Growers of fresh market tomatoes in California, Florida, Ohio and 17 other states with substantial commercial tomato acreage rely on field trials and experience to find the best cultivars. Local conditions, including weather and disease prevalence, factor into the farmer’s decision about what commercial seed to plant. Greenhouse growers of fresh tomatoes throughout the nation have a simpler choice to make, given a shorter list of outstanding varieties.
In California, the nation’s largest producer of tomatoes, most Central Valley growers of round-fruited varieties plant Shady Lady, Sunbrite, QualiT 21, Merced and Sonnet. Southern California growers grow vining tomatoes on poles, preferring Bingo, Merced, Tango and Celebrity, according to the state extension service. In the Southeastern United States, horticulturalists recommend varieties developed as part of the "Mountain Series" by North Carolina State University's seed program, including Mountain Crest, Mountain Spring, Mountain Delight and Mountain Supreme, as well as Amelia, BHN 444, BHN 640, Celebrity and Carolina Gold. Resistance to fusarium and verticillium wilt, extremely important for top commercial tomatoes grown in the hot and humid Southeast, is less of a concern in California’s Mediterranean climate.
The Trust beefsteak variety leads the way, accounting for 80 percent of the greenhouse acreage in the United States, according to North Carolina State University. The cluster tomato Tradiro is also becoming more popular. Mississippi State University’s Extension Service reports that in addition to Trust, other Dutch hybrids called Match, Switch and Blitz are worth considering. Ohio State University recommends, in addition to Trust, Cobra, Stresa, Capello, Caruso and Belmondo. Louisiana State University also recommends Trust, Blitz, Match and Caruso, as well as Tropic, Jumbo, Quest, Geronimo or Clarance.
The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma, which studies ways to enhance agricultural productivity, found that Merced tomatoes produced the largest fruit in hoop houses, Celebrity performed well, and Bush Early Girl produced marketable salad tomatoes. Hoop houses resemble simpler, less permanent greenhouses.
The most common Roma varieties planted in California’s Central Valley are Hybrid 882, Yaqui and Monica. Tennessee extension officials also recommend Hybrid 882, while those in Georgia list BHN 685, Plum Crimson, Plum Daddy and Puebla as best for canning and saucing tomatoes.
Grape and Cherry
Many state horticulturalists cite Mountain Belle as the best commercial cherry tomato variety, and some add Cherry Grande. Preferred grape tomato varieties include Tami-G, Santa, Chiquita, Cupid, Jolly Elf and St. Nick.