There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes out there; so how do you choose which seeds to buy?
Some are determinate, others are indeterminate.
Some are potato-leafed, others aren’t.
You have to choose between large vining varieties, bushing/compact varieties, dwarf plants, and micro dwarf tomato plants.
You’ve got red tomatoes, purple tomatoes, blue tomatoes, pink tomatoes, black tomatoes, green tomatoes, white tomatoes, rainbow tomatoes, yellow tom-
I could just keep going!
Instead, I’m going to make your life easier today.
Do you want to make your life easier, and narrow down your tomato choices without going through thousands of pages of descriptions, reviews, and experiences only to find contradicting information? We’ve got you covered.
This post contains affiliate links to products offered by SeedsNow, a seed company I have supported for 4 years now. Purchases made through these links help to fund the costs of running this blog (Growing Tomatoes).
Tomato Seed Buying Guide: Identify Your Wants and Needs
If you already know what you want or need, please skip ahead to the next titled section. If not, here are some things to consider:
Do you want a large, vining plant (most slicers)? Or do you want a compact bushy plant (like Ace 55) that fits in a small garden?
Do you want a vining indeterminate that produces tomatoes all season for your salads and sandwiches? Or do you prefer a determinate plant that will ripen nearly all of its tomatoes at one time (best for canning and processing)?
Do you prefer a large, juicy slicing tomato for sandwiches?
Do you need smaller cherry tomatoes for your salads?
Or, would you like meatier tomatoes with less juice, ideal for making sauces, ketchups, soups, and more?
You should also consider acidity: acidic tomatoes are better for canning, while sweeter tomatoes are better for fresh eating.
Tomato Plant Characteristics
Do you need a plant that is heat resistant, meaning it’ll keep pumping out tomatoes during heat waves, such as Caribe tomatoes? This is an important trait in the southern United States.
Do you want crack resistant tomatoes? More varieties crack than those that don’t; thus, you might miss out on more flavorful tomatoes. However, crack resistance is vital for market gardens and for those with small spaces that cannot afford to lose fruit to cracking.
Do you have an issue with wilt in your area? You might need a wilt-resistant variety, as well.
Some are also blight resistant.
There are more choices to be made than the beginner might realize, but don’t worry. We’ll get it all sorted out!
The Best Tomato Varieties for Beginners
Quickly, I’d like to detail some of the best varieties for beginners. These varieties are known for how easy they are to care for, their great fruit production, and their flavor.
Cherry Tomatoes: As a whole, the cherry tomato category are the easiest to grow. They can be a bit more difficult to preserve, but they are excellent for salads, making ketchup, and for snacking in the garden! Here are some varieties to try:
Chocolate Cherry Tomato: These tomatoes are indeterminate, crack-resistant, very prolific, and they hang onto the plant quite well. Plus, they’re chocolate in color.
Large Red Cherry Tomato: This variety is known for its excellent flavor, high yields, and firm, large fruits. The indeterminate vines are easy to care for and are some of the most popular to grow.
Black Cherry Tomato: Black tomatoes are all the rage right now. This variety is delicious, prolific, and indeterminate; it’s perfect as a stunning visual addition to your meals. These are easy to gift when you’re overrun with tomatoes, too!
White Cherry Tomato: A personal favorite! White cherry tomatoes actually mature as pale yellow tomatoes. The tomatoes are resistant to dropping and cracking; they also perform well in poor soils! This variety is also very, very sweet and indeterminate, making it the perfect snacking tomato that’ll produce all season long.
Compact, Bushing Tomatoes (Determinate, No Vining Habit)
Unlike indeterminate, vining tomatoes, determinate bushing-habit tomatoes don’t sprawl. These plants are more compact, which is ideal for the smaller garden; small raised beds, urban homesteads, container gardening, patio gardening, and more.
Almost all of these plants will have their fruit ripen all at once; this makes the tomatoes in this category perfect for those who are trying to preserve the harvest through canning, freezing, drying, or batch processing (such as tomato sauce).
If you want something smaller and easier to manage, this is the category for you. You won’t have to trellis these tomatoes like the larger vines; you can use stakes, instead. Keep in mind that you’ll have to match up the tomato that is best for you across all of our categories.
Ace 55 Tomato: This a a red, wildly-popular low acid tomato with resistance to both fusarium and verticillium wilt. Since it is a determinate variety, it’s excellent for canning. Just keep an eye on your acid levels when water bath canning.
Caribe Tomato: This tomato is a heat-resistant, compact grower that yields 8 ounce red fruits. Ideal for hot, humid summer months.
Floradade Tomato: Another heat-resistant compact grower that produces heavy crops of red tomatoes, even when night temperatures reach above 75*F!
Homestead Tomato: You’ve almost certainly heard of homestead tomatoes! This red old-fashioned favorite produces lots of medium sized tomatoes, even as the heat ramps up. It is wilt resistant, to boot.
Manitoba Tomato: Another popular producer of red 6-8 ounce tomatoes! It takes a little longer time to reach harvest (90 days), but it’s well worth the wait. An excellent variety to keep on hand.
Rio Grande Tomato: Want something a bit more odd? The Rio Grande produces tons of grape/sausage shaped red tomatoes, which are excellent for both market gardens and home preservation. They perform well in heat, outperform other determinate varieties, and are quite forgiving when the nights get a bit chilly.
Roma Tomato: Who could forget about this popular paste tomato? One of the best varieties for cooking and canning, wildly popular for tomato sauces! One of the most prolific producers of medium-shaped paste tomatoes.
Heat Resistant Tomato Varieties (Ideal for Southeastern, Southwestern US)
Here in the south, the heat can really bring your tomato plants down. Once the days begin to soar into the 90’s, most varieties begin to slow down or completely stop flowering and fruiting.
The following varieties are much more likely to produce well in the heat, while your other plants are fizzing out. Be sure to plant one of these varieties to keep your tomatoes coming during the many heat waves to come.
See Caribe, Floradade, Homestead, and Rio Grande In the List Above.
Atkinson Tomato: This variety has thick leaves; this allows it to protect itself from moisture loss and heat stress during the hottest weeks of the year. This indeterminate variety has a great flavor, and it will bombard you with lots of 1/2 to 1 lb sized red fruit!
Calypso Tomato: If you’ve got extremely humid days ahead, Calypso will do the trick. These 6-8 ounce red tomatoes will not disappoint you when it comes to flavor. We love to freeze this one for winter use.
Creole Tomato: For a smooth tomato with divine flavor, this variety sure can handle the heat. This medium-sized, red beauty isn’t shy about the heat in the deep south.
Arkansas Traveler Tomato: Hailing from the Ozark mountains, this tomato is an excellent tasting crack-resistant red variety. This indeterminate heirloom is very mild in flavor, and produces fruits up to 8 ounces in size quite prolifically.
Sun Sugar: This cherry tomato is quite the overhaul of a variety! It is a very, very sweet orange cherry tomato that takes the heat like a champ. It is extremely prolific, great for snacking, and is disease resistant. These monstrous vines will fare well in gardens that are afflicted with fusarium wilt and tomato mosaic virus, as they are resistant.
The Top Indeterminate Slicing Tomatoes (for Season-Long Production)
Slicing tomatoes are almost always going to grow on indeterminate vines; the same goes for the XL tomatoes, such as Mortgage Lifters.
These tend to be big tomatoes that can help you to serve up some of the biggest, best burger-topping slices you could ask for.
The following tomatoes are selected based on their size, performance, and proliferation.
See Homestead and Manitoba under “Compact/Bushing.”
Pink Brandywine Tomato: There are different colors of Brandywines, but they are all large tomatoes that grow on indeterminate vines. They are among some of the most popular vines grown by home gardeners, due to their excellent flavor and ease of care. They are an excellent slicer that you can’t possibly regret growing.
Oxheart Tomato: The oxheart is great for slicing, yes; but did you know it grows in the shape of a heart? When sliced correctly, you have a beautiful pile of heart shaped slices that are perfect for offering guests. They come in red, orange, and yellow.
Delicious Tomato: Delicious tomatoes are one of the most popular large tomatoes that are grown, both in the garden and commercially. These tomatoes can reach 2 lb in size, so be prepared for some monsters. It is the record holder for largest tomato, coming in at OVER 7 lb in size.
Cherokee Purple Tomato: This is the single most popular purple tomato; it is a slicing/beefsteak type tomato, and it has an incredible flavor. It is one of my must-grow’s every year. There is only one issue with this variety: it splits. A lot. However, it produces so many large tomatoes that it is easy to cut off any bad splits and still have plenty of tomatoes to enjoy.
Abraham (Abe) Lincoln Tomato: Want something that’ll grow to around a pound in size? That isn’t likely to split on you? Then Abe is the answer! This XL tomato is great for nearly everything that you could use a slicer for; and it’s especially good for homemade ketchup!
Best Tomatoes for Making Sauces and Pastes (Meaty, Paste Tomatoes)
One of the biggest ways tomatoes are preserved is in the form of tomato sauce or tomato paste. Tomatoes can be used for pasta sauces, soups, stews, stir fry, chili, and much more; but you likely won’t be eating them on your salads and sandwiches once you can or freeze them. Thus, you will not want those juicy slicers; instead, you’ll want thick-walled fruits with lots of meat, little juice, and very few seeds. Welcome to the “paste” tomato!
See Homestead Tomato under “Bush/Compact”
San Marzano Tomato: This is a plum tomato, commonly used in Italian cuisine. This heirloom is indeterminate as well, providing you with fruit that reaches over 3″ in length all summer long! Are you prepared for all of the pasta you’ll be eating with San Marzanos growing?
Rutgers Tomato: The Rutgers tomato is a fast growing, sprawling vine that will produce lots of small/medium red tomatoes with very thick walls. It’s a smaller tomato, but it is a mighty indeterminate plant who just won’t quit!
Roma Tomato: This is another medium sized, plum/sausage shaped determinate tomato. It’s highly popular in Italian dishes, and is a dream for preservation. It’s a must-grow if you have not yet tried it.
Red Pear Tomato: The red pear is a smaller tomato variety, but it sets fruit in decently sized clusters. This makes the tomatoes easier to spot among the fully grown vines and bushes. Being indeterminate, this is a handy trait to avoid missing tomatoes. They are ideal for sauces and canning, especially for stewed tomatoes.
Marion Tomato: The Marion is another excellent paste tomato because it has few seeds, little juice, and incredibly thick walls. It’s believed by many to be a better option than Rutgers, and it’s crack resistant. This means you’ll handle fewer additional cuts during processing due to cracked fruit, which can take a lot of time.
Amish Paste: As one might assume, this is a very popular paste tomato. It is excellent for canning, is extremely productive, and it’ll keep pumping tomatoes out all year long; yes, it’s indeterminate! It may struggle a bit in the heat, but you will be rewarded with more paste tomatoes than you know what to do with!
The Best Low-Acid Tomatoes You Could Choose From
Personally, I prefer lower acid tomatoes. Thus, we’re incorporating those gems into this seed buying guide. Lower acid tomatoes will require added acid when canning, but they tend to be sweeter. They make excellent fresh eating tomatoes, great sauces, and even delicious ketchup.
See Above for San Marzano Tomato under “Meaty/Paste Tomatoes.”
Ace 55 Tomato: Back to Ace 55 again! This a a red, wildly-popular low acid tomato with resistance to both fusarium and verticillium wilt. Since it is a determinate variety, it’s excellent for canning. Just keep an eye on your acid levels when water bath canning.
Yellow Pear Tomato: This little gem is a favorite of mine. It’s incredibly sweet and delicious, prolific, and it’s quite the hardy plant, too! It’s a small, pear shaped tomato, with a vibrant yellow skin; with 75 days to harvest, it’s quick to bear, too.
Golden Sunray Tomato: This is a rich, golden orange tomato. These plants produce tons of small fruits that are ideal for eating fresh or in salads; you could preserve them, as well. This is an indeterminate variety that begins bearing fruit around the 75 day mark.
Jubilee Tomato: This is a “jack of all trades” type of tomato! It’s yellow, low acid, has lots of meat, and it’s large! It’s also an indeterminate variety as you might imagine, and quite hardy.
Big Rainbow Tomato: This one isn’t for the faint of heart; with some weighing in at a whopping 2 lb, you have to be ready to preserve or serve these tomatoes quite frequently. They’re low acid, indeterminate, and absolutely delicious. They’re a popular crowd pleaser!
The Largest Tomato Varieties You Can Grow
To round out our post, why not include the biggest varieties of tomatoes that you can grow? If you’re planning to enter into some local competitions (such as the county or state fair), or if you simply want to battle your neighbor and grow the biggest tomato of the year, these tomatoes will really help you out.
Keep in mind that the size of your tomatoes will depend upon the conditions in which they are growing. Different varieties may not perform well in extreme heat, drought, wet conditions, or in poor soils. Pests, diseases, overcrowding, and limited sunlight can all affect the performance of your tomato plants, as well. You might not grow a world record tomato, but a little care will go a long way.
Delicious Tomato: This is the world record holder, at over 7 lb! It’s not uncommon to find a 2 lb fruit (or bigger) on these plants.
Brandywine Tomato: These commonly grow up to 1 lb in size.
Mortgage Lifter Tomato: Why’s it called a mortgage lifter? You can grow 2 lb fruits on these plants! They’re excellent for the market garden. They develop a beautiful coloration as they ripen, too.
Pineapple Tomato: This is such a unique and beautiful tomato. They’re yellow with red streaks inside and outside; and they grow to 2 lb or larger. They’ll really turn some heads.
Abraham Lincoln Tomato: This variety is a heavy producer of 1 lb fruits, on average. Not only are they big; they’re prolific. Excellent for preservation.
Pink/Red/Yellow Beefsteak Tomato: The beefsteak group contains several beautiful colors; and, they produce fruits up to 2 lb in size.
Big Rainbow Tomato: These tomatoes are a show stopper; not only are they beautiful, they can reach over 2 lb in size, too.
Purple and Black Varieties that You Should Try, Too!
I’m a huge fan of the darker colored tomatoes. Therefore, I’d like to list as many of these as I can, so that you can do some further research.
Many of these tomatoes will have a smokey flavor, and will range in size; they may be as small as a Black Cherry tomato, or they may be as large as (or bigger than!) a Purple Cherokee tomato.
If you have a favorite that you don’t see listed here (even if it’s not uncommon or rare), feel free to mention it, and we will include it in the list.
Pride of Flanders
Black from Tula
Tim’s Black Ruffles
True Black Brandywine
Dwarf Purple Heart
Japanese Black Trifele
Brad’s Black Heart
Obviously, there are a lot of dark tomato varieties to try out; I haven’t grown them all myself, of course, but this was an excellent opportunity to expose you to the massive world of tomato varieties!