- The Tomato Lover’s Guide To Every Type Of Tomato
- Your Guide To The Different Types Of Tomatoes (& Their Best Uses)
- Cherokee Purple
- Anna Russian
- Cherokee Chocolate
- Cherokee Green
- Dwarf Emerald Giant
- Ferris Wheel
- Green Giant
- Kellogg’s Breakfast
- Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom
- Lucky Cross
- Mexico Midget
- Speckled Roman
- Mortgage Lifter
- Sun Gold
- Rosella Purple
- Yellow Oxheart
- Overview: The Quick & The Dirty
- Tomato Basics
- Personal Preferences
- Disease Resistance
- Climate: Getting Into the Zone
- Selecting Seedlings
- Using All This Info
- Tomato Varieties & Color: Learn About Different Tomato Colors
- Red Tomato Varieties
- Pink Tomato Varieties
- Orange Tomato Varieties
- Yellow Tomato Varieties
- White Tomato Varieties
- Green Tomato Varieties
- Purple Tomato Varieties or Black Tomato Varieties
- Color disorder may appear in different ways
- Nitrogen and Potassium
- Why Do Tomatoes Change Color as They Ripen?
The Tomato Lover’s Guide To Every Type Of Tomato
With countless varieties and a range of delicious flavor profiles, there’s no question that tomatoes are the perfect addition to just about any dish. Tomatoes are extremely versatile and are great for grilling, roasting, sautéing—even on their own as a healthy snack. Whether it’s a meaty Beefsteak or a small but snappy cherry tomato, adding these antioxidant powerhouses to your meal can add a much-needed burst of flavor.
With so many varieties of tomatoes to choose from, you might be left wondering “what’s the difference?”. We’ve put together this guide to the different types of tomatoes and their uses so you can find the perfect tomato for your next dish.
Your Guide To The Different Types Of Tomatoes (& Their Best Uses)
Crisp and crunchy, grape tomatoes come in a variety of colors that range from sweet to tangy. Thanks to their thicker skin, grape tomatoes hold their meaty texture when cooked, making them a great addition to a main dinner dish—whether you’re roasting them in the oven, tossing them into your pasta, or adding a colorful side to your steak, chicken, or fish. Whether you prefer a red grape’s candy-like sweetness or the tangy kick of a yellow grape, these tomatoes are also great for snacking on raw—perfect for tomato lovers who just can’t get enough!
Try grape tomatoes in these recipes:
Grecian Tomato Salmon
Pan Seared Grape Tomatoes & Toasted Almonds
Turkey Stuffed Bell Peppers
Red Beefsteak Tomatoes
The king of tomatoes, THE salsa tomato. Red Beefsteak tomatoes are large and meaty with lots of juice, making them ideal to use as a base for fresh sauces and dips. Red Beefsteak’s mild flavor makes them the perfect complement to any dish, without being too overpowering. They make a great addition to your classic hamburger or BLT, and can even hold their own as a patty substitute!
Grab a Beefsteak tomato and try out these recipes:
Ohio Red Breakfast Sandwich
Chicken & Pepper Cobb Salad
Green Beefsteak Tomatoes
A green tomato doesn’t always mean “unripe”. Green Beefsteaks have a unique flavor that is tart and tangy and pairs well with other flavors to create something special. These tomatoes can be used as an interesting twist on juicing, artisan sandwiches, salsas, dips, and cold or hot sauces. They can even be used in baked items like desserts and pies (trust us, they’re delicious!), and make a great substitute in any recipe you’re using Granny Smith apples.
Try these recipes and make something delicious with a Green Beefsteak:
Green Tomato Pie
Green Tomato Blueberry Jam
A favorite of tomato lovers everywhere, cherry tomatoes are one the most versatile tomatoes around. With red, orange, yellow, and purple varieties, these tomatoes are a cooking mainstay, adding a burst of color and flavor to any meal. Sweet and tangy, cherry tomatoes can be cooked, grilled, sauced, and dried—and if you really can’t get enough—even eaten as a raw snack.
Check out these recipes for some cherry tomato cooking inspiration:
Cherry Tomato Berry Salad
Cherry Tomato Bruschetta
Seared Salmon With Cherry Tomatoes
Veggie Lover’s Pizza
Cocktail tomatoes’ traditional tomato flavor has a sweet and fruity aftertaste, making them a versatile tomato that goes great with any meal or occasion. With soft walls and a meaty texture, cocktail tomatoes do well with heat, making them one of the best tomatoes for creating delicate sauces, throwing on the BBQ, or stuffing with your favorite meats and veggies.
Start cooking with cocktail tomatoes with these recipes:
Stewed Tomatoes & Poached Eggs
Grilled Chicken Veracruz
The quintessential Italian plum tomato, Roma tomatoes are full of flavor with a tangy, garden-fresh tomato taste. This tomato is ideal for making a delicious stew, sauce, or tomato paste. For an even more intense flavor, try roasting your Roma in the oven and using it to create a tomato pesto or bruschetta topping that has a bit of a kick. With so many ways to use and a delicious flavor, it’s the perfect tomato to get adventurous with!
Enjoy Roma tomatoes in these recipes:
Salmon & Pan Seared Vegetable Medley
Creamy Tomato & Bell Pepper Soup
Zaalouk With Roma Tomatoes
Get back to your culinary roots with heirloom tomatoes that have been passed down for generations. With a wide range of sizes and vibrant colors, heirlooms are also rich in flavor, making them one of the best tomatoes to liven up your dish. These tomatoes are a perfect addition to sandwiches and salads, make a delicious grilled or roasted side dish, and taste great raw with a drizzle of olive oil and dash of salt. Whether you like your tomatoes sweet or tangy, heirlooms have something for everyone.
Pick your favorite heirloom and give these recipes a try:
Heirloom & Bell Pepper Frittata
Tomato Beet Salad
Tomatoes On The Vine
Like their name suggests, these tomatoes are left on the vine to soak in the plant’s nutrients until they are fully ripened. The sweet and juicy freshness of a ripe red vine tomato makes them a mainstay in any tomato lover’s kitchen. These tomatoes can do just about anything, from making the finest tomato soup you have ever tasted to adding a refreshing pop of flavor to sauces, jams, and salads. Slice them, dice them, roast them, eat them raw—the possibilities with a tomato on the vine are endless!
Try tomatoes on the vine with these delicious recipes:
Bell Pepper Salsa Fresca
When people come to my garden, they see tomato plants. I see the names and faces of the growers who sent me seeds of their cherished varieties. As the tomato advisor for Seed Savers Exchange, a group devoted to preserving edible heirloom plants, I have the good fortune to grow treasures that, for generations, have been passed from one gardener to the next. I chronicled many of them in my book, Epic Tomatoes, but these 19 really shine.
To purchase seeds for these, visit the following:
- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
- Seed Savers Exchange
- Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
- Tomato Growers Supply Company
- Victory Seed Company
We have Cherokee Purple today because J. D. Green of Sevierville, Tennessee, shared a packet of unnamed “purple” tomatoes with me in 1990. I loved the variety’s full, rich flavor, just as wonderful all by itself as in a salad or sandwich. Now it’s everywhere. And I think that’s really cool!
Though it grows on the straggliest vine you’ve ever seen, this is a spectacular tomato, 3 inches across and heart-shaped, with a complex flavor that balances tart and sweet. As a bonus, it’s relatively early and produces generously.
Hailing from Russia, this variety dispels the myth of the “bland yellow” tomato. It attacks the taste buds with a rush of tartness. Medium sized with golden skin, it is nearly white inside. It comes on early and abundantly.
The poster child for heirloom-tomato mania, Brandywine is a fickle sort. When it is happy, there is absolutely no tomato to equal it for flavor; the large pink fruit is so rich and so sweet, it will take a hammer to your taste buds.
This is one of the so-called “black” varieties, which retain a bit of green chlorophyll after they ripen. It is known for great size, flavor, and yield.
A new favorite offspring of the Cherokee line, this superb variety boasts Cherokee Purple quality in a tomato with grass-green flesh and amber skin.
Dwarf Emerald Giant
If you garden where space is limited, this tasty variety is small enough to grow in a 5-gallon pot, so it’s an ideal choice for a deck or patio.
This large, intensely sweet heirloom sat unnoticed in the USDA tomato-seed collection until I was able to identify it from a late-1890s seed catalog.
A relative of Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom (see below), Green Giant shares its cousin’s full flavor profile, and it’s widely adapted. Ripe fruits are green with a pink blush below.
Few tomatoes start life as such weak-looking seedlings yet develop such vigor and productivity as they grow. The mature fruits are large and sweet.
Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom
The pale fruits — weighing over a pound — are so meaty, they’re nearly solid. Their flavor has it all: intensity, richness, and depth.
The result of a chance seedling that appeared in a Brandywine planting, red-and-yellow-swirled Lucky Cross is a snappy blend of acids and sugars.
These aptly named fruits are tiny in size but gargantuan in flavor, with the deep, complex taste you’d expect from a beefsteak variety.
Like most plum tomatoes, this tiger-striped gem has a long shape and produces like a machine. It is equally at home sliced and raw or cooked into a sauce.
According to legend, M. C. Byles of Logan, West Virginia, created Mortgage Lifter through an unorthodox crossing technique. Afterward, he paid off his mortgage by selling the seedlings. It is a monster, having produced the largest tomato I’ve ever grown — a little over 2 pounds. And it is sweet, meaty, and delicious.
Nearly round, medium-sized, and red, Nepal is the assertively flavored heirloom that weaned me from modern hybrids back in the early ’80s.
I don’t grow many hybrids, but little orange Sun Gold is a worthy exception. It isn’t fussy, it produces a ton, and its sweetness is unmatched.
If you shrink Cherokee Purple to 4 feet in height but leave the fruits’ color and flavor intact, you’ll have Rosella Purple. Grow it in a 5-gallon pot.
The first pale orange, heart-shaped tomato, this variety dates back to the 1920s. It’s a large, super-meaty variety with an appealingly mild flavor.
TOMATO PHOTOGRAPHS BY STEPHEN L. GARRETT OF EPIC TOMATOES
#1 Plant Protector
Tomatoes come in about every color from white to purple, pink, yellow, orange, mottled, or, yes, striped. (No polka-dots.) Commonly grown varieties include Beefsteak, Big Boy, Brandywine and Boxcar Willie, to touch only on the Bs. Other cultivars include the suggestively named Mortgage Lifter, an heirloom variety popular during the 30s, and Purple Haze, a large cherry tomato derived from Cherokee Purple, Brandywine and Black Cherry. How to decide what to plant?
When you choose what tomato type you want to plant in your garden, you’ll probably base your decision on at least three criteria: personal preferences (for shape, size, and use), disease resistance, and climate. (Hint: a good plant for someone in Arizona probably isn’t ideal for Maine.) Then, you’ll need to decide how many tomatoes to plant, and finally, assuming that you’re not starting from seeds, you’ll need guidelines for selecting seedlings from amongst dozens competing for your attention.
This is a lot of information, so we’ve put together a quickie version.
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Overview: The Quick & The Dirty
If you’re just starting out, we’d recommend that you experiment with at least three different tomato varieties. That way, you can see what they are like to grow and what tastes best.
Here’s the quickest way to get started:
- Go to a reputable nursery or greenhouse near you at the beginning of the growing season. You may find precisely what you need at an over-hyped box store garden outlet, but your chances of speaking with someone knowledgeable go up if you go to a real nursery or gardening store. So do your chances of bringing home disease-free seedlings.
- Get someone who works there to tell you about the tomatoes they sell. Be sure to share any pertinent information about your own needs and garden (and gardening) limitations. Buy several likely candidates (a few more than you’ll need, since one or two always keel over or fade away for no clear reason.) Then proceed to the How to Plant Tomatoes page.
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If you’re new to the world of tomato gardening, and a nursery worker blithely recommends over her shoulder that you select a determinate hybrid, you may feel even more helpless than you did before you asked the question. It helps to know a little about tomatoes, how they grow, and how they’re categorized, so that the language on the back of seed packets or coming out of a gardener’s mouth doesn’t seem like pure gobbledygook. Here, then, is an introduction to two of the most basic distinctions: determinate vs. indeterminate, and heirloom vs. hybrid.
Determinate/ Indeterminate: Determinate tomatoes bloom and set fruit all at once and then decline. Their blossoms grow at the ends of shoots, thus stopping growth and determining their length. These varieties are usually compact plants which require no pruning and little staking, the exception being “vigorous” determinants, which produce such large fruit that they do need support.
Indeterminate tomatoes are in it for the long haul. They continue to grow and to produce tomatoes throughout the summer, because the flowers grow along the vines rather than at the ends. Since they don’t come to a determined point but grow until stopped by cold weather or a pair of clippers (hence their name), they generally need to be supported or pruned.
Restore one of summer’s greatest pleasures by growing heirloom tomato seeds from Planet Natural. Fresh sliced, canned, or made into sauces, they’re so much sweeter, juicier and extra flavorful than any commercially-raised tomatoes.
Just about any tomato outside the wild varieties remaining in Central and South America has been bred — its pollination and reproduction controlled — to promote certain specific qualities. The difference between hybrid and heirloom varieties lies in how recently the variety has been crossed with others, and therefore how reliably their seeds will reproduce the plant on which they grow.
Heirloom tomatoes were developed over many years and many generations, by the old-fashioned method of growing tomatoes from seeds with desirable qualities, keeping the seedlings that retain those desired qualities and tossing those that don’t. Gradually, the line was refined; more and more of the seeds produced plants with the desired characteristics, until finally aberrant and undesirable qualities were bred out of the strain.
One of the keys to heirlooms is that they have been developed through open-pollination over many years. Their key, defining qualities are therefore encoded in dominant genes, which will win out over competing, cross-pollinated varieties, at least for a while. If you’re growing them beside other tomato varieties, cross-pollination will eventually lead to changes in seeds, but seeds from heirloom plants, grown in relative isolation from others, will breed true.
How old a variety needs to be to count as an heirloom is a matter of opinion. Some gardeners only recognize varieties that are more than 100 years old. Others accept cultivars that pre-date 1945.
Hybrids, a more recent development, are the result of forced cross-pollination between two different varieties (see What are Hybrid Seeds). There is no attempt to develop a seed “line” for a hybrid; it is produced anew each year, always by crossing the same two varieties.
Tomatoes generally self-pollinate, the (male) pollen in the flower fertilizing the (female) stigma, often with the help of bees or wind. (There’s actually more to it than that, but that’s enough for the moment.) Occasionally cross-pollination occurs when one of those helpers brings pollen from a different variety to the flower (see Pollination in the Garden).
(Technically, tomatoes are self-pollinizing rather than self-pollinating, since they do need that bit of outside help. A truly self-pollinating plant does it alone. Corn pollen, for example, simply sifts down from the tassel at the top of the plant to the crotches where the leaves join the stem. Gravity is the only outside force needed.)
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In hybrids, that natural process (open pollination) is pre-empted by manual pollination, where pollen from one variety is used to fertilize flowers of the other variety. That cross-pollination occurs in the generation just before the one you’re buying (or growing). The “parents” of the hybrid tomato plant, in other words, are two very different types, and the seeds from the hybrid contain DNA for both, in all kinds of combinations. Therefore, you cannot count on those seeds to produce a plant genetically identical to the mother plant; you simply can’t know which of the two “parents” contributed the gene for size, or for firmness, or for skin toughness, in any particular seed. Furthermore, what gives the variety its distinctive qualities (size, color, taste, firmness) is sometimes encoded in a recessive, rather than a dominant gene, so open pollination in your garden may “contaminate” the seeds with some other, dominant, gene.
Heirloom or Hybrid: Tomato hybridization, which took off after WWII, has produced varieties much more resistant to diseases than heirlooms, but anyone who remembers how tomatoes (or peaches) tasted as recently as the 1960s or 70s knows that one of the main qualities for which they’ve been bred is toughness, rather than flavor. Like so many other fruits and vegetables, tomatoes used to be a local product, but in this era of mass transportation, they are bred largely to survive the trip to the supermarket. That trip, and the stress on the modern tomato, actually begins way before an eighteen-wheeler enters the picture, for many field tomatoes are picked and sorted by machine. While the industrial tomato has no doubt done wonders for produce shipping and supermarkets, and while it has made tomatoes available all over the country throughout the year, taste has suffered, which is why many home gardeners prefer heirloom varieties (see Why You’ll Always Have to Grow Tomatoes).
Here’s a quick reference:
- If you need disease-resistance, use hybrids, since most disease-resistant varieties have been developed since 1945 as hybrids.
- If you want to use seedlings from your local supermarket or nursery, you’ll probably have hybrids.
- If you want standard round, red tomatoes or cherry-tomatoes, hybrids are fine.
- If you want to be able to plant seeds from the tomatoes you grow and get a plant just like the one you started with, use heirlooms.
- If you want tomatoes like the ones Grandma grew, use heirlooms.
- If you want weird, wonderful, really different tomatoes — purple or pink tomatoes for instance — you’ll only find this kind of variety amongst the heirlooms.
- If you want the very best in flavor, many gardeners swear by heirlooms.
Fruit Size, Shape and Use: What do you want to do with your tomatoes? Do you want tomatoes for shish kabob or for hamburgers? For tomato sauce or for salads? The use will to some extent determine the variety of tomato you want to grow.
For shish kabob, the small cherry, grape, or pear tomatoes work well, while chunks of larger tomatoes would probably be a disaster. But if you want a nice, big, thin slice of tomato to grace your hamburger, you want to grow large slicing tomatoes. For sauces, you can of course use anything, but the juiciness we prize in a salad tomato can lead to a runny, watery sauce. This is where paste tomatoes (such as Romas) come into their own, yielding a thick, hearty sauce. For salads, flavor is paramount.
Tomatoes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, pear tomatoes, etc. tend to be sweet and easy to grow. They take less time since they are smaller, so they can work well for gardeners with short growing seasons. They also tend to be disease resistant.
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There are hundreds of kinds of slicing tomatoes, including the big gun of the tomato world, the Beefsteak. Because classic red slicers tend to be big and bulky, each plant will bear fewer fruits, but each tomato will be bigger. They range in color from a deep red to yellow and even somewhat pink. The deep red tomatoes have the most intense flavor. Yellow tomatoes tend to be milder and pink ones are mild and sweet.
Paste tomatoes have smaller seed cavities and are denser than slicers and cherries. They are best used in cooking — for sauces, stuffed tomatoes, etc, since they are less juicy than table tomatoes.
Plant Size: Everything from soil, moisture, and sun exposure will affect the growth of a tomato plant, and of course pruning can significantly affect how tall and how bushy plants will get. Nevertheless, different varieties do have a genetic pre-disposition to reach a certain height. Indeterminates easily reach five feet in height (the record is around thirty), while determinants generally cap out at about three feet. There are also a number of dwarf varieties especially bred for containers; these are usually between twelve and eighteen inches high.
Fruit Development: Determinate and Indeterminate, Early or Late Starters: Another set of choices has to do with whether you want your tomatoes early in the season or late, and whether you want them to produce their fruit all at once or throughout the growing season. As mentioned above, determinates tend to produce fruit all at one time, and usually fairly early in the season. Indeterminates, on the other hand, generally grow larger, and can take longer simply to get underway.
Three factors, then, will probably affect your choice of determinate or indeterminate varieties. The first of these is whether you want your fruit all at once or throughout the summer, and the second, whether you are ready to supply support for your tomatoes or want self-supporting varieties. The third factor is simply size; as mentioned above, determinates simply tend to be smaller than indeterminates.
An early starter produces fruit early in the season; a late starter takes its time. Think of them as early and late maturers. This distinction interacts with climate in affecting your selection process: if your area has a short growing season, for instance, late starters are a poor bet, unless you’re burdened with an obscure masochistic tendency or blessed with a greenhouse.
Your own gardening style may also affect your preference for early or late starters. If you are a high-maintenance gardener, you may be happy starting tomatoes from seeds at various times during the spring and setting them out in succession. If so, you could work entirely with early starters which you plant and transplant at different times, so that you achieve a harvest that extends over the summer and fall. If, however, you want to do it once and be done with it, you may be happier with a variety of early to late starters that you transplant into the ground all at the same time.
Disease is generally not a major problem for small producers, especially if they rotate vegetable crops. It is even less of an issue if you choose to grow one of the many varieties that has been bred to resist common plant diseases. You can find out from fellow gardeners or your local agricultural extension agent what diseases are prevalent in your area and shop accordingly. Most work on resistance has been done in the past fifty or sixty years, so if you covet disease-resistant strains, you are pretty much confined to hybrids. This is a bit like being “confined” to North America, as there are hundreds of hybrids to choose from.
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Capitalized letters after the tomato name indicate what diseases that variety can resist. For example, a late starter called Beef Master carries the notation of “VFN,” which means it is resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt and nematodes, three of the most common problems that afflict tomatoes nation-wide.
Tomatoes can have genetic resistance to the following diseases:
A — Alternaria leaf spot
F — Fusarium wilt
FF — Race 1 and Race 2 Fusarium
L — Septoria leaf spot
N — Nematodes
T — Tobacco mosaic virus
V — Verticillium wilt
Climate: Getting Into the Zone
Actually, you don’t have to get into the zone, since you’re already there. What gardeners need to do is learn what zone they’re in. The US and Canada have been divided into ten zones depending on average temperatures, with 1 being the coldest, and 10 the overall hottest. These zones do a lot to indicate what will or won’t grow in a certain area, and help to standardize such information. Many plants will be designated “zone 4 & 5, ” for instance, so knowing your zone gives you a quick head start on choosing varieties. Visit the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map here.
The zones, though, only take into account average temperature — not humidity, not even daily temperature range, nor rainfall. Nor do they take into account mini-zones: small areas within the larger ones on the map, with their own local conditions. If your backyard is protected by trees, shrubs, or fences, you may get more shade than you want, but your yard is also somewhat protected from winds and low temperatures. You will probably be able to put your plants out earlier and keep them bearing longer than if you’re trying to grow in a wide-open area.
Moral: the more you know about your local weather conditions, the more precise your choices can be.
Example: my area. All of southwest Montana is designated zone 4 on most maps, but when I go to a good local nursery, they ask “Where do you live?” because they know that Bozeman, tucked up against the mountains right at the eastern edge of our wide valley, has a more temperate climate than does Belgrade, fifteen miles west on the valley floor. In Bozeman, we get more rain than does Belgrade (five inches more per year, in fact,) and in Belgrade, temperatures are hotter when it’s hot and colder when it’s cold. Even within Bozeman, local differences can make a big difference in gardening, and the nursery workers often ask, “Right in Bozeman?” because in the older parts of town tall well-established trees provide windbreaks and hold heat as the young plantings in new developments do not.
Plan on two plants per person in you live in an area with a long and warm growing season. For folks like me who live in Montana and other areas with shorter, cooler summers, you’ll actually need to plant four plants per person because each plant will produce less than it would in a more hospitable climate.
Here are a couple of tips about picking out your plants. Big is not necessarily best. If the plant is tall but seems inclined to fall over, especially if the leaves are widely spaced on the stem, it is “leggy”, and may have been struggling to get enough light. Don’t buy a stressed plant.
Therefore, go for leafy rather than tall. However, there should be a clearly defined main stem, not a lot of competing ones. A favorite term used by numerous experts is “stocky,” and the favored height is 6-8 inches.
If you have a choice between two dark-green, bushy little seedlings, only one of which is in flower, take the other one. This runs against most people’s instincts, but the reasoning is sound. You don’t want a plant that’s in a hurry to grow up. A plant that starts producing fruit before it’s well-established can be seriously out of whack with its own growing needs. Sometimes such a plant will produce one fruit cluster and then try to go back to its vegetable childhood, and not produce another flower for weeks.
Using All This Info
Select one or two things that can function as a “bottom line,” and base your choice of varieties on these.
- Do you need all your tomatoes to ripen in mid-August, when you have a week off work to can them? (Then you need a determinate variety and, if you live in a climate with a short summer, you’ll need an early starter which was planted sometime in February or March.)
- Do you have only a couple of barrels or baskets to grow them? Then the key is a variety that can grow in a confined space.
- Does your patio only get sun in the afternoon? You’ll need a variety that will tolerate shade.
- Do you have a long but cool growing season? Try one of the varieties listed on this site under Cooler Climates.
Take these key points to a sympathetic, knowledgeable nurseryman, and leave with the plants he hands you.
Tomato Varieties & Color: Learn About Different Tomato Colors
Image by My Burnt Orange
It may surprise you to learn that with different tomato varieties, color is not constant. As a matter of fact, tomatoes weren’t always red. The tomatoes varieties that existed when tomatoes were first cultivated were yellow or orange.
Through breeding, the standard color of tomato plant varieties is now red. While red may be the predominate color among tomatoes now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other colors of tomatoes available. Let’s look at a few.
Red Tomato Varieties
Red tomatoes are the ones that you will see most commonly. Red tomato varieties include commonly known varieties like:
- Better Boy
- Early Girl
Commonly, red tomatoes have the rich tomato flavor that we are accustomed to.
Pink Tomato Varieties
These tomatoes are just a bit less vibrant than red varieties. They include:
- Pink Brandywine
The flavors of these tomatoes are similar to red tomatoes.
Orange Tomato Varieties
An orange tomato variety normally has roots in older tomato plant varieties. Some orange tomatoes include:
- Hawaiian Pineapple
- Kellogg’s Breakfast
These tomatoes tend to be sweeter, almost fruit like in flavor.
Yellow Tomato Varieties
Yellow tomatoes are anywhere from a dark yellow to a light yellow color. Some varieties include:
- Yellow Stuffer
- Garden Peach
These tomato plant varieties are normally low acid and have a less tangy flavor than the tomatoes most people are use to.
White Tomato Varieties
White tomatoes are a novelty among tomatoes. Typically they are a pale, pale yellow. Some white tomatoes include:
- White Beauty
- Ghost Cherry
- White Queen
The flavor of white tomatoes tends to be bland, but they have the lowest acid of any of the tomato varieties.
Green Tomato Varieties
Normally, when we think of a green tomato, we think of a tomato that isn’t ripe. But there are tomatoes that ripen green. These include:
- German Green Stripe
- Green Moldovan
- Green Zebra
Green tomato variety is typically strong but lower in acid than reds.
Purple Tomato Varieties or Black Tomato Varieties
Purple or black tomatoes hold onto more of their chlorophyll than most other varieties and will, therefore, ripen to dark red with purple tops or shoulders. Tomato plant varieties include:
- Cherokee Purple
- Black Ethiopian
- Paul Robeson
Purple or black tomatoes have a strong, robust, smoky flavor.
Tomatoes may come it a wide variety of colors, but one thing holds true: A ripe tomato from the garden, no matter the color, will beat a tomato from the store any day.
It may surprise you but the tomato color was not always red. The first tomato varieties that were cultivated were yellow or orange. It is only through breeding that red color became a standard for tomato.
Eighty five to ninety percent of the red color in ripe tomato is due to the presence of Lycopene. The skin of the tomato has the highest content of lycopene of all the tomato parts.
When it comes to fresh vegetable and fruits, color is one of the best indicators of quality along with texture, size and flavor. Color and color uniformity contributes directly to quality and marketability.
Freedom of tomatoes from physiological disorders is very important not only from an appearance point of view but because other attributes may be affected as well, such attributes include nutritional status and shelf life.
Color disorder may appear in different ways
The tops of fruit do not ripen properly. The flesh on the fruit shoulders remains green (green shoulder) or turns yellow. Yellow-eye is used to describe this disorder when only a ring of tissue around the stem scar is affected.
Internal White Tissue
Although the exterior of the tomato may appear red, fruit with this disorder exhibit areas of hard, white tissue on the shoulders and/or in the core.
The tomato fruit appears mottled green, yellow, and red. The flesh develops large patches of hard, grey to yellowish tissue that do not ripen. When the fruit is cut open, brown strands of vascular tissue may be seen.
Since color is one of the key factors growers invest enormous efforts to avoid color disorders.
We decide to turn to Rafi Hetzroni, One of Hazera’s top sells man for the Israeli market and ask him to share with us his knowledge and experience and maybe some tips which help you
Rafi: The factors that influence color in tomato are genetics and environmental.
The grower can, by awareness, help the plant to maximize its full red color potential.
Nitrogen and Potassium
According to Rafi the grower needs to maintain Nitrogen & Potassium ratio in the soil. Especially in cold winters. In cold winters the Nitrogen in the soil doesn’t dismantle well or at all and when the weather turning warmer it dismantles instantly and the plant receive higher level of Nitrogen than Potassium. Therefore it is important to reduce the Nitrogen fertilization levels and on the other hand a grower can increase the potassium fertilization (although it is rather better to avoid it in order to prevent soil salting.
What about radiation?
Rafi: indeed, another facture that influence tomato color homogeneity is exposure to sun radiation. Full foliage contributes to the fruit color because of its Photosynthesis and the coverage it supply to the fruit from the solar radiation. Thus, going out from the winter it is important to avoid exposing the fruit to direct radiation and to be careful not to take out leaves which will reveal the fruit (especially while picking).
Foliage removal needs to be done with caution. In greenhouse, for instance, removing the foliage near the fruit will cause reduce in nutrition.
If the growing is done in open field, stacked, it is important that the line will faced from the north to the south in order to avoid direct solar radiation
Not only radiation impacts the fruit color but temperature as well. Since the Bio – synthetic path of Lycopen is affected by temperature the grower should balance it.
In the summer, especially, in net houses or greenhouses it is important to make sure that the temperature won’t reach high level. It is recommended to wash the nets, shadowing or whitening. If it is possible, choose higher net or green houses.
The right time for picking
In order not to defect the full color potential of the fruit it is important not to pick it before the color turning point, when the blossom end turn its color to pink.
Are there diseases or pests which harm the tomato color?
Rafi: The tomato spotted wilt virus attacks and causes disease in a wide range of plant species, but tomatoes seem to be a favorite host. Tomato spotted wilt virus infected tomato causing irregular yellow blotches. Affected fruit are worthless, since they fail to ripen properly and are unfit for fresh consumption or processing.
Here comes the genetics to the grower help since he can choose plant which is resistant to TSWV, or he might choose disinfest the pests.
Acarine harm the fruit as well by stinging the fruit causing it scars which looks as small color spots. Once again the grower needs to use disinfestations.
Rafi emphasize that it is important to choose the variety carefully. To pay attention to its genetic characteristics – Resistances, foliage, fruit setting in hot conditions, high vigor and of course the basic color genetic of the plant and later on to support his growing by agro technical elements.
For further information Hazera team is always at your service helping you to make the most of your TOMATO Plant
Meirav Ron and Matti Sarfati
Why Do Tomatoes Change Color as They Ripen?
Tomatoes contain two pigments for photosynthesis—chlorophyll, which is green, and lycopene, which is red. When tomatoes start to grow, they contain much less lycopene than chlorophyll, which gives them their green color. But when harvest season arrives, the days shorten and temperatures drop, causing chlorophyll to dissolve and lycopene to take over the shade of the fruit. During this time, sugar levels rise, acid levels drop, and the tomato softens. It becomes ready to eat.
The trick is that this final stage of a tomato’s life takes place in a relatively short period of time—and that poses a big problem for farmers trying to get ripe produce to grocery stores before it rots. Most farmers begin picking tomatoes while they’re still green on the vine, and then they treat them with a ripening agent called ethylene gas to induce the red color. Far from being a synthetic compound, ethylene gas is produced naturally by other fruits and vegetables as they ripen. In fact, bananas release ethylene gas directly into the air. If you place a ripe banana next to a green tomato, the tomato will ripen, too.