Understanding Types of Tomatoes

by April Reinhardt
(last updated April 20, 2018)

While the debate continues over whether a tomato is considered a vegetable or a fruit, it is agreed that the tomato is the most-grown foodstuff United States because of its versatility. They can be broiled, boiled, fried, poached, roasted, baked, and grilled, or eaten raw. They can be preserved by canning, dehydrating, or frozen in recipes. Home grown tomatoes contain more vitamin C and beta-carotene than commercially grown varieties.

Before you contemplate growing your own tomatoes, it helps to understand the different types available. There are two main categories of tomatoes; open pollinated and F1 hybrid. Open pollinated tomatoes produce seeds that will grow more tomatoes, while hybrid plants will not reproduce. Hybrid plants have been designed and cross-bred to produce desirable characteristics, yet require more fertilizer and water than pollinated varieties.

There are also two classifications of tomatoes; determinate and indeterminate. Tomato growers use determinate plants if they want to harvest a crop all at once, because determinate tomatoes grow as a bush, bear a full crop all at once, and then stop growing at a specific height. Determinate tomatoes are often a good choice for container gardening. Conversely, indeterminate tomato plants never stop growing, and continue to bear fruit until frost kills the plant. Home growers prefer indeterminate plants since they want ripe fruit throughout the season.

How do you determine what type of tomato plant to grow? That depends on why you want to grow them, and for what use. Heirloom tomatoes are an open pollinated variety over fifty years old, produce exceptional fruit with superb taste, and are indeterminate plants. If you want a tomato that tastes superior, you might choose an heirloom variety. But then you also need to realize that heirloom plants are indeterminate and will continue to grow until frost kills the plant. Indeterminate plants need to be staked or supported, since the vine will not stop growing until cold weather kills it.

Consider the maintenance involved when growing different types of tomato plants, and then decide if you are willing to invest the time and energy needed to grow them. If you simply want a few tomatoes, then it might be best to grow a determinate variety in a small container on your porch or back deck. But if you want a huge crop of tomatoes, grow the indeterminate type, and then be prepared to stake each plant.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...


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