There are three general categories of tomatoes: sauce, slicer and cherry. Sauce tomatoes have thicker, meater fruit with less water which makes them ideal for marinara. Slicers are the big beef steak types that you want on sandwiches. And cherries are the little, sweet gems that are great for popping in your mouth while you water the garden.
There are hundreds, probably thousands, of tomato varieties to choose from. I have grown many of the years and want to concentrate this year on growing just a few of my favorites, and lots of them. We typically focus on sauce tomatoes, since we can up the harvest to get us through winter.
I discovered this fantastic heirloom last year at the Urban Farm, Cuor di Bue. It is a heart-shaped, rose colored tomato with deep lobes along the sides. It makes a rich marinara and tastes equally divine on sandwiches. The flavor is deep and the versatility between being excellent for sauce and for slicing earns it a spot in the garden this year.
Another favorite is the old standby, classic, best-ever sauce tomato: San Marzano. This Italian heirloom is in such demand for the home gardener that sometimes the nurseries just can’t keep it in stock. We will be planting several of these this season.
Orange Oxheart tomato is another fantastic heirloom – meaty and rich. The fruit grows in a heart shape and turns golden when ripe. They can get huge too, with the big ones weighing upwards of a pound a piece. They look beautiful in the jar when we can whole tomatoes – another nice bonus.
We like to grow just one token cherry tomato – something to cut into salads or munch on while harvesting other veggies outside. Of all the cherry varieties out there, Sungold is my favorite. They are sweet and prolific! They turn a deep orange when ripe. Black cherry is another of my favorites and would look stunning in a salad with the bright Sungolds.
Early June is safe to plant them outside in the Pacific Northwest without cover. Which varieties are you pining for this season?