Pick the Perfect Tomato

 

There's a tomato for every garden and every table... our curated collection started in the summer of 2019 when we grew almost all of these varieties in our own Chicago gardens to ensure their ease of growing and delicious flavor for you. And many are on the list because they've been our personal favorites for years. Enjoy!

Tomato Terminology

This helpful list is divided into Indeterminate, Determinate, Dwarf and Container-tastic varieties. The list also shows their use in (parenthesis) after each tomato name.

  • Indeterminate tomatoes require support and pruning to keep them healthy. In commercial settings, indeterminate tomatoes are often trained up hanging trellises and have been known to reach as tall as 12 feet! The big perk of this vining habit is that these tomatoes produce fruit over a longer season. They often produce their first ripe fruits in mid-late summer and continue to produce until the first killing frost which, in Chicago's 5b USDA Hardiness Zone, is typically October 26 but may be as late as November 14.
  • Determinate plants are also called "bush variety". They will top out at one size (typically between 3-5 feet). They require less support and pruning but also produce fruit in a shorter production window. Most tomatoes from a determinate variety will ripen within two weeks of each other. They can work well for smaller space gardens or for gardeners who want to do a lot of canning or other preservation
  • Dwarf tomatoes are smaller plants that typically top out between 3-4 feet. They can be planted closer together and do well in pots. They typically produce fruit over a longer stretch of the growing season than determinate varieties.
  • Container-tastic (that's our term) varieties are bred to be tiny plants with high production that work well in containers.

Cherry/Plum Tomatoes - Indeterminate 

Cherry and plum tomatoes are great for the beginning gardener. They're easy to grow and their bounteous and frequent output gives one a sense of accomplishment. Great for kids and adults since the small size is easy to snack on directly from the plant.
  • Black Cherry (cherry) - The striking color and rich flavor of these cherries make them a yearly favorite. They grow abundantly on large indeterminate plants and are great to grow with kids!
  • Jasper (cherry) - This sweet cherry boasts beautiful red fruits and versatile resistance. Robust, indeterminate vines are resistant to early blight, Septoria Leaf Spot, and late blight
  • Indigo Cherry Drops (cherry) - With purple shoulders and ruby red flesh this tomato sure is remarkable. Indeterminate plants produces high yields of this attractive cherry
  • Jelly Bean (cherry) - Small oblong fruits burst with flavor on this indeterminate and disease resistant plant. These sweet gems are sure to be a kid favorite
  • Mexico Midget (currant) - This indeterminate cherry packs a big beefsteak flavor on prolific vines. Plants mature early and are ideal to salads and snacking
  • Sun Gold (cherry) - Flavor develops early in this sweet and tart jewel of a tomato. Indeterminate plants produce many clusters of these snacking favorites
  • Super Sweet 100 (cherry) - Long branches of sweet ruby fruits are the hallmark of this vigorous plant. Disease resistant production starts early and goes until frost
  • Valentine (grape) - The deep red fruit from this robust indeterminate plant are very sweet and sure to please. Expect small clusters of delightful grape tomatoes that ripen early in the season
  • Verona (plum) - Long clusters of flavorful bright red fruits grow on this indeterminate, disease-resistant plant

Paste Tomatoes - Indeterminate 

Paste tomatoes are used for sauces. They are more meaty, less juicy and sometimes contain fewer seeds than a beefsteak tomato which makes it easier to cook down to a thick, tasty sauce.

Old school thinking once advised that most paste tomatoes were determinate and the fruit ripened roughly at the same time... while convenient, it's not entirely true. While many paste and roma tomatoes have more compact plants that might seem determinate, many are actually indeterminate and produce fruit all season long.

Consider it one of the "grey areas" of the gardening world. Even if these tomatoes are rule breakers, you'll love them no matter what. 

  • Amish Paste - Indeterminate plant produces large red fruits that ripen regularly throughout the season. With firm, flavorful flesh and low juice content these beauties are an excellent choice for sauces and fresh eating
  • Granadero - This indeterminate but still compact plant produces a healthy amount of uniform red paste tomatoes. With a wide resistance to disease this plant it a good one for newer gardeners
  • Juane Flamme - Excellent sauce tomato! The medium-small apricot colored fruits from this indeterminate plant are great to mix with a more traditional paste tomato for a mellow flavored sauce and are also great for salads, roasting, or drying
  • San Marzano - A classic Italian paste tomato with a balanced flavor that makes a wonderful sauce. This indeterminate plant produces medium sized fruits with very few seeds for easy processing.
  • Speckled Roman - Gorgeous yellow striped red fruits cook quickly into a delicious sauce. This indeterminate plant produces elongated plum fruits that also have a balanced flavor that is also good for fresh eating

Beefsteak, Slicers, Salad and a Few Weirdos - A Rainbow of Indeterminate Tomatoes

  • Aunt Ruby’s German Green (Slicer/Beefsteak) - This large green beefsteak can weigh in at over 1 pound. Indeterminate plants produce bright green fruits with a strong fruity flavor that goes great on sandwiches and salads. Ripens late in the season
  • Blue Beauty (Slicing) - Indeterminate plant produces gorgeous medium-sized fruits with blue-black shoulders fading to red. This plant boasts a well-rounded flavor and handy crack resistance. Great for slicing
  • Cherokee Purple (Slicer/Beefsteak) - This classic slicer grows on vigorous, indeterminate vines. The dusky color and vibrant taste are sure to be a crowd pleaser
  • Early Girl (slicer) - This prolific indeterminate plant produces medium slicing fruits. Living up to its name, Early Girl fruits are ready weeks before other varieties and continue to produce throughout the season
  • Eva Purple Ball (salad) - The eye-catching dark pink fruit of this plant are sure to please. Indeterminate plant produces a large crop of juicy fruits with a sweet taste that compliments any summer salad
  • Great White (slicer/beefsteak) - This excellent fresh eating tomato is produced on indeterminate vines. The plants produce large, light yellow, slicers that go great on just about anything. Some people claim "white" tomatoes are lower in acid and better for people who get heartburn from eating red tomatoes
  • Green Zebra (salad) - These pretty, tangy fruits are a fun addition to your garden. High yielding, indeterminate plants produce an abundance of these striking fruits
  • Japanese Black Trifele (salad) - Indeterminate plant produces unique pear shaped fruits with green shoulders and a deep red interior. These extraordinary plants are productive and resistant to cracking
  • Paul Robeson (slicer/beefsteak) - Vigorous, indeterminate plants produce large, dark red beefsteak tomatoes. The appetizing fruits have a unique sweet and smoky flavor. This tomato is Russian in origin and was named after the civil rights activist and singer/actor, Paul Robeson.
  • Pink Berkely Tie-Dye (slicer/beefsteak) - The complex flavor and attractive fruits make this compact indeterminate plant a great addition to gardens of any size. Growers also report that these plants perform exceptionally well under disease pressure, producing fruit over a good portion of the growing season
  • Reisetomate aka Voyager - This bizarre but tasty tomato is sure to get all your garden neighbors talking. The irregularly sized, red fruits grow in a fused cluster. Harvest each cluster whole and then remove one at a time for a weird but fun snack!
  • Tigerella (salad) - Indeterminate plants produce early and heavily. The small tangy fruits are magnificently striped and perfect for salads
  • Valencia Orange (slicer/beefsteak) - Indeterminate, disease-resistant plants ripen midseason with medium orange slicers. Pleasant fruits boast a deep orange color, firm texture, and balanced taste

Tomatoes for the Smallest Spaces

Dwarf Tomatoes

Dwarf tomatoes are part of a new breeding approach in the last decade to create large, heirloom quality fruit on a smaller plant. With small space gardening in mind, these tomatoes have proven to be the best of both worlds. With all new things, there are some winners and some losers. Of the many dwarf tomatoes out there, these two are the winners in our book.

  • Fred’s Tie-Dye (salad) - Indeterminate dwarf plant produces dramatic red fruits with green stripes and a balanced acidic taste. The plants grow well in containers and the fruits taste great in a salad
  • Tasmanian Chocolate (beefsteak) - If you're looking for big flavor in a small space this is the plant for you. This dwarf plant grows well in pots and produces medium burgundy fruits that are a superb additional to sandwiches and delicious for eating by themselves

Container-rific

These are the smallest of the small and work great in pots on your porch.

  • Gold Nugget (Cherry) - This determinate cherry ripens early and keeps giving all season long. Fruits are golden in color with a rich, sweet flavor.
  • Roma Inca Jewels (sauce/plum) - This container sized, heavy-yielding plant is great for small gardens. Petite fruits are excellent for use in sauces and preserving.
  • Tumbling Tom (container/cherry) - Specifically bred for growing in containers, the weeping habit of this plant makes it great in hanging baskets or window boxes. Produces a wealth of small red cherry-type fruits.
  • Tumbling Tom Yellow (container/cherry) - Like it's red cousin, this plant cascades over the side of planters to create picturesque edible landscaping. Plant the two together for a striking effect.