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How to Choose a Tomato for Your Garden

Tomatoes ripening on the vine

Grow enough tomatoes this year for fresh eating and also for cooking, canning, or preserving (if that’s what you have in mind). But don’t grow more than you can use or give away.

Planting more tomatoes than you need is a fairly common mistake. (A mistake you’re never fully aware of until late in the summer.) Some forethought before the growing season begins will save time, effort, and space in your garden for other crops.

Best tomato growing tips: How to Grow Tomatoes.

If you’ve got tomato questions turn to The Tomato Grower’s Answer Book.

Two or three tomato plants for each person in the household should give you just the right amount for fresh eating.

Good Products for Growing Tomato Family Crops:

Which tomatoes should you grow? Here is a roundup of the most popular, easiest-growing, and easiest-to-find tomato varieties. Keep this list handy when ordering seeds or going to the garden center. This list should help you find the right tomatoes for you and your family’s needs, and it will help you time the planting of tomatoes for the coming season.

Green Zebra tomatoes
Green Zebra open-pollinated tomatoes

Important Tomato-Growing Vocabulary to Know

To use the lists below, here are some abbreviations and explanations:

Open-pollinated (OP) or Hybrid (H) Tomatoes

Look for the note in the charts next to the varietal name. Tomatoes can be divided into two basic types: open-pollinated and hybrid. Open-pollinated (OP) tomatoes pollinate themselves and produce offspring just like themselves in looks and taste. Hybrid (H) tomatoes are a cross between two varieties that can occur on purpose or by accident. Tomato breeders cross-pollinate differing varieties to create plants with specific attributes. The difference between open-pollinated and hybrid is important for several reasons; one important consideration for you is if you intend to save the seed from one or two of your tomatoes at the end of the season and hope to use them next year to start a new garden. You can with open-pollinated seed; you can’t with hybrid seed. The hybrid seed will not grow true.

Notable among open-pollinated tomato varieties are heirloom tomatoes or old-fashioned tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes have been around for generations and include dozens and dozens of plants that have very desirable natural mutations or traits. Heirloom tomato varieties are often well-suited to a particular climate or region.

Disease Resistance

Disease-resistant varieties are identified by a letter code which will be found on seed packets or transplant identification stakes: “V” (verticillium wilt), “F” (fusarium wilt), “N” (nematodes–microorganisms that cause root cankers); and “T” (tobacco mosaic virus). Resistant varieties are noted after the variety name of each tomato in the chart below.

Indeterminate tomatoes
Indeterminate tomatoes grow tall and require staking or caging.

Determinate and Indeterminate Varieties

Determinate (D) varieties produce bushy plants just a few feet tall that tend to come to harvest all at the same time–usually over a period of about 4 weeks. Determinate cultivars are a good choice in short-season regions because they tend to ripen more quickly.

Indeterminate (I) varieties are vining plants that keep on growing, producing new clusters of flowers, and fruiting until the first frost. These plants tend to be continuous producers but they can grow unwieldy and will require staking, caging, or trellis growing.

Growing suggestion. Where the growing season is long, plant determinate tomatoes for a quick early harvest and also plant late-maturing indeterminate tomatoes for a continuous supply through the summer.

Days to Maturity

The days listed in these charts are the number of days to maturity or harvest from the time of seed sowing. But this time is under optimal seed starting conditions–meaning a soil germination temperature of 85°F. If you are sowing seed in the garden or in less than optimal circumstances add 5 to 10 days or more to this number.

Use Abbreviations

How do you plan to use the tomato in the kitchen? Here are ways: C=Container or miniature variety; these are often used as a salad or snacking tomatoes. S=Slicing or fresh eating tomatoes; use these on sandwiches. P=Paste or cooking tomatoes.

Early girl tomatoes
Early Girl determinate bush tomatoes

List of Early Harvest Tomato Varieties (50-65 days)

Early harvest or first-early tomatoes are more compact than main-season tomato varieties. Many of these cultivars are suited to short-growing season regions or cool-summer regions. Generally, these tomatoes will be small to medium-sized.

Early-Harvest VarietyD/IDaysColorUseComments
Burpee’s Pixie (H)D60RedC16-inch plants
Bush Beefsteak (OP)D62RedSLarge, firm
Champion (H) VFNTI65RedSSmooth, large
Cherry Grande (H) VFD58RedCLarge cherry tomato
Early Cascade VF (H)I61RSSalads, sandwiches
Early Girl (H) VFFI62RedSFavorite early crop
Earliana (OP)I65RedSMild flavor
Earlirouge (OP)D65RedSSets fruit in extreme temperatures
Glacier (OP)D54RedSGood flavor
Gold Nugget (OP)D60GoldCNearly seedless
Ida Gold (OP)D55OrangeSCold tolerant
Juliet (H)I62RedPAAS winner
Marmande (OP) VFD65RedSFrench gourmet
New Yorker (OP) VD64RedSSmall, compact, early
Orange Pixie (H)D52OrangeC1-to-2-inch fruits
Oregon Spring (OP)D60RedSAdapted to cool regions
Pilgrim (OP)D65RedSCompact, good flavor
Quick Pick (H) VFNTI60RedSGood flavor
Red Currant (OP)I65RedCSmall, big flavor
Siberia (OP)D50RedSTolerates cold
Small Fry (H)VFND60RedCCherry-size 40 to cluster
Stupice (OP)I55RedSCool, short season
Sub-Arctic Maxi (OP)D52RedSVery cold tolerant
Sun Gold (H)I65RedCSweet and early
Super Chief (H)D60RedSVery early; large fruits
Sweet Chelsea (H)I65RedCDrought tolerant
Taxi (OP)D64YellowSCompact
Tigerella (Mr. Stripey) (OP)I56Orange-YellowSTangy flavor
Tiny Tim (OP)D55RedCGrow in a hanging basket
Whippersnapper (OP)D52Dark PinkCExtra early

Good Products for Raised Bed Growing at Amazon:

Slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and paste tomatoes
Slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and paste tomatoes

List of Main-Crop Tomato Varieties (65-80 days)

Main-crop or mid-season tomato varieties generally bear larger fruit. These tomatoes are well-suited for summer growing and are very good producers. Many can be pruned and trained to stakes or grown in wire cages or on trellises.

Main-Crop VarietyD/IDaysColorUseComments
Abraham Lincoln (OP)I78RedSFlavorful old-timer
Bellstar (OP)D70RedPLarge plum type
Better Boy  VFV (H)I72RedSFlavorful, firm
Big Boy (H)I78RedSMeaty, long season
Black Prince (OP)I70Dark redSCompact, tasty and juicy
Bonny Best (OP)I70RedSOld-fashion favorite
Brandywine (OP)I85Pink-redSHeirloom; superb flavor
Burpee’s Big Girl (H) VFI78RedSCrack-resistant
Burpee’s Supersteak (H) VFNI80RedSRich flavor, beefsteak
Burpee’s VF (H)I72RedSFirm, meaty
Campbell 1327 (OP)D75RedSFirm, smooth
Celebrity (H) VFNTD70Red AAS winner
Cherokee Purple (OP)I72Pink-purpleSMulticolor flesh, southern heirloom
Creole (OP)I72RedSSouthern favorite
Dutchman (H)I80Dark pinkSLow-acid beefsteak
Evergreen (OP)I72GreenSGreen flesh, mild flavor
First Lady (H)I66RedSDisease resistant
Floramerica (H) VFND70RedSAAS winner
Gardener’s Delight (OP)D65RedCSugar sweet
Glamour (OP)I74RedSCrack-resistant
Golden Boy (H)I75Yellow-orange Good grower
Heat Wave (H) VFFD68RedSHeat tolerant
Heinz 1350 (OP) VFD75RedPCanning variety
Homestead 24 (OP)FD82RedSSouthern performer
Husky Gold (H) VFI70GoldSAAS winner
Jet Star (H) VFI72RedSFlavorful, low acid
Lemon Boy (H)I72YellowSMild flavor
Marglobe (OP) FD75RedSSmooth, firm
Monte Carlo (H) VFNI75RedSSmooth, long season
Mortgage Lifter (OP) VFNI85RedSSouthern beefsteak
Park Whopper (H) VFNTI65RedSGood disease resistance
Patio Hybrid (H) FD70RedCGood yield, favorite
Persimmon (OP)I80OrangeSFine flavor
Ponderosa (OP)I90PinkSBeefsteak
Porter (OP) I65RedSHeat resistant
Quick Pick (H)I79RedSHeavy yields
Red Pear (OP)I70RedSSmall fruited
Roma (OP) VFD75RedCStandard paste variety
Rutgers (Jersey) (OP)I74RedPCanning favorite
Small Fry (H) VFD72RedCHeavy yields, compact
Solar Set (H)D70RedSHeat tolerant
Sunray (OP) FI80Yellow-orangeSWidely grown
Super Fantastic VF (H)I70RedSSmooth, long producer
Supersonic (H) VFD79RedSAll-around performer
Super Sweet 100 (H)I70RedSSweet and productive
Sweet Million (H) FNI60RedSImproved Sweet 100
Sweet 100 (H)I65RedCBig yields
Terrific (H) VFNI70RedSMeaty, long season
The JuiceD RedPSFor canning or juice
Valencia (OP)I75OrangeSMaine heirloom
VeepickD RedPPlum; peels easily
White BeautyI WhiteSMild and sweet
Wonder Boy (H) VFNI80RedSHeavy producer
Yellow Currant (OP)I70YellowCVery small
Yellow Pear (OP)I76YellowCMild; preserves salads
Yellow Plum (H)I70YellowCPreserves and salads

Good Products for Seed Starting Success at Amazon:

San Marzano late-season paste tomatoes
San Marzano late-season paste tomatoes

List of Late-Season Tomatoes (80+ days to Harvest)

Late-season tomato varieties are long-stayers in your garden. Grow these tomatoes only if you have a generous growing season. Late-season tomatoes tend to be larger and juicier because they take full advantage of the summer season.

Late-Season VarietyD/IDaysColorUseComments
Ace 55 VF (OP)D80RedSTart to sweet
Arkansas Traveler (OP)FI90RedSSouthern heirloom
Beefmaster (H) VFNI80RedSMeaty, flavorful
Beefsteak (OP)I90RedSLarge, delicious
Big Rainbow (OP)I102Green-redSLong season
Brandywine (OP)D80Pink-redSGood flavor
Burgess Stuffing (OP)I74RedSMild
Cal-Ace (H) VFD90RedSAdapted to arid areas
Caro Rich (OP)D80OrangeSCool climate
Delicious (OP)I77RedSBeefsteak
Doublerich (OP)D80RedSCanner
Giant Belgium  (OP)I90Dark PinkSLow acid; large fruit
Golden Boy (H)I80YellowSMild flavor
Green Grape (OP)D80Yellow-green SSweet-tart
Green Zebra (OP)I80Green-yellowSMild flavor
Homestead 24 (OP) FD82RedSAdapted to the South
Oxheart (OP)I86RedSOld favorite
Pineapple (H)I90Red-YellowSStriped Heirloom
Pink Ponderosa (OP) I90RedSMeaty, old-timer
San Marzano (OP)I80RedPMild, meaty; paste-type
Super Bush (H)D70RedSBig yielder
Tangerine (OP)I85Yellow-OrangeSHeirloom beefsteak

Best tomato growing tips: How to Grow Tomatoes.

If you’ve got tomato questions turn to The Tomato Grower’s Answer Book.

Garden Planning Books at Amazon:

Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner

Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide Vegetable Encyclopedia

Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

How To Grow Tips

How To Grow Tomatoes

How To Grow Peppers

How To Grow Broccoli

How To Grow Carrots

How To Grow Beans

How To Grow Corn

How To Grow Peas

How To Grow Lettuce

How To Grow Cucumbers

How To Grow Zucchini and Summer Squash

How To Grow Onions

How To Grow Potatoes

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