A short description of the different groups that tomato cultivars can fall under.
Tomato names both the plant and the fruit borne on that plant. Once considered poisonous and shunned by European settlers because of its resemblance to nightshade, the tomato has since become a popular food plant used in salads, sauces, drinks and cooked dishes. Many people choose to grow tomatoes at home both because it is a relatively easy process and because they find that fresh-picked tomatoes taste better than store-bought produce. But before they can start growing tomatoes, individuals must find a variety that both satisfies their desires and can thrive under local conditions.
Gardeners can choose amongst more than seven thousand tomato varieties tailored to a broad range of possible growing conditions. Each variety has its own size, shape, color, taste, ideal growing conditions and degree of resistance to common tomato maladies. For best results, gardeners should consult someone knowledgeable about tomato varieties at their local plant nurseries or gardening stores in order to find a variety that matches their needs and conditions. Seeds for the most common varieties can be purchased from these stores while more exotic varieties might need to be ordered using either mail or the Internet.
In general, tomato varieties can be classified as either determinate or indeterminate and heirlooms or hybrids.
Determinate tomatoes grow to a limited size and then bear fruit that ripen in a short time period lasting about two weeks’ time. In contrast, indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow until they die and bear fruit that ripen throughout their lifespan. Determinate tomatoes require less care and support than indeterminate tomatoes but cannot offer fresh produce throughout the year. As such, determinate tomatoes are better suited for smaller gardening spaces and climates with limited growing seasons while indeterminate tomatoes are better suited for larger spaces and climates that can support year-round growth.
Heirloom tomatoes are tomato varieties created by selecting plants for desired qualities and then letting them reproduce through open-pollination. These tomato varieties breed true because they were created using artificial selection repeated across multiple generations. In general, gardeners should choose heirloom tomatoes if they want to use their seeds to grow more tomatoes in the future and if they want tomatoes with more exotic qualities such as unusual colors. Some people also consider heirloom tomatoes to taste better than hybrids, though this is by no means a universal opinion.
Hybrid tomatoes are tomato varieties created by manually cross-breeding two different varieties for their increased durability and disease resistance. Tomato plants grown using seeds from hybrid tomatoes do not always resemble their parents because the cross-breeding has taken place only one generation ago. Gardeners should purchase hybrid seeds if they want hardier plants and do not mind this limitation. Although many hybrid varieties were created to favor durability at the expense of taste, this is not true of all hybrid tomatoes.
Published in: Gardening