USDA Zone 5 and the tomato go hand in hand. This climate band across the middle latitudes of the United States is neither too hot, leading to increased risk of wilt diseases, nor too cold, shortening the ripening season, according to tomato expert Carolyn J. Male. You almost can’t go wrong in Zone 5. Even so, horticulturalists from Pennsylvania, Ohio, the Midwest, Colorado and the Pacific Northwest weigh in on desired cultivars for local conditions. Start tomato seeds indoors in Zone 5 and move the plants outside in mid-May.
If you want a tomato for salads or sandwiches, horticulturalists in most state extension offices in Zone 5 agree on Early Girl (60 days to maturity) and Better Boy (74) as being tops. Mother Earth News, which researched top tomato seeds to grow in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, agrees with those choices. Horticulturalists in Ohio, Kansas and Missouri agree on Celebrity (70), a hybrid widely available in garden centers, and also mention Jet Star, Merced, Big Beef, Carolina Gold, Beefmaster and Pink Girl, all of which take 69 to 85 days to reach maturity.
The best heirlooms for home gardeners in Zone 5 offer easy, no-fuss results. These varieties are led by Red Brandywine with a track record of more than a century of producing fruits of excellent taste in American gardens. Carolyn J. Male, author of "100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden,” also recommends Druzba, Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom, Cherokee Purple, Eva Purple Ball and Aunt Ginny’s Purple, all 75 to 88 days to maturity. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences agrees on Red Brandywine and adds Mr. Stripey, Prudens Purple and Mortgage Lifter, also mid-season maturers, for farmer’s market growers.
Paste or Saladette
Roma (75 days) and Juliet (60) top most state extension office lists for paste or saladette tomato seeds to grow in Zone 5 for sauces, canning and salsa. Mother Jones news organization also lists Amish Paste (74), San Marzano (85) and Opalka (85) as other top seeds for Zone 5.
Try Patio, Pixie or Tiny Tim for containers in Zone 5, recommended by Ohio extension horticulturalists. For cherry tomatoes, horticulturalists in Zone 5 mention Super Sweet 100 (65), Sungold (57), Sweet Million (65) and Jolly (75). Kansas State University also lists Cherry Grande (65) and Mountain Belle (68). For patio tomato seeds, Penn State cites Orange Pixie (52 days) and Bush Early Girl (60 days). For grape tomatoes, go with Mini Charm, Tami G, Sugar Snack and Sugary (all 60 to 65 days).