What is a gardener to do? There are as many choices in heirloom tomatoes to grow as there are shampoo varieties on a supermarket aisle. I don't know about you, but when confronted with that many choices my mind gets a little overwhelmed, my eyes get a little glazed, and I either just grab the cheapest or stick with the tried and true. I'll discuss cheap seeds in a future blog, and tried and true is always a sure bet. But, what am I missing? Maybe something phenomenal. So...
When choosing tomato varieties to grow, there are several things to consider. First and foremost is your climate. Most varieties do best in particular climates, but some are more widely adapted. A tomato that does well in Georgia probably won't do well in Montana. So keep your climate foremost in your mind. How can you know which varieties do well in your climate? Ask other local gardeners, check with your university extension, and read between the lines in catalog descriptions. If you are looking at our seeds or plants, shoot us an e-mail and ask. We hear from many gardeners all over the country about our varieties, so we have a pretty good idea of what does well where. One thing to always consider about climate is your night time temperatures. We farmed in a northern Idaho zone 6 and we are currently farming in a southern Missouri zone 6. The difference in what we can grow is astronomical. Idaho had cold nights, and we struggled to ripen any tomato outside of a greenhouse. Here in Missouri the nights are balmy and we are in tomato heaven!
Another important consideration is how experienced you are and how much you are willing to fuss with your plants. Some varieties take much abuse/neglect and still put on a good, tasty crop. Others are picky and need high fertility, or get diseases easily, or are just generally spoiled babies.
Here is a list of easy, widely adapted varieties:
Cherry tomatoes: Sun Gold F1, Peacevine Cherry, Juliet F1, Black Cherry, Honeydrop, Black Plum, Rosalita Grape.
Medium/ saladette size: Green Zebra, Juan Flamme, Nyagous, Garden Peach.
Larger fruited: Japanese Black Trifelle, Anna Russian, Arkansas Traveler, German Johnson, Legend, Rose de Berne, Stupice.
Huge: Well, honestly, few of the huge fruited varieties are easy to grow and widely adapted. I would say that in the North, and intermountain West, try Brandywine and Pineapple. In the South try Virginia Sweets and Brandywine. In the middle latitudes with warm nights and warm/hot (but not blazing all summer) days, try Orange Russian 117, Big Bill's, Joe's Pink, Giant Belgium, Goliath, Aunt Ruby's German Green, well, just about anything because you have an awesome tomato growing climate, if you can stay on top of the bugs and diseases!
Paste types: Orange Banana, Roma. In warmer areas, San Marzano is wonderful, as is Aminsh Paste. In the North, try Heinz 2653.
That's a good start in narrowing your choices down. Now you just need to consider color and flavor! Good luck, and have fun!