Indeterminate tomato vines bear all season and tend to need staking, while determinate types produce tomatoes all at once and grow much more compactly. Most gardeners grow indeterminate tomatoes for fresh eating, and smaller, meatier determinates for canning and sauce-making. While the vines of indeterminates are usually larger than determinate varieties, the tomatoes themselves range from diminutive cherry tomatoes to giant beefsteaks.
Northern growers appreciate the chance to get a jump on the season by growing early-bearing varieties that produce tomatoes within 55 to 60 days of planting the seed. These early indeterminate types tend to be smaller than height-of-season indeterminate tomatoes, according to the University of Illinois Extension Service. Most have names that more than hint at their selling points. Indeterminate early varieties include Early Cascade, Early Girl and Quick Pick. The latter has been especially bred to be resistant to more diseases than other types. Champion is considered a “medium-early” type; it begins bearing 65 days after planting.
Main Crop Tomatoes
Plant main crop tomatoes as the majority of your fresh-eating tomatoes; the fruit is considered superior to most early varieties. Good main crop indeterminate tomatoes include Fantastic, known for its high yield; and Better Boy and Big Girl, both of which produce large tomatoes. For extra-large, beefsteak-type tomatoes, plant the one- to two-pounders—Delicious, Supersteak and Beefmaster. These tomatoes bear later than other main crop reds, and you’ll often be trading the smooth skin and perfect shape of the smaller varieties for the heft of the super-sizers.
As the palates of gardeners grow more sophisticated, so too does their quest to grow tomatoes with unusual shapes, colors and tastes. It’s not difficult these days to find pink, white, yellow and green tomato seeds and seedlings. Lemon Boy boasts both lemon-yellow color and a lemony flavor. Golden Boy is bright yellow, Jubilee orange-yellow and Long Keeper bright orange. Pink Girl and Brandywine both bear pink fruits. White Wonder, Evergreen and Yellow Stuffer all advertise their color in their names, with the latter also hinting at its pepper-like shape, useful for stuffing with other ingredients.
While gardeners once classed all small tomatoes as “cherries,” these days cherry, grape, pear and other small salad-type tomatoes abound. Indeterminate small tomatoes include the cherry-like Sweet Million, Super Sweet 100 and Large Red Cherry. Yellow Pear tomatoes are small, yellow and do indeed look like miniature pears.
Many gardeners rely on heirlooms for complicated reasons that range from environmental concerns to the yearning for tomatoes that taste like those our ancestors ate. Others just enjoy the unusual shapes and colors. Because they are not bred for specific disease resistance, consistent roundness or early bearing times, heirlooms may not be for everybody. But for those who like a challenge and interesting colors and shapes, try Juanne Flamme, a French heirloom with a small size and a fruity taste; Cherokee Purple, a purple-black, large beefsteak heirloom; Brandywine Red, with a mild taste but some tendency to cracking; Black Prince, with small, dark fruits; Green Zebra, with its light green base color and dark green stripes; and Riesentraube, a German heirloom of small, pear-shaped tomatoes. Mortgage Lifter is one of the larger, sturdier beefsteak heirlooms (its name refers to the debtor who made a fortune rediscovering the tomatoes. Amish Paste represents an heirloom variety unusual in that it's both an indeterminate and a paste-type plant, suitable for canning yet bearing all season rather than all at once.