Seed catalogs and farmers' markets showcase many of the hundreds of tomatoes. Each variety fills a culinary or garden niche. Gardeners have the option of growing determinate bush-like plants or indeterminate vining plants which require trellis supports. Whatever their form, tomatoes' origins fall into two primary categories. Hybrid tomatoes are available in many varieties and engineered for disease resistance and enhancement of plant traits. Possessing long lineages, heirloom tomatoes are preserved from year to year through seed gathering.
The oblong plum tomato has few seeds and a dry, meaty flesh. Mainly used for making sauces, soups, tomato paste and ketchup, plum tomatoes are also gaining in popularity as a salad tomato. Gardeners need to be prepared at harvest time as one plant can produce up to 200 tomatoes and most of the fruit ripens at the same time. Popular plum tomatoes include the Opalka, San Marzano, and Roma.
This variety is famous for its large size fruit, which can weigh up to 1 lb., and its excellent flavor. These traits make beefsteak tomatoes popular for use in sandwiches and summer dishes. The popular Caprese salad puts beefsteaks in the spotlight, with fresh basil and mozzarella acting as accompaniments. The fruits' meaty texture and small seeds make beefsteaks an excellent sauce variety. Among the most popular beefsteak tomatoes are Big Beef, Brandywine and Mortgage Lifter.
Salad tomatoes are roughly half the size of beefsteak tomatoes, with watery, seed-filled interiors. Cooks often remove this loose inner material by gently squeezing the seeds and gel-like substance from the fruit. This leaves the inner meat, which is perfect in tossed salads. Favorite salad tomatoes are Early Girl, Fourth of July, Moneymaker and Green Zebra.
The high sugar content in many cherry tomatoes makes them great for snacking. Culinarily, this variety's small size makes it ideal for fast sauces in which the whole tomatoes are quickly heated through until they collapse. The small fruits are also often found in restaurant salads. These yummy morsels include Supersweet 100, Green Grape, Sun Gold and Yellow Pear.
Perfect for gardeners who have limited space, container-grown patio tomatoes satisfy the craving for fresh-from-the-garden goodness while taking up little space. These versatile plants can also be grown in hanging baskets. Tiny Tim, Cherry Gold, Red Robin and Super Bush are all excellent patio tomato choices for container growing.