Yolo County is in central northern California, on the western border of Sacramento. The climate is basically Mediterranean, though "Sunset Western Garden Book" says that winter temperatures can dip into the teens. The growing season is long and quite warm. A gardener can count on frost-free days from late March to early November, plenty of time and warmth for long-season and heirloom tomatoes.
Everyone's bite-sized favorite, cherry tomatoes are a healthy snack. Cherries also ripen first in the season, with a great blast of tomato flavor before summer officially arrives.
Bitonto, at 55 days, is a good choice for the first cherry tomato of the season. Yolo County temperatures allow tomatoes to be in the garden by late March, so Bitonto will give you red cherry tomatoes by mid-May. Plant this determinate variety in containers.
Yellow Pear ripens in 75 to 80 days, at the end of June. This indeterminate variety produces hundreds of 1- to 2-inch yellow pear-shaped fruit. Cage or stake this old-time favorite.
Slicing tomatoes are perfect for salads and sandwiches, or as an appetizer, anointed with salt and olive oil. Slicers will keep you supplied with tasty tomatoes all summer.
Rutgers CS Space Select is ready in 75 days, in mid-June. It was developed by Rutgers University, and its seeds were sent into space by NASA. These medium slicers are rich-flavored, with excellent texture. The semi-determinate plants produce well into early fall.
Orange King is mildly tart and bold-flavored. This bright orange tomato ripens in mid-July, at 85 days. Orange King performs well in hot weather; the determinant plants stay neat.
Paste and Sauce Tomatoes
Paste tomatoes are valued for their thick flesh and small quantities of seeds. They make great tomato paste or sauce or can be frozen whole and cooked long after tomato season is past.
San Marzano Gigante 3 is a late-season tomato; it ripens in 90 days. A very large, ruby red sauce tomato, it has few seeds. These indeterminate plants produce fruit 2 1/2 inches wide and 7 inches long, excellent for sauces, soups or salsas.
Beefsteak tomatoes can grow to over a pound. Eat them as giant apples, or enter them in contests. These are bragging-rights tomatoes.
Gold Medal ripens in 75 days, mid-June. The yellow fruit weighs 1 to 2 pounds, are round and lobed, sweet and low-acid. Indeterminate plants grow well into cooler fall nights.
Pineapple ripens at 90 days, the beginning of July. The red-and-yellow streaked fruits average 1 pound, with full-bodied tomato flavor. Cage or stake these indeterminate vines.
Heirloom and Specialty Tomatoes
Specialty tomatoes are predominately heirloom varieties, bred in backyards for specific purposes. These tomatoes have been bred for flavor and unique appearance.
Sweet Pea Currant is early at 62 days. The tiny fruits are 1/4 inch, ruby red and great in salads or as a snack. Sweet Pea is indeterminate, but works well in containers.
Costoluto Genovese is an Italian classic. Ripening in 85 days, these large, deep red fruits are squat and ribbed, with great flavor and lots of juice. High-yielding, compact, indeterminate plants won't invade the rest of the garden.