Gardeners often choose tomato varieties based on disease resistance as well as taste. One big factor is availability. A majority of gardeners buy tomatoes as starts from their local garden center. This way gardeners do not need to go through all the work of starting their own plants. The disadvantage of this is the limited number of varieties available in this form. However, the gardener can take comfort in knowing that the garden center will generally be selling tomato seedlings which are the most popular and disease resistant. Varieties most commonly found as starts are Rutgers, Early Girl, and Beef Steak, as well as cherry and grape tomato varieties. [Editor's personal favorite: Juliet]
Tomato plants may be determinate which indicates that a flower group forming at the terminus (or extreme top of the plant). This terminal flowering keeps the tomato plant from growing any taller. Indeterminate plants grow flowers on lateral stems and continue to grow taller almost indefinitely. Most older varieties are indeterminate and prolific producers. Some newer ones are determinate but will produce earlier crops.1
Hybrids are plants that have been developed from crossbreeding. They have been selected for specific qualities. Usually, the highest priority for hybrids is disease resistance, but additional emphasis is placed on size, taste, and growing qualities. Some popular hybrid varieties for outdoor or container planting are listed below:
Beefmaster is a beefsteak-type tomato that is resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, and nematodes. The fruits are firm and can weigh up to 2 pounds. The vines are productive and very vigorous. It is usually about 80 days before tomatoes begin to get red.2
Better Boy like the beefmaster is resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, and nematodes. The fruits get to be a nice bright red and are generally round. These are prolific and will begin to produce in about 75 days from transplanted seedlings.
Burpee's Big Girl matures in 78 days. It has large tomatoes which weigh up to 16 ounces. This tomato is crack-resistant. It is indeterminate and resistant to verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt.
Celebrity is a good plant for hothouses as well as the garden because it is resistant to tobacco mosaic virus and the usual fungal diseases. The vines are short and bushy so they do not stake well. Fruits are about eight ounces. Like most tomatoes, celebrity is highly productive. Should begin to produce in 70 days.
Champion is a fairly early indeterminate variety taking 65 days from transplant to harvest. It is a large tomato weighing in at 10 ounces. Good resistance to the major fungi and viruses.
Early Girl is one of the earliest full-sized indeterminate varieties. May start bearing within 55 days of transplanting. It is resistant to verticillium.
Juliet is a grape style variety with a full rich flavor. The plant is indeterminate and highly productive. Production begins 60 - 70 days after transplanting. The tomato is crack resistant and has good holding qualities on the vine. Disease resistant.
Lemon Boy is a yellow tomato. Since it is yellow, it has less lycopene than a red tomato. It is resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, and nematodes. Fruits weigh six or seven ounces. Again, this variety is productive and vigorous.
Red Robin is a small cherry tomato plant that grows to be about six inches tall (definitely determinant), making it suitable for small containers. It takes about 55 days to produce fruit.
Roma tomatoes are commonly used for making pastes. They are a generally smaller tomato at about two ounces. They are tolerant to early blight and resistant to verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt. The plants are determinant.
Rutgers is a determinant variety that grows large tomatoes. At one time they made up over 75 percent of all U.S. tomatoes grown. The tomato matures in about 75 days. They get to be six to eight ounces in weight.
Sub Arctic Plenty takes about 45 days to reach harvest. The fruits are smaller, generally 3 to 4 ounces and are concentrated in the center. This is a determinate variety that is not known for disease resistance. Nevertheless, this is one of the best bets in far northern climes.
Super Sweet 100 is a cherry type tomato that takes 70 days from transplant to harvest. They are about one inch in size. They fruit in large clusters. This small tomato is resistant to verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt and is indeterminate.
Tiny Tim is a dwarf cherry determinant variety. It takes about 45 days from transplant to harvest. Fruits get to be about 1 inch. Cherry Gold is the yellow version of this plant.
As these plants are hybrids, the seeds will probably not reproduce a plant that is the same as the parent. However, there are a type of tomato plant that will reproduce a consistent plant and fruit year after year. This is called an heirloom tomato.
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- University of Illinois Extension
- extension.missouri.edu/xplor/agguides/hort/g06461.htm on Beefmaster Variety