For the avid gardener or chef, the wide range of tomato varieties to choose from present both a reward and a challenge. Understanding the different varieties of tomatoes is important when planting them in your home garden, as there are dozens of varieties for specific climates and uses. There are four main categories of tomato plants: hybrid, heirloom, determinate and indeterminate.
Determinate and Indeterminate
Determinate and indeterminate varieties pertain to the way a tomato grows and the process it goes through to get there. All tomatoes fall into one category or the other. Determinate tomato plants mature with clustered flowers and fruit, and are more compact. The most common determinate tomato plants are patio and Roma varieties. Determinate tomatoes ripen at the same time for one large harvest. Indeterminate tomato plants grow continuously, and the tomatoes ripen in different cycles and harvests. This variety must mature on a trellis.
This tomato variety is highly revered and favored. Heirlooms have been genetically perfected for taste, texture and color. Heirloom seeds are usually at least 100 years old, and all of the seeds are open-pollinated. This variety is known for its ability to adapt in particular climates or regions. Heirlooms also produce large growth, with tomatoes that weigh up to 2 lbs. They can also have unusual shapes, resembling a miniature pumpkin or squash, and come in colors including pink, white, black, red, orange, green, yellow and many more.
A hybrid tomato plant is a cross of two other tomato varieties. Hybrids are produced to create a tomato that has selected features or characteristics, such as for a specific soil or climate. Hybrids are most often disease or drought-tolerant. However, the seeds may be sterile, which spawns a lesser quality tomato. These tomatoes can range from small to about 1 lb., are are usually pink or red.