You’ve probably been corrected at a young age for describing a tomato as a vegetable, when it is in fact a fruit, but perhaps you didn’t know that there are thousands of different tomato varieties and cultivars, as well.
Tomatoes, like eggplants and avocadoes, are actually botanically classified as edible berries. The Indigenous cultures of Mexico were the first to cultivate tomatoes as food. The word ‘tomato’ comes from the Mexican Aztec (Nahuatl) word ‘tomatl’. which the Spanish translated as ‘tomate’.
One size certainly does not fit all when it comes to tomatoes. You’ll want a specific type of tomato depending on the dish you’re attempting to make. Below we go through 40 of the most popular types of tomatoes, how to care for them and some general information about these amazing fruiting plants.
Some Quick Tomato Facts
There are around 10,000 varieties of tomatoes all over the world that are displayed in a wide range of colors, from pink to purple, yellow to white, and sometimes even as dark as black. There are tomatoes that are striped or spotted, as well.
Tomatoes have been cultivated by humans for centuries. Though tomatoes have been bred extensively, there are still some unique heirloom varieties that always turn heads at farmers’ markets.
Although it’s botanically classified as a fruit, the U.S. tariff law of 1887 classified it as a vegetable on the basis that it’s often served with dinner and not as a dessert. Tomato is the state vegetable of New Jersey, the official state fruit and beverage of Ohio and both the state fruit and vegetable of Arkansas.
Tomatoes are very popular in Mediterranean cuisine and make their star appearances on pizzas and in pasta sauces. The first tomato that arrived in Europe was yellow and referred to as pomo d’oro or the ‘golden apple.’
In Spain, one of the most popular summer festivals is the La Tomatina tomato fight in Buñol, near Valencia, where about 110,000 kilograms of tomatoes are brought into the city simply for the purpose of having a giant tomato fight. This happens every year on the last Wednesday of August.
What is a Tomato Plant?
Few organisms have had the whirlwind success that the tomato has enjoyed and in the last 500 years this plant has gone from being a popular plant in Aztec cooking, unknown to the rest of the world, to dominating the cuisines of cultures all over the world. To start, let’s dig into what exactly we’re talking about.
Tomato plants typically grow anywhere from three to nine feet in height, and are a vine with a growth habit of climbing or scaling. Most tomato plants need support to grow, since their root systems are quite weak otherwise.
Tomatoes are naturally perennials, meaning that they live over two years, but they are usually cultivated as annuals in temperate regions, since they are grown in the summer months and then wither and die as winter closes in. The tomato is the single most popular garden crop in the United States, which leads global tomato production.
Categorizing Tomato Types
A determinate plant is bred in a specific type of way to basically have a predetermined height. They will usually stop growing stem and leaf once it reaches around three to four feet in height. Tomatoes have been bred in this way to make it is easier for mass harvest capabilities.
A determinate plant will also, instead of leaves, have buds located at the ends of all the branches form flowers. They then flower in a short period of time, set and ripen the fruit and then die. These are in contrast to indeterminate tomatoes, which grow on vines instead of bushes.
Instead of growing on bushes such as determinate tomatoes do, indeterminate tomatoes grow on vines, and therefore, they need to be supported by either staking or by being grown in a tomato cage. These tomatoes continue growing until killed by frost, and this is usually later in the growing season than determinate tomatoes.
Indeterminate tomatoes also produce very large crops and have a much longer growing period than determinate tomatoes do. They have lateral shoots found off the main stems that set flowers, and it is possible for them to get up to 10 feet tall if given the support they need.
Hybrid vs. Heirloom Tomatoes
Hybrid tomatoes produce a large crop and are easily harvested, as well as a resistance to diseases. A hybrid tomato is a cross between several cultivar types wherein the best qualities from different tomatoes can all be incorporated into one type. This helps with flavor, storage length, disease resistance and many more features purchases don’t usually think about.
On the other hand, an heirloom variety will usually taste better than hybrid tomatoes and they do well under local conditions, and since they can’t be shipped long distances because of their thin skin, they are normally passed down from neighbor to neighbor or family member to family member. They are usually not found in grocery stores, but in local farmers’ markets instead.
An heirloom variety grower is a little bit rarer than a hybrid cultivator. This is because heirloom seeds have been passed down for many generations, and for this reason are quite valuable and precious.
Styles of Tomatoes
A. Beefsteak Tomatoes
Beefsteak tomatoes are known for their size, getting up to six inches in diameter. In fact, some of them weigh between one and three pounds, making them a very large variety of tomatoes.
They need a long growing season, which means you may not want to plant them if you have short or cool summers. They are thick and meaty, making them the perfect slicing tomato for sandwiches.
B. Cherry and Grape Tomatoes
Cherry and grape tomatoes are easy to grow and small, which is one of the reasons they are recommended for those who have never before planted tomatoes. They usually get no more than one inch in diameter, and they tend to be very resistant to disease.
Cherry and grape tomatoes can do well even in cases of drought or otherwise poor soil, and they are perfect for people who have cool or very short summers, which means they even do well in containers.
These types of tomatoes are great for fresh tomato snacking as well as being used as garnishes in salads and the like. They have a much sweeter taste than other tomato types and can be a great way to offset a tangy tomato sauce.
C. Roma Tomatoes
Roma tomatoes (sometimes referred to as plum tomatoes) are thick and have few seeds, but a lot of pectins. They are a sweeter variety than other types of tomato, and they make the perfect tomato sauce or tomato paste. They also have very little moisture in them, enabling you to store them for a very long time and cook to the perfect consistency when making pastes or sauces.
Roma tomatoes have firm flesh, and a sweet taste, and are perfect for topping pizzas or for making dried tomatoes. The little number of seeds and liquid they have inside make them far easier to slice.
D. Salad Tomatoes
A little bit more tart and juicier than cherry or beefsteak tomatoes, salad tomatoes usually get up to around three inches in diameter. You can slice them and put them into a sandwich or chop them into small pieces and put them in a salad.
They are the perfect tomato to make a tomato sauce with, especially if you cook them down to a good consistency, and some of them taste a bit like tropical fruit. In fact, they are the perfect combination of tartness, juiciness, and acidity, which balance one another out to create the perfect tomato taste. This tomato variety is best eaten as a fresh tomato.
43 Different Types of Tomatoes
A. Types of Beefsteak Tomatoes
1. Big Beef Tomatoes
Big Beef tomatoes bloom early in the growing season and can get up to six inches in diameter. Best of all, they grow well almost anywhere, and they have a great flavor and firm texture. They are also one of the smartest types of tomatoes to grow when you live in a cooler climate.
This is the type of tomato you see in a grocery store and are shocked at the sheer size of it. Since these don’t store super well due to their high moisture content, it’s a good idea to save these for a recipe or dish that will require the use of the entire tomato.
2. Black Krim Tomatoes
This fruit doesn’t always look like a tomato because it is large and reddish-purple in color. It is sweet and very flavorful, and it is a beautiful fruit when you cut it in wedges. It is an absolute favorite among tomato lovers that is rarely seen in the grocery stores, so if you happen to see one, make sure to snatch it up.
Though the black Krim tomato tends to ripen a bit later in the year, the unique sweet and salty flavor is well worth the wait. Additionally, they are a superb size overall and can be used in many applications. They will be delicious whether they are eaten as a fresh tomato, sauce tomato or canned tomato.
3. Brandywine Pink Tomatoes
These are a classic type of beefsteak tomato. Although they don’t produce as much fruit as other types of beefsteak tomatoes, the Brandywine Pink tomato has a great flavor that all lovers of this fruit can appreciate.
The lighter pink color of this tomato may seem a little bit unusual when you see it in a grocery store, almost as if the tomato hasn’t ripened all the way — through this is not at all the case. You can tell the ripeness of tomato by the touch, not by the color.
4. Caspian Pink Tomatoes
Indeterminate tomatoes that are juicy, sweet and have a great tomato flavor. A classic beefsteak tomato that is absolutely essential to the perfect sandwich. They have a little bit more moisture content (this is part of the reason why they end up being so huge) so try to use them in an application where they can be eaten in their entirety right away.
This is an heirloom variety of tomato that is said to have originated in Russia. The Caspian pink tomato has won many awards and has a high reputation for being one of the best-tasting tomatoes on the planet.
5. Cherokee Purple Tomatoes
Cherokee purple tomatoes are a deep red color with a purplish shoulder that can be grown even by people with limited space. It is an indeterminate tomato that has a sweet, smoky-like taste. These tomatoes are interesting because the way they look is a perfect representation of their unique taste.
The Cherokee purple tomato is an heirloom indeterminate vine tomato type that has been in cultivation for hundreds of years.
6. Hillbilly Tomatoes
Hillbilly tomatoes are heirloom tomatoes and have an orange color with reddish streaks throughout them. Looking a lot like a peach, these tomatoes are perfect in salads and on sandwiches. Hillbilly tomatoes are absolutely massive and are considered one of the largest of the beefsteak family.
Hillbilly tomatoes are a little bit different than other beefsteak types because they grow a lot more flesh than others and have far less moisture. This makes them easier to store. Each tomato can be as heavy a two pounds.
7. Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes
The distinguishing characteristic of this tomato is its size. It can be up to two pounds in weight and is very large and heavy. Mortgage Lifter tomatoes are heirloom tomatoes that produce a lot of fruit on very strong vines.
This type of tomato is described as being super meaty without too much moisture. It is known as being the perfect blend of sweet and salty — that perfect beefsteak tomato flavor. These tomatoes require a little bit more maintenance in that they need to be staked because of the super heavy fruit.
B. Types of Cherry Tomatoes and Grape Tomatoes
8. Black Cherry Tomatoes
Black cherry tomatoes are disease resistant and a type of heirloom tomato. It has purplish-red fruit that grows in clusters of one inch, and it is known not for sweetness, but for its true tomato taste. Most smaller tomatoes tend to have a much sweeter taste, but this is not the case with the black cherry tomato.
9. Isis Candy Tomatoes
These high-yield indeterminate tomatoes have a unique look because they are yellow in color with red streaks in them. They are very tasty and sweet. These are a very popular tomato crop because they grow very prolifically and are quite disease-resistant.
10. Sungold Tomatoes
Sungold tomatoes are sweet and orange in color and they grow to approximately one inch in diameter. They are an indeterminate type of tomato that produces for a very long time, usually until the first frost arrives.
The Sungold tomato is one of the sweetest tomatoes you can get, and even though they are already a fruit, they are truly about as sweet as fruit would be. They are almost similar to candy in that way. They are quite juicy and are best eaten as a snack, as they can be popped in your mouth and are accompanied by a wonderful “pop” when you bite into them.
11. Sunrise Bumble Bee Tomatoes
This is a cherry tomato that is orange in color with red streaks throughout the flesh. If you make a tasty, attractive summer salad, don’t forget to add the Sunrise Bumble Bee tomatoes.
The Sunrise Bumble Bee tomato is an indeterminate variety that has a vining growth habit. They grow very close to the ground and usually have very productive harvest yields. There’s nothing bad about this tomato: they’re delicious, they’re easy to grow and they last well into the season.
12. Sweet 100 Tomatoes
Sweet 100 tomatoes taste yummy and are a type of indeterminate tomato. They grow bite-sized tomatoes on long trusses, and they produce very large crops. As indicated by the name, they are quite sweet in nature with a fair amount of seeds within the fruit.
These tomatoes are also wonderful because they will continue to grow throughout the summer all the way until the first frost of the season.
C. Types of Roma Tomatoes
13. Big Mama Tomatoes
These tomatoes get up to five inches in diameter, hence their name, and they have a slightly oval shape, like a perfect plum. They are heavy enough to make the perfect sauce, and they are especially tasty if you cut them in half and fire-roast them before cooking them.
Though they are known primarily as being a tomato paste tomato, they can be used in all other ways that tomatoes can be used. Heck, try biting one as if it were an apple.
14. Dwarf Saucy Mary Tomatoes
These fruits are elongated with a green color and stripes of both dark and light green. When ripe, their flesh is also green, and they are very juicy and tasty. They usually weigh no more than six ounces.
Many people often think that a green tomato means an unripe tomato, but this isn’t always the case. Tomatoes can be many different colors and even combinations of more than one. The Dwarf Saucy Mary tomato is a great option for making fried green tomatoes which is a classic southern dish.
15. King Humbert Tomatoes
These are indeterminate tomatoes that are plum shaped and very red in color. They are very meaty and juicy, and they are great not only for sauces but also if you want a good dried tomato. Of course, you can also eat them fresh if you like, because they have a mild and sweet flavor.
16. Orange Banana Tomatoes
The thing that makes this tomato unique is its deep-orange color, which is rare in paste tomatoes. With a nice fruity flavor, the Orange Banana tomato is great for salsa, sauces, and canned and dried tomatoes. Even though the sundried tomato craze came and went in the early 2000s, they could make a comeback.
17. San Marzano Tomatoes
San Marzano tomatoes are oblong in shape and produce a lot of fruit. They are large tomatoes, up to five inches long and these indeterminate tomatoes always grow vigorously.
San Marzano tomatoes are the most common type of tomato that is used for canned tomato recipes. They often are grown in Italy and exported all over the world. These are an essential type of tomato to have in your pantry for the perfect pasta sauce recipe.
18. Sausage Tomatoes
Sausage tomatoes are elongated and can get up to six inches long. Great for sauces, pastes, and catsup, the Sausage tomato is an indeterminate tomato that is extremely flavorful. “Meaty” is a descriptor that is often used for tomatoes, and it is most appropriately used when it comes to Sausage tomatoes. They have quite a textured bite and are salty in the way the meat would be.
19. Speckled Roman Paste Tomatoes
These tomatoes are elongated and have a pointed tip. They are a beautiful shade of red with orange streaks throughout, and they are extremely tasty. They are also called the Spotted Roman, and they can weigh up to six ounces. These types of tomatoes are loved because of their ease of preparation.
The spotted Roman tomato tends to be more meaty and firm than juicy, making them far easier to slice. Because of the lack of moisture, they also create a very sweet and robust tasting tomato paste.
D. Types of Salad Tomatoes
20. Black Zebra Tomatoes
Black Zebras are indeterminate heirlooms that taste great and have purplish-black flesh and green streaks. They are also resistant to many types of diseases. These can be quite rare, so make sure to snatch them up if you ever see them in a grocery store. They make for a wonderfully extravagant salad garnish.
These tend to be a little bit juicier and are filled with seeds, so keep this in mind when deciding on your ideal salad garnish. The amount of seeds also means that they are a great option to keep in your seed stock for next year, as that provides a higher chance for viable seeds.
21. Carmello Tomatoes
These are mid-sized tomatoes that get from three to four inches in diameter. They produce a large crop and have the perfect combination of acidity and sweetness. Carmello tomatoes are so productive that they will continue to produce ripe tomatoes well after other tomatoes have stopped.
This green tomato variety is great for several reasons: they taste wonderful, they’re easy to grow, they are resistant to disease and they are both large and attractive in appearance.
22. Costoluto Genovese Tomatoes
These tomatoes are unique in that they have so many ridges that they look as though they are misshapen. Deep red in color with orange shoulders, the Costoluto Genovese tomato is extremely juicy and tasty, so they are definitely considered a favorite among those who love tomatoes.
Their unusual growth habit is celebrated in the heirloom tomato grower society. It is less common to see this tomato shape in grocery stores, but it usually means it will be a super flavorful tomato.
23. Early Girl Tomatoes
These tomatoes are usually harvested early – hence their name – because they grow early in the season and do especially well in cooler climates or areas that have short summers. The deep-red fruit is the perfect blend of a true tomato taste and just the right amount of sweetness.
Make sure to remember the early girl tomato if you happen to live in a region that experiences more mild summers. This is the perfect tomato type that will thrive in those types of environments.
24. Enchantment Tomatoes
Enchantment tomatoes are oval-shaped and bright-red in color. It grows on a vine in large clusters, and it has a great taste. In fact, this type of tomato can be used in sauces, oven-dried tomatoes, and of course, in salads and sandwiches, so it is quite versatile. The fruit grows to roughly three inches in diameter.
25. Green Zebra Tomatoes
These tomatoes get up to four inches in diameter and are a green color with darker green stripes running through it. An excellent heirloom tomato, they get slightly yellow when they’re ripe and grow very fast.
The green zebra tomato tends to have a mild flavor that is far more on the tart and salt side than on the sweet side. They are also exceptionally rare, so if you happen to see them, remember to save the seeds and attempt growing your own.
26. Pantano Romanesco Tomatoes
These are wonderful heirloom tomatoes that are perfect for slicing and placing on sandwiches. They have the perfect blend of tartness and sweetness, similar to citrus fruit and they belong in the indeterminate class. The Pantano Romanesco tomato is one of the most common types of tomatoes. You may even have one sitting on your counter as we speak.
27. Stupice Tomatoes
Stupice tomatoes grow to approximately two inches in diameter and are deep red in color and oblong-shaped. The best part of growing these tomatoes is that they produce for a very long time, even if you experience cool or short summers, so you can enjoy them for a very long time.
The stupice tomato will be delicious in any way. They can be eaten fresh, used for a tomato sauce or as a soup base.
If you see large clusters of tomatoes in a hothouse in the middle of winter, they are likely Sweet Clusters tomatoes. These fruits are great tasting, having a combination of tartness, sweetness and the perfect tomato flavor. A great tomato for snacking.
29. Valencia Tomatoes
These tomatoes are bright orange in color and have a perfect flavor. They are juicy, but not too juicy, have very few seeds, and are similar in taste to a sweet mango and other citrus fruits. Valencia tomatoes have that coveted ridged-growth habit that makes your mouth water just by looking at it.
Valencia tomatoes are delectable whether they are eaten fresh or cooked. This variety is exceptional placed on the grill, eaten as is, as a sandwich garnish, or in a Caprese salad.
Some Extra Unique Tomato Varieties
30. Evergreen Tomatoes
These indeterminate tomatoes weigh roughly eight ounces and have green skin with hints of yellow. When they’re fully ripe, they are a bright green color. This is a beefsteak tomato that is actually lime green in color (hence the common name, ” evergreen”) with a very strong flavor.
31. Long Keeper Tomatoes
These indeterminate tomatoes have orange skin and orange-red flesh. They weigh approximately six ounces and are very solid tomatoes, which is why you can keep them for a very long time before cooking them. Orange tomatoes have a sweeter flavor profile to them, and this is absolutely the case with the Long keeper tomato.
This would be a great tomato to use for a dish where you are combining other types of fruits: like a salad with burrata, peaches, and orange tomatoes topped with a balsamic glaze and fresh basil leaves.
32. White Wonder Tomatoes
White Wonder tomatoes are indeterminate tomatoes that weigh approximately eight ounces. Their flesh and skin are both creamy white to yellow in color. This is a beefsteak style of tomato that can grow to be quite large. Their flavor is a little bit more on the mild side, but it will perk right up with a dash of salt.
33. Yellow Stuffer Tomatoes
These are lobed, indeterminate tomatoes weighing only around four ounces. They are shaped like pepper and have a lemon-yellow color. Yellow Stuffer tomatoes are semi-hollow with firmer flesh on the outside and therefore, they are perfect for stuffing.
The campari is a seriously excellent cherry tomato. Incredibly juicy and noted for their sweetness, these little guys never suffer from mealiness (the bane of any tomato eater) and aren’t all that acidic either. These are often what is sold as cherry tomatoes ‘on the vine’ at supermarkets.
Campari tomatoes encompass more than one species, but all share the same flavor and size profiles. They are surprisingly easy to grow provided you can give them the sunlight they need, and provide good yields.
If you want to grow your own, just buy some at the supermarket and slice them into quarter-inch thin strips. Lay them down in a pot of good soil, and cover loosely in potting soil. Within two or three weeks you should have a whole bunch of seedlings, and a lifetime of savings on tomatoes.
Another hugely popular cherry variety, the Juliet is often described as a grape tomato due to its somewhat elongated shape and shares many characteristics with plum tomatoes (more on them later). These snackable little fruits are soft and juicy and will keep for a surprisingly long time once taken off the vine.
They have high sugar content so will be popular with any critters visiting your garden but they are very disease resistant so as long as you can take care of any animal raiders you should be able to plant them and let them do their thing. That said, Juliets do need fairly nutrient-rich soil to hit their stride so be sure to do a little prep if you want a proper yield. Once that’s sorted though you can expect massive amounts of fruit from a single plant.
They mature after about 60 days, and it can be an easy mistake to underestimate the yield. Be warned, many a tomato gardener has been left wanting for storage space once the harvest comes in.
36. Gardener’s Delight
These small two-inch tomatoes thrive as a cordon variety, meaning that the vines prefer to grow on strings or wire. They produce a classic summery flavor and produce abundant fruit. Some sub-varieties have gained a little more popularity in recent years, but this cultivar is an age-old classic that takes care of itself once you get it growing.
Currant tomatoes are likely the most similar in size and appearance to the ‘original’ tomatoes found 80,000 years ago, and still grow wild in the foothills of Ecuador and Peru. The plants are extremely vigorous and will produce hundreds of tiny tomato berries.
While they can be a little hard to cook with, they make a novel addition to a salad and taste absolutely fantastic off the vine. The plants will grow wildly, up to eight feet, and produce until they are killed by frost. Most varieties of Currant mature fairly early in the season as well, in about 60 to 65 days.
38. Better Boy
Speaking of high production, the better boy is a powerhouse of a breed. This tomato earned itself a Guinness world record for the most fruit produced by a single plant when a Better Boy vine put out a whopping 340 pounds of fruit in a single year. While this is exceptional, expect plenty of tomatoes if you’re growing these yourself.
Better boy tomatoes are widely respected for their excellent flavor. They need some serious staking to be robust in the garden, but once you’ve got that sorted they’ll ripen in about 72 days.
39. Celebrity Tomatoes
Bred for disease resistance the Celebrity tomato is a hybrid cultivar that makes great slicers. These tomatoes are super resistant to pests as well, so if you’ve ever struggled with growing other varieties the Celebrity might just be the tomato for you. The fruit is quite large, weighing in at up to half a pound or more, so the vines will need caging or robust staking to ensure they don’t cave.
Once they’re set up, you don’t have to do much though. These are hardy plants and they’ll survive most heat waves provided they have enough water and well-drained soil.
Probably the choice of early career amateur tomato gardeners, the Alicante is a nicely disease-resistant, medium-sized tomato that produces a solid amount of fruit. Bright red, juicy, and full of flavor, you can’t go wrong. On top of that, the seeds are dirt cheap. They ripen well on the window sill, but are definitely a cordon breed and need a good trellis to hold on to. They mature in about 75 days.
41. Garden Peach
Natively known as the Cocona, the garden peach tomato is a truly special tomato. Once you clasp your eyes on this beauty the name is self-evident. Unique in the tomato world, the Garden Peach is a tomato with fuzzy skin and pale yellow flesh that occasionally has a reddish gradient to it.
Once the green stems are pulled from the top, you might genuinely not be able to tell the difference between these fruit and actual peaches. Rich in iron and B vitamins, these tomatoes prefer high elevations growing in the foothills of the Andes between 650 and 3,500 feet in elevation. The fruits are perfect for salads and will definitely be a conversation starter if you’re dining with friends.
If you can locate the seeds, they’re phenomenally prolific growers and will thrive even in nutrient-poor soil.
42. The Great White
Great tasting and white, this is yet another tomato from out of the left field that is exactly what it says on the label. A beefsteak style tomato that produces fruits of up to two pounds, the great white is a creamy, and delicious slicer that needs plenty of support in the garden, but by all accounts is well worth your trouble. Once people start growing them, they seldom stop.
Widely cultivated in the Emporda region of Catalonia, this bulbous beauty is ribbed and looks fit to burst. A deep red, these pack all the flavor you’d expect them to by looking at them. Unlike most other tomato species, Montserrats have an empty cavity around the seeds that is full of air instead of juice, so if you don’t like the explosive bursts of seed gel from other varieties then these are a good pick (also nice because you barely need to wipe down your cutting board if you’re processing a lot of them).
This also makes them a candidate for stuffing. These tomatoes are revered as a delicacy in Northeastern Spain and are one of the most expensive tomatoes by weight.
Best Types of Tomatoes for Various Recipes
Whether you get your tomatoes from the local farmer’s market or you grow them yourself, it’s important to pick the right tomato for the recipe you’re using.
Few people realize that there are actually thousands of varieties of tomatoes, but most grocery stores have selected less than a dozen that they actually have on their store shelves. These varieties were selected because they travel well and look good to customers, however, not because they’re the best-tasting tomatoes.
Each type of tomato has a unique flavor, but it can be difficult to find every variety in your area. That’s why we’ve included several different varieties for each type of recipe, along with advice on what to look for in a tomato.
Best Tomatoes For Sauces
San Marzano tomatoes are probably the most popular tomatoes used for sauces in Italy. If your Italian grandmother complains that the tomatoes she buys from the grocery store don’t taste right, it’s probably because she grew up using San Marzano tomatoes for her sauces. Fortunately, the variety is becoming more popular in farmer’s markets, and it’s easy to find the seeds for San Marzanos online.
If you can’t find San Marzano tomatoes, however, look for Roma tomatoes. They’re commonly available at most supermarkets and they’re good for sauces.
Best Tomatoes For Salsa
Salsa needs tomatoes that have few seeds and a somewhat firm flesh that makes them ideal for chopping into small pieces. At the grocery store, large “beefsteak” varieties are best. At the farmer’s market, look for any variety that is large and has few seeds. Remember that salsa is a food that was traditionally made with a variety of tomatoes, so don’t be afraid to try new varieties.
Best Tomatoes For Canning
The tomatoes you use for the sauce will likely be the best ones for canning as well. Roma is a good supermarket variety, but anything that has relatively few seeds will work well.
Best Tomatoes For Bruschetta
For bruschetta, use the freshest tomatoes you have available. Freshness will matter a lot more than variety for this recipe. If you have choices, though, consider picking a type of cherry tomato. They are full of flavor and relatively easy to cut and use.
Best Tomatoes For Caprese
While any heirloom variety is a good choice, you may also want to look into Sungold or Campari varieties. Campari tomatoes are becoming more common in grocery stores.
Best Tomatoes For Soup
Tomatoes for soup are generally the same tomatoes that you will want to use for sauce and canning. Roma or San Marzano tomatoes are easy to seed and they have a mild flavor.
Best Tomato For Pico de gallo
Pico de gallo will use larger pieces of tomato, but you will still want a variety that’s easy to deseed. Heirloom beefsteak varieties can be a good choice.
Best Tomato For Sandwiches and Burgers
An heirloom beefsteak tomato will be a great choice for burgers and sandwiches. These tomatoes are easy to cut into thick slices. Use this as an opportunity to try new types of tomatoes; using them on sandwiches is a good way to try new flavors.
Best Tomatoes For Chili
Most chili recipes call for crushed or canned tomatoes, so choose varieties that are good for these tasks. Roma tomatoes tend to be the most popular choice but remember that traditionally, chili was a meal that was made to use up ingredients around a kitchen. That means that you can use just about any type of tomato you have around your house.
Best Tomatoes For Salads
While there are a lot of different types of salads, the main thing you want to concentrate on is flavor. Try heirloom varieties cut into pieces, or if possible, look for heirloom varieties of cherry tomatoes. There are several types of smaller tomatoes that come in orange, yellow and even green that is great for salads.
Best Tomatoes For Tacos
If you’re using tomatoes on tacos, we’re assuming that you’re using them on their own, rather than as an ingredient for salsa or pico de gallo. Look for a variety of beefsteak tomato with a mild flavor. These tomatoes are easy to chop, and they won’t be too overpowering.
Best Tomatoes For Roasting
Just about any tomato will be good for roasting or sun drying. Larger varieties tend to be easier to roast than cherry tomatoes.
Berries? Fruits? Vegetables? Getting Classification Straight…
There’s a lot of confusion about this so let’s just get it out of the way right off the bat. Tomatoes are everything, but the answer you’ll get to the question of whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables also depends very much on who you ask. Horticultural experts will most likely tell you that according to the strict botanical definition, tomatoes are berries.
Berries (for the record) are technically the fruiting bodies of a plant that lack a stone and are by definition a subcategory of fruit. So that’s it. Tomatoes are fruit. But we’re not done. In the kitchen, the tomato is widely classified as a vegetable.
This is because its flavors and cooking use fit the profile of a vegetable much better than fruit. Tomatoes are by no means the only ‘vegetable’ that’s actually a fruit, other well-known examples are bell peppers, eggplant, peas, zucchini and cucumbers.
A Brief History of the Tomato
The wild cherry tomato (ancestor of all other species since) originated somewhere in modern Ecuador, about 80,000 years ago. Mesoamerican cultures are thought to have begun domesticating these smaller tomatoes approximately 7,000 years ago, breeding a species that likely fruited blueberry-sized fruit into something more akin to the modern cherry tomato we know and love today.
One of the earliest references to tomatoes in literature was by an Italian herbalist by the name of Pietro Andrae Mathhioli, who dubbed the tomato ‘the golden apple’, and classified it as a mandrake (a plant referred to in the bible as the base for love potions). For a long time, Europeans feared the tomato for being poisonous, a reputation it earned in a number of ways. The first is that the actual vine of the tomato — which is itself in the nightshade family — is toxic, and so it was naturally assumed by many that the fruit was similarly dangerous.
In the late 1700s, the tomato was still referred to as the ‘poison apple.’ One theory for this is that aristocrats at the time had a penchant for using pewter tableware, which is chock full of lead. The theory is that the tomato’s acidity would cause this lead to leech from the plates they were served on, precipitating lead poisoning, and leading the tomato to be blamed for what was really a bad choice of china.
Even when these rumors were eventually quashed, the bad press for the tomato was far from over. In the United States, mass hysteria and fervent fear erupted around the fruit yet again when gardeners and cultivators discovered the Green Tomato Worm, a three to four-inch caterpillar with a thorny horn sticking out of its back, had a deep love for tomatoes. For some reason, it was thought that even the faintest contact with this worm could be fatal, and articles published at the time in New York state described them as being as poisonous as rattlesnakes and ‘a new enemy to human existence’.
Eventually, an entomologist took on the case, quickly finding that the worms were completely harmless and assuaging the general fear that tomatoes were drawing mortally dangerous worms into people’s gardens and homes. As we all know through lived-experience, the tomato survived the bad press in the end, is now considered one of the most basic ingredients in every pantry, and has become the cornerstone of many of the most popular foods on earth.
How do you Take Care of a Tomato Plant?
Planting tomatoes may seem like an intimidating endeavor, but there are some very simple rules to follow. Treat a tomato plant like you would any fruit that you know needs heat and water. Whether you are planting in an open garden or in a tomato cage, achieving the perfect tomato crop isn’t too difficult to do.
It is important that a tomato plant is planted in soil that is well-drained. It will not be happy at all if it is planted in waterlogged or packed soil.
Tomato plants prefer to be planted in your garden in a fertile loamy type of soil that has a pH level ranging from 5.8-7.0. There is a soil test you can purchase to figure out the pH level of your planting soil.
The ideal soil type can easily be achieved by incorporating organic compost (or high nitrogen fertilizer) into the soil before planting your tomato seeds.
Though the appropriate amount of water to give a tomato will vary depending on the species, a good general rule to follow is that they prefer to have at least two inches of irrigation or natural rainfall per week.
A good rule of thumb is to ensure that the soil your tomato plant is planted in never becomes fully dry. Soil should be moist but not waterlogged.
Tomato plants are sun-loving creatures. This means that they should be exposed to a minimum of six to eight hours of full sun exposure per day. They will not be happy at all if they are placed in partial shade or full shade.
One of the most specific growing conditions for tomato plants is temperature. A drastic change in temperature can drastically affect the quality of your tomato crop — this is why planting tomato seeds outdoors can be a little bit risky.
The ideal temperature for a tomato plant usually hovers around 65 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If temperatures exceed 95 degrees it can potentially decrease the amount of tomato production, or if temperatures dip below 50 degrees it can result in low-quality tomatoes.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of other insects and animals that love tomatoes just as much as humans do. It can be very discouraging to work hard at tending to your tomato plant only to wake up one morning to find it has been infested by aphids.
Don’t be too quick to resort to chemicals to deal with these issues. There are plenty of nifty companion planting tricks you can learn, whereas other plants planted in proximity can repel certain pests and prevent tomato diseases.
Look out for the following pests and diseases:
- Blossom End Rot
- Looper Caterpillars
- Tomato Mite
- Tomato Hornworm
Diseases and Pests that Hurt Tomato Health
We all love tomatoes, but unfortunately, so do bugs and fungi and I don’t know about you, but in my garden, I’m not all that interested in sharing my crop with a bunch of aphids, nematodes and squirrels. If you’re growing tomatoes you’ll inevitably come up against some pests, as well as some diseases. While I’m not going to cover all of them, here are the main things to keep an eye out for.
Aphids: While not always a huge issue, aphids can get out of control fast. A few are fine, and in fact, bound to be lingering, but once you start seeing dense concentrations it’s time to do a little pruning. Be sure to throw any infested foliage in the garbage rather than back on the ground since they’ll just walk right back to where they started.
Nematodes: Easily one of the worst things for any tomato gardener to face, nematodes are any of thousands of species of microscopic worms which permeate all fertile soil. Most are harmless but root-knot nematodes are the mortal enemy of the gardener. These pests are common in hotter climes with shorter winters and are difficult to get under control once you see the characteristic bumps on your vines.
This is because they establish themselves in the soil. One thing to do is crop rotation, once you know you’ve got them. Next year plant a species of a different family in the soil, and ask your local gardening society about what plants are best for your area. You’ll make new friends and get that friendly commiseration you crave (which is infuriatingly absent from conversations with nongardeners) when you say the word nematode, mark my words.
Cutworms: These little grubs feed at night and will decimate your tomato plants if given the chance, chewing them off at ground level before they have a chance to grow. To stop them, plant cardboard or paper collars in the soil about an inch deep and three inches high around your plants to prevent these little buggers from getting to your beloved crops.
Whiteflies: These tiny flies are a double threat since the sticky residue they leave on leaves can quickly host molds. Regular, and somewhat forceful hosing will dislocate them if you just have a few but if the infestation is getting a little out of hand reach for the horticultural oil which will smother whiteflies no matter what stage of development they’re in. Ladybugs are also a good option as they feed on whiteflies (and aphids), and are generally the ally of tomato plants.
There are also a number of fungal diseases, such as fusarium wilt, and verticillium wilt which can strike at the worst times, right as your fruit is getting nice and ready to ripen. These in addition to viral plant diseases such as tobacco mosaic virus and damping off disease can be a nightmare for a new gardener. Luckily the means for curbing tragedy from all of these are fairly similar, so just follow these steps.
Make sure your plants aren’t overcrowded
- Make sure you don’t overwater them in the first few weeks after your transplant (this is the most common cause of damping off disease)
- Make sure they’re in good, fertile soil. This will boost your plant’s immunity and paired with watering is critical for having resilient plants.
- Rotate your crops every year so that pathogens and fungi don’t have time to get settled in your soil.
- Prune unhealthy foliage regularly and when you throw it out, don’t put it in your garden compost pile unless you’re sure it isn’t diseased. Otherwise, you may spread something to other plants in your garden.
- Don’t smoke tobacco near tomato plants as this is an easy way to transmit the tobacco mosaic virus.
At the end of the season, wipe down your tools and equipment. This can be a hugely effective step in preventing the rollover of parasites and diseases from year to year.
Tomato Nutrition Facts Chart
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Tomatoes a Fruit or Vegetable?
Botanically, tomatoes are considered a fruit. Despite being flavored and typically treated more like a vegetable, tomatoes are a fruit just like apples, peaches, mangos, and melons.
Why Are Tomatoes a Fruit?
Tomatoes are classified as fruit because they develop from a plant’s fertilized flower ovary. Like squash, peppers, pumpkins, cucumbers, corn, peas, and beans, tomatoes are considered a fruit.
Where Did Tomatoes Originate?
Tomatoes originated as a wild plant in the Americas. Tomatoes were first found and cultivated in the Andes. They have been grown for thousands of years in Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia.
How Are Tomatoes Grown?
Most tomatoes are grown from seedlings started indoors and later transplanted into an outdoor garden. Seeds are germinated at least six weeks before the last frost. They are typically given a few weeks to grow stronger before being planted outside.
How Are Tomatoes Harvested?
Tomatoes are quite easy to harvest when ripe. Fruits are grasped firmly but gently and pulled away from the plant. Breaking the stalk just about the protective calyx is ideal, holding the fruit with one hand and the stalk with the other. Tomatoes can continue to ripen during storage.
Do Tomatoes Have Carbs, Fiber, Sugar, Protein, Vitamin C, Potassium, Iron, And/or Nicotine?
Tomatoes are an especially nutrient-rich food. They typically contain 2.4 grams of sugar, 0.8 grams of protein, 12.5 milligrams of vitamin C, 3.5 grams of carbohydrates, and 1.1 grams of fiber. They also contain an average of 292 milligrams of potassium and about eight percent of your daily serving of iron. While related to tobacco as a member of the plant family Solanaceae, tomatoes contain at most only trace amounts of nicotine. This nicotine content declines as the tomatoes ripen.
Do Tomatoes Stain Teeth?
Eating tomatoes, especially in sauces, can indeed stain your tooth enamel due to the high acid content. If this is a worry for you, just be sure to brush your teeth and rinse your mouth after eating tomato products.
Do Tomatoes Help Sunburn?
While tomatoes don’t themselves prevent sunburn, there is evidence that regularly eating tomatoes may help. This is because of the nutrient lycopene. Fresh tomato juice can also help alleviate redness, inflammation, and pain when applied to sunburned skin.
Do Tomatoes Affect Gout?
Tomatoes may exacerbate gout symptoms. This is because they have been linked to higher levels of uric acid in the blood. This doesn’t mean that tomatoes will necessarily cause gout or make it worse for everyone. Some people might actually experience reduced inflammation and gout symptoms when consuming tomatoes.
Which Tomatoes Are Best For Keto?
Whole tomatoes are typically best for keto diets, especially in contrast to store-bought sauces. Mass-produced tomato sauces often have high sugar contents that can be detrimental to healthy diets.
What Tomatoes Are Best For Canning?
Plum tomato varieties are best for canning. They hold up quite well and maintain a strong flavor. Roma, Amish Paste, and San Marzano are some of the most popular tomatoes for canning.
What Tomatoes Are Best For Sauce?
Any tomato can be used to make sauces but some have been cultivated for the purpose. Paste tomatoes, like the Roma, have a meaty texture and few seeds. This makes them ideal for sauce textures. Their flavor is also excellent once cooked down.
Do Tomatoes Need to be Refrigerated?
Ripe tomatoes can be kept on the counter for a few days. If you won’t consume them that quickly, refrigeration helps them last longer, up to two weeks.
How Long Do Tomatoes Last in the Fridge?
Tomatoes can last in the fridge for approximately two weeks.
Can Tomatoes be Frozen?
Tomatoes can be frozen fresh. This is easiest in slices. Place them in freezer bags or containers for storage. Stored this way, tomatoes can maintain freshness and flavor for up to a year.
Can You Freeze Tomatoes Without Blanching?
Tomatoes can be frozen raw, cooked, chopped, or pureed. They do not require blanching before freezing.
Can Tomatoes be Frozen Whole?
Tomatoes can be frozen whole or sliced. Frozen tomatoes are best used for sauces, stews, and soups because they tend to become soft when thawed.
How Long do Canned Tomatoes Last?
Canned tomatoes can last a long time. On their own, they can easily remain fresh for 18 months. This is because of their naturally high acidity. When canned with other highly acidic foods, tomatoes can stay fresh even longer– anywhere from two to five years! As long as cans remain in good condition, without rust, dents, or swelling, and are stored in a cool, dry place, canned tomatoes can last indefinitely.
How Long Do Sun-Dried Tomatoes Last?
Sun-dried tomatoes, stored in oil, are shelf-stable indefinitely as long as they remain unopened. After opening, store sun-dried tomatoes in the fridge. Refrigerated sun-dried tomatoes can last up to six months.
How Long do Grape Tomatoes Last?
Ripe cherry or grape tomatoes can last for up to 10 days when stored between 45 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Stored below 41 degrees, they only last about half that time. These smaller varieties tend to break down faster at colder temperatures.
Do Tomatoes Have Seeds?
Part of the logic for classifying tomatoes as fruits is that they contain seeds. Seeds are found in all tomato varieties except for those that have been cultivated to grow seedless.
How Long Do Tomatoes Take to Germinate?
Tomato seeds typically germinate in one to two weeks. Seeds should be kept in a warm, moist environment for best results. Bright light is recommended to prevent thin, weak stems.
Can Tomatoes be Grown Indoors?
Tomatoes don’t grow well indoors without properly replicating outdoor conditions. Plants require full sunlight, so be sure to place them near a window or screen door. Alternatively, you can use indoor plant lights. Be sure your home stays around 70 degrees for optimal growing temperatures.
How Cold Tolerant Are Tomatoes?
Tomatoes dislike temperatures lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Plants can technically survive cold temperatures as low as 33 degrees, but they deteriorate quickly and will not thrive. Cover outdoor tomatoes if you suspect the temperature may drop lower than is advantageous.
How Much Sun Do Tomatoes Need?
Tomatoes need full sun– about eight hours– every day to produce optimally.
How Much Water Do Tomatoes Need?
Tomatoes do best with one to two inches of water weekly. Container-grown tomatoes require more water than those planted in outdoor gardens. Containers grow hotter than surrounding soil leading to faster water evaporation.
How Are Tomatoes Pollinated?
Tomatoes self-pollinate but can have increased output in the presence of wind, other tomatoes, and wild pollinators.
How Many Tomatoes in a Pound?
On average, two or three medium-sized tomatoes fit into a pound.
Where do Tomato Worms Come From?
Tomato hornworms, often just called tomato worms, are actually caterpillars. These are the larval form of the large Sphynx or hummingbird moth. Moths lay their eggs on tomato plants and hornworms consume fruits.
Can You Eat Tomatoes With Blight?
Late blight does not affect humans. This means that tomatoes affected by it are safe to eat. Cut off any blighted portions of fruit before consuming.
Can You Cook Tomatoes in Cast Iron?
Tomatoes and other acidic foods can be cooked in seasoned cast iron cookware for short periods of time. Avoid making sauces and other foods that sit in the pan for a long time.
Can Tomatoes be Composted?
Tomatoes are completely compostable. They rot quickly and have lots of beneficial moisture. Just be aware that tomato seeds often sprout in compost piles.
Why are Tomatoes Called Nightshades?
Tomatoes are part of a family of plants called nightshades. This family also includes tobacco, eggplant, peppers, and potatoes. Nightshades have unique alkaloid compounds that can have physiological effects on the human body.