‘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. Try ‘New Girl’ for improved flavor.
  • ‘Bloody Butcher’ (Heirloom-Open Pollinated, Indeterminate potato-leafed, 60 days) A small 3-4 oz "cluster" tomato. Fruit are deep red in color and have a nice tomato flavor. Production is really good, but where this open-pollinated tomato really shines is its earliness. It ripens in only about 60 days, making it ripen about the same time as Early Girl, but this tomato is much tastier.
  • ‘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.

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.

  • ‘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. [icon]
  • ‘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.
  • ‘Caspian Pink’ (Heirloom—Open Pollinated, Indeterminate, 80 days) produces large, firm, pink tomatoes, 5-6” (12-15cm) across. Good yields for a beefsteak variety, performs well in cool-summer gardens, moderate disease resistance. [icon]
  • ‘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
  • ‘Persimmon’ (F1 hybrid, Indeterminate, 85 days) produces huge, sweet orange beefsteak tomatoes that are beautiful sliced.
  • ‘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; great tomato flavor.
  • ‘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! [icon]
  • ‘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; they are prone to diseases. [icon] 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.

Recommended Heirloom Tomato Varieties

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

  • Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes: ‘Chocolate Cherry’, ‘Snow White’
  • Heirloom Salad Tomatoes: ‘Carmello’, ‘Valencia’, ‘Stupice’, ‘Bloody Butcher’ ‘Moskovich’ and ‘Green Zebra’. While technically not “heirloom” tomatoes, ‘Oregon Spring’ is an open pollinated variety.
  • Heirloom Beefsteak Tomatoes: ‘Brandywine’, ‘Yellow Brandywine’, ‘Costoluto Genovese’, ‘Black Krim’, and ‘Mortgage Lifter’, ‘Nepal’.
  • Heirloom Paste Tomatoes: ‘Principe Borghese’, 'Amish Paste'