As there are hundreds of different tomato varieties available commercially, it might seem to be a difficult choice to choose which ones to grow each year. However, if you break down the criteria, it is not too difficult.
Are they to be grown in a cool greenhouse or in the open ground? The ones to be grown in the greenhouse will normally be “indeterminate”. In other words, they will require to be trained up to the roof, with all side shoots being “nipped out” with your finger and thumb. You can of course grow “determinate”, (those that stop at their final height without being pinched out) ones as well, but they will tend to be short bushy ones and difficult to handle in the confined space of a greenhouse.
Assuming you are growing for best taste, take into account opinions of others, or try before you buy, if you can. Not only do different varieties of tomato taste completely different, but personal taste preferences come into play.
The taste of tomatoes, is made up of various components such as Sweetness, Acidity, and whether they have a clear and clean taste or a “complex” taste. My preference is for high sweetness and high acidity, combined with a clean and clear taste, such as in “Sungold”, a regular winner of taste tests.
Different tomatoes have different uses. For instance cherry types are ideal for salads, bigger types for cooking and slicing, while the “Roma” types are best used for soups and pizzas. You can of course use any tomato for any use, but some are more suited to different uses than others.
How quickly are the tomatoes going to ripen? As most people will want to eat their tomatoes as early as possible, it is important to choose those varieties that are known to ripen quickly. There is no point in waiting to the end of August before having tomatoes for salads!
Only a few seed catalogues give any real indication of the likely time to maturity for tomatoes. Where they do, bear in mind that the number of days given from planting out in their final positions to first harvest, are only indicative and probably relate to ideal conditions in the South of England. The times that I am suggesting are more realistic for the Northern areas of the UK. In any event, if you choose the right varieties, in the typical year you should have early tomatoes to harvest in early July.
Cherry Salad tomatoes for a cool greenhouse.
Suncherry Premium F1. Independent taste tests suggest that this is the best tasting red cherry tomato, with a good balance of sweetness and acidity.
Rosella. Heavy cropping of rose pink fruits with flecks of orange and dark green shoulders. Fruits are sweet with acid finish.
Sungold F1 The traditional favourite of independent taste recommendations, with a good balance of sweetness and acidity, with a crisp finish. One of the first tomatoes to ripen, about 75-80 days from transplanting to final position. Reasonable disease resistance. Depending on weather conditions, it can continue flowering and fruiting in a cool greenhouse into November. As it is very thin skinned, it can split if the watering is not regular, or it is not picked and transported with great care.
Gold cherry F1 Quite similar taste to Sungold. 80-90 days to ripen and reasonable disease resistance. Perhaps not so liable to splitting.
Gardeners Delight. Perhaps the more traditional red cherry tomato recommendation, but independent taste tests suggest that it is not as flavoursome as more modern varieties. Much of the seed supplied is no longer growing true to type.
Medium Sized cool greenhouse tomatoes.
Shirley. RHS recommended. The traditional choice with a real punchy flavour and a good balance of sweetness and acidity.
Tigrella. Early striped tomatoes with a rich tangy flavour.
Large Sized cool greenhouse tomatoes.
Big Daddy F1. Best tasting beefsteak tomato according to independent taste tests. Blood-red, fleshy, juicy, very sweet with good acidity and savoury tones.
Corazon F1. Firm and tender flesh, pale pink to red, acidic, not very sweet, very savoury, more like a plum tomato. Improved version of Cuore di Bue.
Costoluto fiorentino. This Italian heritage variety is small, flattened and ribbed. Flesh is soft, juicy, with a good balance of sweet, acid and savoury.
Country Taste F1. Large tender, fleshy, juicy, with rich and savoury fruits. Aromatic.
Faworyt. Sweet, tangy, savoury, tender and juicy fruits of Polish origin.
Brandywine. A traditional heritage “beefsteak” type producing fairly solid, reasonable flavoured tomatoes. Allow 100 days to ripen.
Stripped stuffing tomato. A large, thick-walled tomato where the seeds can easily be removed with a teaspoon after the top is sliced open.
Tomatoes claimed to have some Blight resistance.
Ferline F1. Suitable for outdoor or greenhouse growing. Produces heavy crops of large red tomatoes of reasonable flavour. The plants are indeterminate and require the side shoots to be removed.
Legend. Suitable for outdoor or greenhouse growing. A “beefsteak” type of tomato of bushy habit. You can leave the side shoots.