Tomatoes 101Posted by Korman Res | Tomatoes 101
As the May opening dates of our Common Ground Community Gardens quickly approach, we can’t help but get excited about the colorful summer produce, flowers and herbs that will soon be gracing our communities. By now you may have started growing your seedlings indoors, or perhaps you plan on purchasing your seedlings from a garden supply store. Either way, the last frost date will arrive in a few short weeks (around the second week of May in the Philadelphia metro region), and it will be safe to transplant your seedlings outdoors.
The myriad of summer fruits and vegetables that can be grown in the Mid-Atlantic region may make it difficult for you to narrow down your choices when planning your garden. For example, the most popular summer garden fruit is the tomato, but there are so many varieties of tomato that it can be hard to decide which kind to grow. Each variety has its own characteristics, such as size, color, flavor, yield and disease resistance, so it helps to learn about them before you walk into a garden supply center and become overwhelmed by their selection. However, seeking the advice of a knowledgeable garden center employee can take a lot of the guess work out of it for you.
If you do plan to grow tomatoes this summer, the first thing you should decide is whether to grow “determinate” tomatoes or “indeterminate” tomatoes. Determinate tomatoes (also called “bush” tomatoes) grow to about 2 -3 feet in height, flower all at once, and after the fruit has ripened, the plant will die. This is a good option for people who want to grow tomatoes in a pot and are not interested in the plant producing fruit all summer long. Indeterminate tomatoes (also called “vining” tomatoes) can be much larger - some can grow up to ten feet tall - and require caging or staking to keep them upright. They have much higher yields than determinate tomato plants and will continue to grow and bear fruit until they are killed by frost. Indeterminate tomatoes are a good option if you have the space, and desire a continuous harvest period and high yields.
Next, you should decide which type of tomatoes you’d like to grow:
Cherry and Grape Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes are perfect for salads and snacking, and depending on the variety, they can range from pea-sized to a couple of inches in diameter. Like other types of tomatoes, they can be green, yellow, red, or even purple, and can taste sweet and mild or tart and acidic. Because of the size of the fruit, cherry and grape tomatoes are well-suited to growing in containers or in a garden. Some popular varieties include: Sun Gold (indeterminate), Black Cherry (indeterminate), and Sweet 100 (indeterminate).
Salad tomatoes are medium-sized, juicy, and are perfect for slicing and adding to salads, sandwiches, or just eating by themselves. Because of their high pulp/liquid content, salad tomatoes are not well-suited for using in thick pasta sauces. Some popular varieties include: Taxi (determinate), Cherokee Purple (indeterminate), and Moneymaker (indeterminate).
Paste (Roma) Tomatoes
Paste tomatoes are sweet, plum-shaped, and have very little pulp and very few seeds. Because of their low liquid content, they are perfectly suited for canning, sauces, tomato paste, and sundried tomatoes. Some popular varieties include: Big Mama (indeterminate), Principe Borghese (determinate), and San Marzano (indeterminate).
Beefsteak tomatoes are the largest, meatiest type of tomato. In fact, some varieties can reach up to 1 lb. They are the perfect “slicing” tomato and are great on sandwiches or in a Caprese salad (layered slices of tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil). Some varieties of Beefsteak are also good in sauces, due to their relatively low pulp content. The characteristics can vary significantly, depending on the variety. Some popular varieties include: Big Beef (indeterminate), Celebrity (determinate), and Big Rainbow (indeterminate).
Once you’ve narrowed down the type and variety of tomatoes you’d like to grow, you’ll have a ball planting them and watching them grow and produce delicious fruit this summer. If you’re one of our valued residents and you haven’t already reserved your plot in the Common Ground Community Garden, why not stop by the office today? You still have time to plan your garden and enjoy the fruits of your labor!