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HOW TO PICK THE BEST TOMATO VARIETIES FOR YOUR GARDEN

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Everyone wants to grow the best-tasting tomatoes or the largest tomato varieties. Tomatoes are the glory plant of the gardening world. But open any seed catalogue, and you’ll quickly be overwhelmed. Finding the best homegrown tomato varieties can feel daunting, especially for beginner gardeners. I’m here to assure you that finding those best types of tomatoes is not as overwhelming as it might seem.

I’ve rounded up the best tomatoes to grow in your garden, for your situation. From cherry tomatoes to the best container varieties to the best for sauces. There’s something here to suit whatever you’re looking for.

P.S. I’ve even rounded up the best varieties for those of us who don’t like raw tomatoes!

P.P.S No, we’re not crazy, there’s just something about the high acidity that weird raw-tomato-hating people like me don’t like.

Like videos better? Here are some of my favourite tomato varieties, plus a fun taste test:

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BEST CHERRY TOMATOES

Cherry tomatoes are wonderful for eating by the handful on a hot Summer’s day. Though they’re best used fresh, I’ve been known to throw a few in with my sauces for a little hit of sweet. You’ll love the Super Sweet 100, Sungold, Sweet Million, Amethyst Cream, and Sunsugar varieties.

In 2019, I planted the heirloom Yellow Pear. They look exactly like their name suggests and are very easy to seed start. They’re my pick for those of us who like both cherry tomatoes and low acid tomatoes.

If you have a greenhouse or high tunnel available to grow in, we really enjoyed Sakura. The seeds were very expensive, but worth it for seeing those long chains of perfect tomatoes.

THE BEST TASTING, SWEETEST TOMATOES

When it comes to taste, Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, Ferris Wheel, and Sicilian Saucer are some of the best varieties around. They’re also all very large varieties that look impressive. Because let’s face it, who doesn’t want to grow as big of a tomato as possible?

We also fell in love with a new variety this past summer: Costoluto Fiorentino. They produced amazingly in our high tunnel and my husband says that they taste fantastic. Bonus: with their ribbing, they are such a beautiful heirloom tomato.

LOW ACID OR YELLOW TOMATOES

If you’re a person who doesn’t like raw tomatoes, you might like (or at least tolerate) yellow tomatoes. Try Lemon Boy, Oxheart Yellow, Amana Orange or Yellow Pear.

I have had great success growing Lemon Boy tomatoes. They always grow quite large, are one of the earliest to ripen, and taste delicious in my tomato sauce.

In 2019, Amana Orange replaced Lemon Boy as my new favourite. They grow even larger and are an heirloom variety–meaning I can save the seeds and plant some for free next spring.

BLACK (PURPLE) TOMATO VARIETIES

The black (or purple) varieties of tomatoes are more complex tasting and are often compared to fine wine. I personally like them for their looks and how they make the colour of my tomato sauce a little more vibrant. Try the Black Zebra, Black Krim, Black Russian, or Purple Cherokee varieties.

EASY TO GROW FOR BEGINNERS

While you can grow any tomato as a beginner, it’s nice to grow a variety that’s large, great-tasting and produces a large harvest. Beefsteak, Italian Heirloom, Celebrity, and Primo Red all make the cut. In 2020, a very challenging growing year, I had great success with Ukrainian Purple and Striped Roman too.

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THE BEST TOMATOES TO GROW FOR SAUCE

Pasta lovers in your family? Save yourself a bit of money and make your own pasta sauce this year. Roma, Amish Paste, San Marzano, and Supremo are all good varieties for sauce.

Sunrise Sauce is an orange, low acid paste tomato, that is very productive and lasts a long time. We’ve had some sit on our counter from September to November without going bad.

Oxheart tomatoes are my new favourite because they’re so big! They barely have any seeds and are so satisfying to grow, plus they make an excellent sauce. If you find small paste tomatoes annoying, you’ll want to grow an Oxheart next year. Check out this reel with a Hungarian Heart from my very own garden if you don’t believe me!

Need a sauce recipe? Try my roasted tomato sauce with lots of different vegetables snuck in.

TOMATOES FOR A SHORT GROWING SEASON

The Canadian Prairies are blessed with a short growing season, so we need varieties that have a shorter maturity window.  Thankfully, there are lots of quick-growing tomato varieties to choose from. Try Sub Arctic Max, Prairie Pride, Centennial Rocket, Bison, Russian Saskatchewan, Early Girl, or Manitoba. 4th of July also lives up to its name–your first ripe-on-the-vine-tomato should appear around that date.

ARE FRESH TOMATOES IN WINTER POSSIBLE?

Think fresh tomatoes from your garden are an impossible dream? Grow Longkeeper tomatoes this year and you could be eating fresh tomatoes in February or even March. Harvest them when they are pink or green, store them in a cool, dry, place, and eat them as they ripen.

The only downside is that they’re not a very flavourful tomato, but they are more flavorful than grocery store tomatoes in the dead of winter.

I love growing tomato plants, but it can be hard to know what tomato variety is best. I've rounded up the best varieties for beginners, container growing, making sauce, and more. You'll love these heirloom and hybrid picks for your garden or in pots. #growingtomatoes #tomato #gardening #heirloomtomatoes #containergardening #tomatovarieties #seedstarting #vegetable gardening

BEST IN CONTAINERS

Growing a patio garden this year? You’ll want to choose bush (determinate) varieties such as Roma, Bush 506, 4th of July, Brandywine, Juliet, or any variety that has dwarf, mini, or tiny in its name. Any variety of cherry tomatoes will also do very well. Grow your tomato plant in as large of a container as possible, for the best production.

For more tips on container gardening, check out this post about my backyard container garden.

BEST PLACES TO BUY TOMATO SEEDS

Some of my favourite places to buy tomato seeds include T and T Seeds, Westcoast Seeds, Veseys, William Dam Seeds, The Incredible Seed Company, and, if you’re local to Saskatoon or area, Early’s Farm and Garden Centre.

Any varieties you think belong on this list? Let me know in the comments!


NEED MORE HELP IN THE GARDEN?

Green thumbs aren’t just given out at birth. They’re a combination of learning about gardening and trial and error. If you wish you knew more about gardening and had more confidence in your abilities, you need the Growing Roots Gardening Guide.

It’s an e-book plus 6 bonuses–everything you need to go from complete garden newb to confident gardener in one growing season. Get all the details of what’s inside here. Happy gardening!

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Kristen Raney

Kristen Raney

Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots.  She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden.  She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.

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Kristen

Welcome!

Hi, I'm Kristen and I help new gardeners learn to grow their own vegetables and beautify their yards. I also share recipes that use all that delicious garden produce. Grab a coffee (and your gardening gloves) and join me for gardening tips, simple recipes, and the occasional DIY, all from the lovely city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

P.S. First time gardener? You'll want to download the quick start gardening guide below!