Let’s start off by talking about how I classify tomatoes. To me, there are really just three main types. Slicers, meant for burgers, sandwiches, topping pizza, sliced in salads etc. Roma’s, which are those beautiful elongated small tomatoes famous for sauces and salsas. They are by design more meaty, with less seeds than a typical slicer and have a slightly lower water content. And the humble cherry tomato, everyone's favorite for salads, fresh eating and stroll through the garden snacking. Within these three basic categories, there is a wide, wide range of tastes and varieties to explore.
|Bus Tubs Loaded After Harvest|
Now let me address the wormhole that is hybrid vs heirloom plants. I like to keep this simple, and focus on the true end result in this debate and that is the seeds inside the fruit. Hybrid plants will produce seeds, but those seeds will not produce the same tomato next year if you were to plant them. This is due to the fact that hybrid plants are specific crosses between two different tomato plants to achieve a desired outcome. In agriculture there is this thing called hybrid vigor, which accounts for the fact that these types of crosses, in both plants and animals, can sometimes lead to more robust, stronger offspring and show increased harvest volumes. In plain terms that means faster growth, better disease resistance, and more ripe tomatoes. Not necessarily a bad thing depending upon your goals.
|Tomatoes Ripening on the Vine|
Now, the final thing to consider with tomatoes is this whole notion of determinant vs indeterminate. It’s taken me years to wrap my head around this, and actually an accidental purchase to really drive it home for me. Determinant varieties are designed to grow, flower abundantly, put on heavy amounts of fruit all at once, and then die. Indeterminate varieties by contrast just keep growing. All summer long their vines will keep sprawling, keep flowering clear till the end, and give you a steady supply of ripe to baby tomatoes right up until they are killed by your first frost at the end of your growing season. I used to think that these were the only tomatoes to grow. Why would you want your tomatoes to stop after all? I wanted that taste of summer to last till the bitter end. Then something happened that changed my perspective.
|Hoop House Tomatoes|
Those plants absolutely thrived in my hoop house that summer, and all at once, I had a bus tub full of beautiful roma tomatoes. The vines were spent, having never crowded out all the light and growing space in my small hoop house, and I removed them after that mid summer harvest. For the first time ever, I had clear bed space after a tomato harvest with plenty of growing season left in the hoop house. Had I been more ready, I could have slipped in some lettuce and other salad greens and gotten a head start on a fall planting that would have produced well into the fall season. My views on tomatoes were beginning to change.
|Spaghetti Sauce Started|
|Sauce After a Long, Low Heat Reduction|
It is for that reason, all of these reasons really, that I now grow a wide variety of tomatoes. I honestly grow them all. We have some heirlooms and some hybrids. We grow some of all three types, and I will now always grow some determinate varieties, probably in my hoop house, and see if I can recreate that epic sauce. But it is the understanding of these nuances in the tomato family that have allowed me to come to that decision. I hope this information helps you on your tomato journey. In our next few posts, we will look more closely at each of three types, talk about some variety that I really enjoy in each, and then share some growing tips and tricks we have discovered over the years.
What is your favorite tomato variety to grow? Share in the comments down below. I am always looking for new ideas and new varieties to try! And remember to get outside and get growing! Life is better when it's lived outdoorz!