There are many different types of tomatoes. Both considering the growth habit and fruit type. Everything from the smallest plants only 20cm high to types that can cover several square meters, from the tiniest currant tomato to large beefsteak weighing several kilos. You find varieties that start ripening as early as 40 days after transplant and late varieties that ripens 90 days after transplant. Here I will try to explain the different types.
There are two large groups of tomatoes, indeterminate varieties and determinate varieties. Determinate varieties have a specific growth habit. They tend to grow to a certain size and shape, set fruit during a period of about 10 days. After this the plant is “done” and dies. Determinate varieties can grow to different sizes, everything from 20cm to 150cm. They can be sturdy dwarfs or weaker bush varieties that need more support. They can also have a cascading growth. There are also semi-determinate varieties with a growth habit somewhere in between indeterminate and determinate. Determinate varieties can produce fruits of all different types, sizes and colours.
Indeterminate varieties keeps growing and setting fruit all season. Just above every leaf they produce a sucker, this sucker will grow into a “new plant”. In places with a favourable climate indeterminate varieties can become perennial and cover several square meters. In most climates the autumn frost kills the plants. The indeterminate varieties are the ones we normally call “high growing tomatoes that needs pruning of the suckers”. You don’t have to prune the suckers, but the risk if you don’t is that the plant will be gigantic. There is also a possibility that the plant will put too much energy into making suckers instead of producing fruits, if you are farming in an area with a limited season. You can also choose to leave a few suckers and let them grow and produce fruits, and remove the rest. Indeterminate varieties preferably needs staking or support to avoid fruits laying on the ground. Indeterminate varieties can produce fruits of all different types, sizes and colours.
Cascading tomatoes can be large or small, determinate or indeterminate, but they all have the characteristic of growing with hanging stems. They are suitable to grow in raised bed, high pots or in hanging baskets. They can produce different kinds of fruits, everything from small cherry tomatoes, larger tomatoes or paste-type tomatoes. Very large-fruited varieties are very hard to be found, though. The colour of the fruits vary. No pruning needed.
Micro-dwarfs are very low growing varieties about 20-40cm high. Also known as “kitchen tomatoes” or “pot tomatoes”. They grow with very sturdy stems and hardly need any support. Perfect for growing indoors with extra light during the winter and spring. Fits very well in small pots in the windowsill. Also suitable to grow as a row in the front of higher growing varieties. No pruning needed. Most colours can be found. Normally the fruit size is cherry tomato or a larger cherry tomato.
Bush varieties are normally determinate or semi-determinate varieties. The height varies from 40cm to 150cm. They have more slender stems than dwarf-varieties and a slightly cascading growth. Can be grown in raised beds or larger pots. If grown directly in the ground they might also need support of some kind. Tomato cages could be a good alternative for bush varieties. No pruning needed. All fruit sizes, types and colours can be found.
Dwarf varieties are normally semi-determinate, but also determinate and indeterminate varieties occur. They grow with more sturdy stems, compared to indeterminate vining varieties and bush varieties. The height is normally about 100cm, but varies from 40cm to 150cm. They normally needs staking or support of some kind, tomato cages could be a good choice. No pruning needed. Dwarf Tree-type is a characteristic often found for dwarf-varieties. That means the growth habit is like a small, sturdy tree, instead of a bush. You can find all different kinds of fruits sizes, types and colours.
Currant tomatoes are tiny, like a currant in size. Normally the colour is, red, yellow or pink. Many wild varieties are currant sized. Often the taste is strong and fresh. Cherry Tomatoes and Large Cherry Tomatoes comes in all different colours and in size from a cherry to a Ping-Pong-ball. Often cherry tomatoes have a very sweet and pleasant flavour. The next step are the “normal sized” tomatoes that comes in all different colours and flavours. Beefsteak tomatoes comes in sizes from about 200 grams to several kilos, with different colours and flavours. All these varieties a perfect for fresh eating, but can of course also be used for sun drying, sauces, marmalades, purée, ketchup, cooking etc.
Besides these there also are some varieties with special characteristics. There is one gene that gives fruits, and sometimes also the whole plant, a furry, woolly cover of fine silver hair. Another characteristic found for some varieties is that they contain less water than “normal” tomatoes. They are called paste-type tomatoes. They are very firm, keeps very well after harvest, have few seeds and little juice. This makes them perfect for cooking and making sauce. Since they contain less water, cooking them does not make the food too watery and doesn’t need as long time cooking.
There is also a group of tomatoes with excellent storage capabilities, the Longkeeper Tomatoes. There are many different varieties. What they have in common is their abilities to keep fresh for a long period of time, some varieties up to 12 months. Perfect to grow, store, and consume during the winter.
Besides this you can also find varieties that can withstand cooler climate that works well to grow in cooler climates and shorter seasons. Many varieties also have higher resistance against blight and other tomato diseases. Some varieties also contain a high level of Tetra-cis lycopene. This is only found in tomatoes with golden-orange and tangerine colour. But not all tomatoes with this colour contain high levels of Tetra-cis lycopene, only some. Tetra-cis-lycopene is a highly beneficial bioavailable form of lycopene.
Different tomatoes have different development time, meaning the time it takes before you can pick the first tomato. You can count the development time in two different ways. Either from seed to harvest or from transplanting to harvest. We follow the system “from transplant to harvest”.
It is recommended sowing the tomato seeds about 8 weeks before planting the seedlings in the garden. In general it takes about 7 days for a tomato seed to germinate and sprout. That makes the plant about 50 days old when it is transplanted into the garden.
The earliest tomatoes have a development time around 40 days. The late varieties have a development time around 90-95 days. And of course you will find varieties all in between early to late.
45 Days – Extremely Early
55 Days – Very Early
65 Days – Early
75 Days – Normal
85 Days – Late
95 Days – Very Late
The development time in days is of course not an exact day when you can start to harvest. It should be considered as an estimate if a variety is late, mid-season or late. The development of your specific plants is also dependent of the local conditions in your garden, the climate where you live, the conditions of this season. Other factors is watering, fertilizers etc.
To easily find the kind of tomato you are looking for, use the filtering-function on the site. Through the filtering-function you can search specific characteristics as development time, fruit size, colour and plant type.