With so many varieties of Tomatoes available, it can be hard to decide which kinds to grow. To simplify your choices, first decide where you’ll be growing your Tomatoes and how you plan to use your crop.
If you don’t have a lot of outdoor space, try container gardening. Look for descriptive terms like “compact,” “dwarf,” “patio” or “determinate” for best success. Whether in containers or a garden, always choose a location in full sun, which means a minimum of 6 hours of direct sun per day.
Select large-fruited Tomatoes such as beefsteaks for slicing, paste varieties (sometimes also called plum Tomatoes) for sauce or juice, cherries for salads and snacks, and heirlooms for their unique flavors and historic appeal. The following terms also will help you choose the right varieties for your purposes:
“Determinate” means the plants stop growing at a certain height, rather than continuing to grow all summer. Their fruits ripen all at once so you’ll have a single harvest (which is terrific for things like making sauce or canning), rather than the ongoing or more staggered harvest provided by Indeterminate varieties. Determinate varieties grow well in containers because they are more compact and need less staking.
“Indeterminate” Tomatoes are a good choice for planting out in gardens because they produce higher yields and continue growing as long as the weather is warm and sunny. Their vines will sprawl over the ground unless you stake or cage them; or you can cover the ground with mulch to keep the fruits from touching the soil. A few of our favorite varieties are the snack-size cherry ‘Sungold’ and heirloom ‘Black Prince’.
“Ripens XXX days from transplant” means fruits will ripen and be ready for picking in roughly the number of days that are given in place of the XXXs above. The countdown starts on the date you plant a particular Tomato in the ground or in a container. Early varieties ripen about 60 days from transplant; late varieties may take 80-90 days.
Remember to include a few herb plants on your shopping list – they are perfect companions for both fresh and cooked Tomatoes. One of our favorite summer salads is the classic Caprese, which features fresh sliced Tomatoes alternating with slices of Mozzarella cheese and topped with fresh Basil leaves and good olive oil.