Tomato Varieties:
How to Understand the Way They are Classified

Some experts estimate there are up to 25,000 tomato varieties to choose from. That can be overwhelming, even for the most enthusiastic home gardener.

So many tomatoes – so little garden space!

Here’s the dirt: there are at least 3 different (and simple) ways to classify tomato varieties so you know which ones are best for your garden. (If you want to know which varieties are most popular in the home garden, click here.)

Classification #1: Heirloom or Hybrid

This classification centers on a tomato’s genetic line.

Heirloom tomatoes are strains that have been reproduced for generations without cross-breeding.

Hybrid tomatoes, on the other hand, are a cross between two different varieties. Hybrids are cultivated both commercially and in the home garden.

As you get to know varieties, you'll soon recognize which tomatoes are heirlooms and which are hybrids. Hybrid seedlings are often identified as "hybrid" on their identification tags in nurseries and garden centers. (Learn more about heirlooms and hybrids here.)

Classification #2: Determinate or indeterminate

This classification centers on the length of time a tomato produces fruit during season.

A determinate tomato plant produces fruit for a couple of weeks and then production fades out. That’s because it eventually forms a flower cluster at the terminal growing point, which causes it to stop growing in height.

An indeterminate tomato plant produces fruit throughout the season, often until frost. It never sets terminal flower clusters, but only lateral ones, and continues indefinitely to grow taller.

Classification #3: Shape

This classification centers on a tomato’s shape.

Looks count – even for tomatoes! Whether a tomato is a hybrid or an heirloom, or determinate or indeterminate, it is also classified according to its shape.

There are four broad shape classifications for tomatoes:

  • Globe tomatoes: the most heavily commercially-cultivated fruit
  • Beefsteak tomatoes: the biggest fruit
  • Paste tomatoes: thick-walled fruit, used to make sauces
  • Cherry tomatoes: smallest fruit



Lists of tomato varieties

Most popular varieties ...

All-America selections: most respected tomato varieties ...

Best heat-tolerant varieties ...

Tomatoes for the south: best varieties to grow in hot, humid climates...

Best tomatoes for hot, dry climates ...

Most blight-resistant tomato varieties ...

Cool tolerant tomato varieties ...

Best tomatoes for cold climates ...

Best varieties for large containers ...

Best varieties for small containers ...

Varieties for hanging containers ...

Varieties to grow indoors ...

Best tomato varieties for drying ...

Fall varieties ...


Understanding tomato varieties

Heirloom Tomatoes vs. Hybrids -- what's the difference?

Grafted tomatoes: what are they and why grow them?

Tomato of the month: fun and interesting types of tomatoes ...

Readers share their favorite varieties ...


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What Other Visitors Have Said

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Amish Paste  
Best of both worlds!. Amish Paste Tomato has good tomato flavor, large ox-heart shape, meaty. I can slice for sandwiches or cook down for paste. It is …

Early Girl Vine Tomato Not rated yet
We grow Early Girl Vine Tomato in a 31" round terra cotta container. Last year it grew between 5 feet and 6 feet, giving us over 100 tomatoes. We are …

Cherokee Purple is the tastiest tomato! Not rated yet
The taste is fabulous and the tomatoes are meaty and visually appealing alone or in salads or other dishes. If I had to choose one variety to grow, this …

My favorite tomato varieties Not rated yet
I live in zone 7a. I know too many gardeners in my area that don't actually know much about gardening. They just put the plant in the ground, throw some …

Yellow (big) Rainbow is sweetest large, tomato Not rated yet
This large tomato produces a sweet great tasting fruit. It is yellow with mixtures of red. Great color for the tasty large fruit

Romas give me no problems Not rated yet
Just entered "Tomato Dirt" into "My Favorites" as it is the best Web Page I have come across since I started growing tomatoes in 2002. I plant Roma …

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