Garden-fresh tomatoes are extremely versatile and adaptable to any cuisine, from salads to salsa to piping-hot tomato sauce. With a wide variety of tomatoes available, there is no reason not to grow this popular nightshade in the home garden. There are some considerations to make when choosing what tomato you want to grow:
Indeterminate tomato plants grow continuously until killed by frost or disease, producing fruit through the entire growing season. Most (though not all) indeterminate varieties grow quite tall—some reaching as much as 8 or 10 feet—so they need a lot of room and support.
Determinate tomato plants tend to be shorter—they reach a certain height and then stop growing. This makes them a wonderful choice for smaller spaces like side yards, balconies and decks. Determinate tomato plants also produce the majority of their fruit within a shorter period of time, which is perfect if you plan to preserve the harvest.
Hybrid tomato plants are, simply, plants that have been crossbred to take advantage of the best traits of each parent plant. These traits might include greater disease resistance, shorter growth habit or higher yield. Plant breeders may do the cross-pollination to create a certain kind of hybrid, or a hybrid can occur naturally, thanks to bees and other pollinators. It’s important to note that hybrid is NOT the same as GMO.
Heirloom tomato plants are varieties that are open-pollinated (meaning they rely on insect pollination) and at least 50 years old. Many, like Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, San Marzano and Mr. Stripey offer a rich history passed down through cultures or families.