Tomatoes are found in nearly every home garden and with good reason. It's a fruit that's easy to grow with few basic requirements. It doesn't take up much garden space and has many uses in cooking. How long and warm your summer growing season extends is one of the factors that determines what tomato variety is best for you. Other factors are whether you want tomatoes ripening all summer long or in a short period of time, as well as the color and shape of the tomato you prefer.
Tomatoes are a warm-season crop that need long, warm days with lots of sunshine. Tomatoes are actually a perennial that's frost tender. Most gardeners must replant it every year. If you live in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zone 5 or below, you should start your tomatoes inside and have them ready to pop in the ground as soon as the danger of frost is past. "Sub Arctic" is a tomato that tolerates cold temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. "Siberia," developed in Russian, is tolerant of the cold as well. Both of these types have short maturity periods of 48 to 62 days. "Early Girl," developed as a hybrid in the 1970s, is a perennial favorite and matures around 60 days.
Determinate or Indeterminate
Determinate tomatoes keep growing and producing tomatoes all season long. The plants will flower, have green fruit and ripe fruit all at the same time. The vines keep growing until the first frost. Staking or caging the tomatoes keeps them off the ground and confines the plant. Indeterminate tomatoes stop growing when they reach their mature height and produce their ripe fruit all within a one- to two-week period. They may need staking to help the plant bear the load of heavy fruit. One of the most common indeterminate tomato types are the Roma varieties.
Shape and Color
Most tomatoes are red and round, but there are lots of varieties. Tomatoes are classified as grape, cherry, beefsteak, heirlooms, clustered or Roma types. The lighter colored tomatoes have less acid and less of that tomato tanginess. Grape tomatoes include "Patio Princess." Cherry tomatoes include "Tomato Ice," which is white, and "Super Sweet 100." Beefsteak tomatoes include "Brandy Boy" and "Big Beef." Yellow pear tomatoes are heirloom. "Bloody Butcher" is a clustered tomato and, finally, "Big Mama" is a large Roma tomato.
Tomatoes come in pink, orange, white, streaked, green--when ripe--and chocolate. Two of the more unusually colored tomatoes are "Red Lightning," which is red streaked with yellow, and "Black Krim," which is such a dark purple it borders on black.