With so many different types of tomatoes to choose from, it can be hard to decide what to grow. I like to plant a mixture of tomato types – cherry varieties for salads, beefsteaks for slicing and sandwiches, and plum tomatoes for sauce. If you’re trying to decide the best types of tomatoes to plant in your garden, consider how you like to eat your tomatoes. Also think about your space. If you don’t have large garden, you may wish to stick to compact varieties. To help you figure out which types of tomatoes to plant, check out my detailed guide below.
Why learn about the types of tomatoes?
For me, the types of tomatoes I choose to grow are based on how my family likes to eat them. Cherry and grape tomatoes are eaten as snacks, in salads, and dipped in dressings and hummus. Saladette tomatoes are sliced in salads or chopped into salsas. Plum tomatoes are perfect for canning or sauce making. And we love to use thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes in summer sandwiches, on burgers, or layered with mozzarella cheese and basil for a mouth-watering Caprese salad.
When selecting types of tomatoes, consider growth habit
Before we explore all the wonderful types of tomatoes to grow, it’s important to understand that tomato plants are classified according to their growth habit. The two main growth habits are determinate, or bush, and indeterminate, or vining.
- Determinate tomato plants grow to a certain height, often 3 to 4 feet, and then produce their flowers and fruits over a short period of time. They’re ideal for small spaces, container growing, or gardeners who wish to can or process tomatoes because the fruits ripen around the same time.
- Indeterminate tomato plants form tall plants that can grow up to 7 feet and require strong supports. They produce flowers and fruits from mid-summer until frost.
Understanding the differences between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes is important as it helps you choose varieties that fit your space. If you have a patio or balcony garden and plant in pots, you may wish to grow compact determinate varieties. If you’ve got plenty of garden space and are able to stake and support tall tomato plants, you can opt for indeterminate varieties.
7 types of tomatoes to grow
If you’re like me, you probably find it hard to narrow down your list of must-grow tomatoes. Every year I aim to plant fewer seedlings, yet by mid-summer my garden is bursting with tomato plants! It’s hard to resist the incredible variety of tomato types available through seed catalogs. Below you’ll learn more about 7 types of tomatoes, starting with the small-fruited types and going all the way to the massive fruits of beefsteak tomatoes.
1) Currant tomatoes
Currant tomato plants tend to be a bit wild looking, with their vigorous growth sprawling in every direction. They’re a bit hard to stake, but I try to keep the plants upright to conserve garden space and reduce the risk of soil-borne diseases. By mid-summer, the plants are producing hundreds of pea-sized fruits bursting with delicious tomato flavor. These tiny tomatoes often split as you pick them and are best eaten soon after harvesting.
- Red Currant (70 days) – By mid-summer Red Currant tomato plants are covered in long clusters of small ruby-red fruits. We enjoy their sweet tomato flavor straight off the vine or tossed into salads and pastas. For a fun color contrast, grow Yellow Currant alongside Red Currant.
- Candyland Red (60 days) – Candyland Red is an award-winning hybrid tomato that offers a tidier growth habit than other currant varieties. The indeterminate plants grow up to 6 feet tall and yield hundreds and hundreds of small bright red fruits.
2) Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are one of the most popular types of tomatoes to grow. The plants produce small, cherry-sized fruits with a diameter of about 1 to 1 1/2 inches. The juicy, sweet tomatoes are typically produced in clusters or trusses, with the plants offering a generous harvest. Most cherry tomato varieties are quick to mature with the harvest beginning about 60 days from transplanting. This gives you a head start on the homegrown harvest as large-fruited varieties need an extra few weeks to ripen their sizeable fruits.
There are many outstanding varieties of cherry tomatoes to grow in a rainbow of colors that includes red, orange, yellow, green, black, pink, and purple. Here are a few of the cherry tomato varieties I grow each year:
- Sungold (67 days) – Sungold is one of the most popular cherry tomatoes grown in gardens, beloved for its incredibly sweet golden fruits. The indeterminate plants start to crop early in the season and continue to pump out tomatoes until frost.
- Sunrise Bumblebee (70 days) – Beautiful and delicious, the sweet orange fruits of Sunrise Bumblebee are streaked in bright gold. The cherry-sized tomatoes are resistant to cracking and the the indeterminate plants grow 6 to 7 feet tall.
- Jasper (60 days) – There are many reasons to plant Jasper. First, the vigorous indeterminate plants are resistant to early and late blight. They also produce a heavy crop of glossy red fruits that begins early in the season and continues until the autumn frosts arrive. Finally, the fruits are very crack resistant.
Bonus cherry tomato varieties (the most popular type of small-fruited tomatoes)
- Sweet Million (63 days) – Sweet Million is a classic cherry variety that produces tall indeterminate plants, each yielding hundreds of bright red fruits. Ok, maybe it’s not a million tomatoes, but it’s enough to keep you in sweet cherry tomatoes all summer long.
- Yellow Pear (75 days) – Pear tomatoes are a unique tomato type to grow. Their unusual pear-shape adds fun to salads and their bright, sweet flavor is delightful. The indeterminate plants grow up to 7 feet tall and produce long chains of the 1 1/2 inch fruits until frost.
3) Grape tomatoes
A handful of grape tomatoes straight from the vine is the perfect summer snack. The bite-sized tomatoes have an oblong-shape and the fruits are generally more firm than cherry tomatoes and have a meatier texture. As for the taste, most grape varieties have a rich tomato flavor that balances sweet with acid.
There are many excellent grape tomato varieties available through seed catalogs. Standouts include:
- Valentine (55 days) – For an extra-early crop of flavorful grape tomatoes, plant Valentine. The indeterminate plants are disease resistant, extremely productive, and yield heavily until frost.
- Starlight Grape (70 days) – This unique tomato is one of my favorites to grow! I love the elongated bright yellow fruits that grow 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, but are just 3/4 of an inch across. Starlight Grape’s high-yielding, indeterminate plants are tall and need to be staked.
- Supernova (63 days) – I’ve been growing this fun grape variety for the past few years and love the red and gold marbled fruits. The indeterminate plants of Supernova are very productive with the harvest beginning about 63 days from transplanting.
- Juliet (60 days) – This award-winning indeterminate grape variety yields 12 to 18 large, bright red fruits per cluster. Each one is about 2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches across with good crack resistance, disease resistant, and a delicious tomato flavor.
4) Saladette tomatoes
Also called Campari or cocktail tomatoes, saladettes are bigger than cherry and grape tomatoes, but smaller than beefsteak varieties. Most are about 2 inches across and weigh between 2 to 4 ounces. They’re perfect sliced in salads or eaten straight off the vine. I also use them in pastas and roast them in the oven. Delicious!
- Mountain Magic (66 days) – Mountain Magic is a very disease-resistant cocktail variety that produces long trusses of bright red fruits. The 2 inch diameter tomatoes are crack resistant and very flavorful.
- Jaune Flamme (75 days) – I first planted this heirloom variety about 20 years ago and fell in love with the productive plants and incredible flavor. The tall vining plants yield a generous crop of sweet-tart golden tomatoes that begins about 2 1/2 months after transplanting.
- Red Racer (57 days) – Looking for a small space cocktail tomato? Try Red Racer, an award-winning variety that forms tidy, compact plants. The tomato flavor, however, is big with a nice sweet-acid balance.
5) Plum tomatoes
Plum tomatoes, also known as paste, processing or Roma tomatoes, are the type of tomato to grow if you want to make sauces and tomato paste. Most varieties of plum tomatoes are oblong in shape and have blunt or pointy ends. They have a lower water content than beefsteak or cherry tomatoes, thicker walls, and a meaty texture. Of course you don’t need to use all of your plum tomatoes for sauces as they’re also great in salads, pastas, salsas, and straight from the vine.
- Amish Paste (80 days) – Amish Paste is a favorite plum tomato for sauce makers who love the rich flavor and dense flesh of the fruits. The tomatoes are shaped like large eggs and weigh 8 to 12 oz. Stake the indeterminate plants to keep them up off the ground.
- Plum Regal (75 days) – The determinate, disease-resistant plants of Plum Regal can be planted in garden beds or containers. The blocky, oval fruits have an excellent flavor and acid balance. Perfect for sauce!
- Roma VF (75 days) – This dependable, classic plum variety yields clusters of oval-shaped tomatoes. They’re not as large as Amish Paste or San Marzano fruits, and grow about 2 1/2 inches long. The bush-type plants are resistant to several tomato diseases.
- San Marzano (78 days) – San Marzano tomatoes are a traditional plum tomato that produces 4 to 6 oz fruits that are easy to peel and cook into a thick, rich sauce. The indeterminate plants grow tall and need to be staked.
Want to learn more about the many types of tomatoes you can grow? Watch this video:
6) Slicing tomatoes
Slicing tomatoes, or globe tomatoes, are very similar to beefsteak tomatoes, and there is some overlap with certain varieties classified as both slicers and beefsteaks. I find slicing tomatoes are a bit smaller than beefsteak varieties and have a rounded shape.
- Galahad (69 days) – Award-winning Galahad is both a beefsteak and slicing tomato with the determinate plants producing a heavy yield of 7 to 12 oz, deep red fruits. Expect high disease resistance, early maturity, and mouthwatering flavor.
- Defiant (65 days) – I first planted Defiant because of its excellent resistance to many common tomato diseases. I continue to grow it each summer because the fruits are so delicious! This bush variety yields plenty of 6 to 8 oz, smooth, medium-sized, dark red tomatoes from mid-summer until frost.
- Moskvich (60 days) – This vigorous heirloom variety is ideal in short season climates as it ripens so early. The indeterminate plants of Moskvich grow 6 feet tall and yield a good crop of 4 to 6 oz globe-shaped fruits.
- Celebrity (70 days) – Gardeners have been growing this popular variety for decades because Celebrity offers high yields, good disease resistance, and a bumper crop of flavorful 7 oz fruits.
- Early Girl (57 days) – The fruits of Early Girl are among the earliest slicers to ripen and this is a great choice for northern gardeners. The compact plants are perfect for pots as well as raised beds and offer decent disease resistance.
7) Beefsteak tomatoes
The ultimate summer lunch is a tomato sandwich made from thick slices of a homegrown beefsteak tomato. Yum! Beefsteak tomatoes are among the most popular types of tomatoes to grow and have a firm, meaty texture and flavor that can range from sweet to tart and tangy. Pick a variety that suits your tastebuds. The shape of beefsteak tomatoes is typically a flattened globe and the color selection includes shades of red, yellow, pink, orange, green, and black. Here are some of my essential beefsteak tomato varieties:
- Big Beef (70 days) – The top beefsteak variety grown by gardeners, Big Beef is famous for its large, rounded fruits that have a rich tomato flavor. The indeterminate plants are resistant to many tomato diseases and start to fruit just 70 days from transplanting.
- Costoluto Genovese (78 days) – This Italian heirloom variety always has a place in my garden as we love the sublime flavor of the deeply pleated fruits. Plus, the plants are productive and grow about 6 feet tall.
- Brandywine (78 days) – Brandywine tomatoes, a farmers market favorite, often weigh in over a pound and make a sublime tomato sandwich. The reddish-pink fruits are juicy, meaty, and richly flavored, and the plants are vigorous and tall.
- Cherokee Purple (72 days) – Cherokee Purple is one of the world’s most popular heirloom tomatoes! It’s famous in tomato growing circles for its outstanding flavor which regularly wins the top prize in tomato-tasting competitions. The indeterminate plants produce a good crop of medium-large, slightly flattened fruits that are a dusty burgundy color with purplish shoulders.
Bonus Beefsteak varieties (one of the most popular types of tomatoes!)
- Amalfi Orange (80 days) – Amalfi Orange is a recent beefsteak introduction but one that I’ve been enjoying immensely the past few summers. The large, flattened orange fruits boast an heirloom flavor, but hybrid characteristics like excellent vigor, long shelf-life, and high productivity. Indeterminate plants.
- Captain Lucky (75 days) – The bushy, determinate plants of Captain Lucky grow 3 to 4 feet tall and each produce more than a dozen huge tomatoes. The fruits are gorgeous – green to gold to yellow to pink inside and out! Very meaty texture and a bright tomato flavor.
Now that we’ve learned more about the many types of tomatoes, you may be interested in these tomato growing articles:
- The best plum tomatoes to grow
- Growing tomatoes in containers
- How far apart to plant tomatoes for healthy plants and large yields
- Growing tomatoes from seeds: A complete guide
What are your favorite types of tomatoes?
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