With over 4,000 tomato varieties, choosing the heirloom tomatoes that you want to raise is sure to be a difficult task. Unlike commercially marketed tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, and tastes. They are the varieties that have been passed down through the generations from hundreds of farmers and gardeners around the world.
Here's a look at some of the more popular varieties:
- Commonly known as the "large-fruited" types, beefsteak tomatoes are capable of producing a slice that covers a sandwich. The fruit from this variety of tomato plant can easily weigh 2 or more pounds and usually ripen late in the season.
- Known to most as the small round tomatoes that accompanies a garden salad, the cherry tomato plant produces a "cherry-sized" fruit (can be a little larger than a cherry). These types of tomatoes range in size from the dwarf style tomato plant to the seven-plus foot tomato plants. Typical cherry tomato plants produce excessively, so one plant per family is usually sufficient.
- Exactly the opposite of the indeterminate tomato plant,these tomato plants have similar habits of growing to a certain size, yielding the fruit and then declining. Plants within this category of tomatoes generally ripen early in the season and are incapable of producing fruit for an extended period of time. This group is commonly referred to as compact tomato plants
- Also known as the midget or patio tomato plants, this variety of tomatoes produces cherry type tomatoes (1" diameter or less). Although these plants life cycle are short lived, they quickly produce tomato corps for a short period of time. Due to their compact vines and tight root structure, dwarf tomato plants can be grown in a hanging basket or small containers.
- The most commonly grown tomato plants for the home gardener. Typically these plants grow all summer long and will continue until cut back or killed off by frost or disease. The success of these tomato plants is very dependent on the use of tomato cages and stakes in order to promote a more natural growing environment and keep the fruit of this plant from coming into contact with the soil.
- Less juicy than most varieties of tomatoes, the paste tomato plant offers a pear shaped fruit without a center core. Paste tomatoes are known for their meaty insides and very few seeds, making this tomato plant an ideal canned good.
- The ultimate tomato for making pasta sauce. Check out this tomato sauce article for a variety of views on this subject.
Other Tomato Plants - From the relatively new winter storage tomato plants to low temperature growing tomato plants to orange, yellow, pink or multi-color fruit bearing tomato plants, the tomato varieties can be endless. Through different trails and personal experiments, gardeners and botanists will continue to cross breed tomato plants to create the next generation tomato.