Want to have the full experience of growing tomatoes from start to finish this gardening season? Start by growing your own plants from seed indoors this winter. Your first step is to choose which variety of tomato you want to grow. There are a lot to choose from– around 10,000 varieties of tomatoes exist. There are different varieties good for slicing, to put in salads, to freeze or cook with. Choose a variety that is resistant to blossom end rot, a disease caused by uneven watering from lack of calcium. Some varieties ripen as early as July, good for our short growing season. There are good early varieties such as Stupice from Russia and Eastern Europe. Other varieties take longer to ripen but grow bigger. Here are some recommendations for tomato varieties depending on what you want to use them for…..
Earliest varieties-Polar Baby and Belii Naliv are two very early varieties recommended by John Austin, local garden expert who specializes in early tomatoes and other vegetables. If you do things right, you can have ripe tomatoes in early July. These early varieties are usually determinate. (See sidebar)
Preserving-we grew just one Roma tomato plant last summer and it bore prolifically with hundreds of small, oblong tomatoes. I froze many packages—or you can them or make sauce with them.
Old stand-by tomato hybrids, Early Girl and Fantastic, still deserve growing. They have excellent tomato flavor and do well in our climate. Both are indeterminate.
Heirloom-old-fashioned tomatoes which are open-pollinated, not hybrids –have seen a resurgence in popularity the last few years because these old varieties have yummy, old-fashioned tomato flavor. They are open-pollinated, so you can save their seeds. Some recommended heirloom varieties include Glacier (determinate), Black Krim, and Brandywine.
Best flavor—Indeterminate Sungold and the improved Sunsugar cherry tomatoes win blind taste tests every time. They turn orange when ripe. Ours never make it in the house—the grandkids eat them right off the plant like candy.
Slicers—Big slicing tomatoes are hard to get ripe here because of our cool nights and short growing season. Try these indeterminate varieties, Parks Whopper, Celebrity, and Goliath, which all grow well in our climate and will ripen if we have a warm summer. These varieties are big enough for slicing.
Stay tuned for next month’s article with hints for starting your tomato plants inside from seed.
What is the difference between a determinate and an indeterminate tomato?
Determinate tomato plants are smaller. The tomatoes ripen earlier (good for our climate) and mostly all at the same time. They grow well in a container or raised bed.
Indeterminate tomato plants will grow to large sprawling plants. The plants continue to produce and ripen tomatoes. They need support and staking. Trim back new vines and green tomatoes as the season progresses to encourage the developing tomatoes to ripen before frost.