It’s well known that tomatoes are the crown jewels of any vegetable garden. Bright, juicy, and an eye-catching shade of red, they really stand out like rubies! Whether you’re an amateur tomato gardener or a professional, chances are that you’ve heard of the difference between determinate tomato varieties and indeterminate tomato varieties. If not, it’s an important difference to understand before you embark on your tomato planting journey-or even your tomato-sauce-making journey!
Read on to learn about determinate tomatoes, and the best determinate tomato varieties.
What are Determinate Tomatoes?
Before we get to my list of the best determinate tomato varieties, let’s first clarify the determinate tomato versus indeterminate tomato situation.
Determinate tomatoes have a specific gene called the “self-pruning” gene. This gene causes the branches of a determinate tomato plant to end in a flower cluster, as opposed to the indeterminate plant, whose branches end in leaves. That’s why the gene is called “self-pruning”: the flower clusters prevent determinate tomato varieties from growing more than a determined amount, whereas indeterminate tomato plants continue spreading throughout the entire growing season.
Determinate tomato plants are often referred to as “bush” tomatoes because the self-pruning gene causes them to grow thick and bushy, up to four or five feet tall at most. Indeterminate plants, on the other hand, grow vine-like branches, and can grow up to 10 or 12 feet tall, or even more!
As far as fruit production goes, determinate tomato varieties put out their fruit all at once, usually during a period of about two weeks. Indeterminate tomatoes produce fewer tomatoes over a longer period of time throughout the entire harvest season.
That means that indeterminate tomato varieties are great for those of you that are growing tomatoes specifically for culinary uses, like making tomato sauce: you need so many tomatoes that a single harvest of indeterminate tomatoes wouldn’t cut it. Determinate tomatoes, however, are perfect, because they produce all their tomatoes in one go!
What does that mean for tomato plant care? Though in general, the guidelines for planting and nurturing tomato plants are consistent for both determinate and indeterminate tomatoes (check out our article on planting tomato seeds), there are two main differences:
- Pots: Determinate tomato plants can thrive in smaller pots, about five gallons in size. Indeterminate tomato plants, as you can imagine, need much bigger containers if you don’t want to plant them directly into the ground.
- Support: While determinate tomatoes don’t necessitate heavy-duty stakes and support systems, it could be helpful to give them a hand once they start bearing fruit, especially if it is weighing the plant down more than normal. Indeterminate tomatoes, though, absolutely need cages or frames to help support their weight, or else they’ll become a damp tangle of vines across your orchard, which attracts pests and diseases.
The Best Determinate Tomato Varieties
The Roma Tomato is one of the most famous tomatoes used for canning and tomato sauces because of its slender shape, thick walls, and plumpness, which makes for a great cooking consistency. Roma tomatoes are not particularly juicy (this would make sauces more watery) nor does their size lend to easy slicing for use in sandwiches or burgers.
Ace 55 Tomatoes
This heirloom determinate tomato plant produces medium (about eight ounces), slightly oval-shaped five to six-inch in diameter tomatoes with thick walls that are perfect for sauce making. The tomato plant thrives in warm weather (as do all tomatoes!), has an exceptional yield, and is perfect for canning.
Siberian tomatoes have a wonderfully short growing season (60 to 70 days), so you can expect a quick harvest! Known for their exceptional resistance to cold weather (hence the Siberian in its name), they actually grow a little taller than your average determinate tomato varieties-up to 6 to eight feet tall. Siberian tomatoes are round and palm-sized, coming in at around 5 ounces each.
Mountain Majesty Tomato
Mountain Majesty Tomatoes produce large, globe-shaped fruit (though sometimes a little flattened) known for their bright red color, which is consistent within its interior. They’re also celebrated for their firmness, which remains even when the tomato is fully ripe (other tomato varieties tend to go soft). The Mountain Majesty Tomato plant has thick foliage to protect its fruit from environmental factors.
Black Sea Man Tomatoes
This Russian-originating tomato looks ominous but tastes fantastic. Recognizable thanks to its unique red color tinged with brown and green, Black Sea Man Tomatoes are medium-sized but heavy (eight to 12 ounces) beefsteak tomatoes, and crack-resistant, as well. Their flesh is marbled and they are gifted with a rich flavor. Its shape is funky and a bit warped-looking-not at all round!
The Amelia Tomato originated from Texas, where it was first introduced to consumers in 2004 at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. It’s a hybrid variety that is loved as a home garden plant both in the ground and in containers. The 20 to 30 pounds of tomatoes that a single plant produces in a season have great resistance against diseases (including spotted wilt virus) and cracking-but they could use a little support in carrying the heavy tomatoes, so consider using stakes.
Cream Sausage Tomatoes
This determinate tomato variety doesn’t just have an odd name, it also has a strange appearance! Known for its sausage shape and bright yellow color, the busy plant doesn’t grow over three feet tall, and is known for being a very productive plant. Cream Sausage Tomatoes are juicy and sweet while retaining a slightly acidic taste, which means they’re great for making sauces-which isn’t surprising, since they are actually an heirloom variety of the Roma Tomato!
This reliably round and bright red tomato is known for its firmness and crack resistance, and tends to sprawl a little more than you would expect from determinate tomato varieties. It was bred over one hundred years ago from a Globe Tomato and a (now considered extinct) Marvel Tomato. It was one of the first tomato varieties to be successfully bred for resistance against Verticillium and Fusarium wilt.
The Oregon Spring Variety is a hardy plant and was developed by Oregon State University. It is known for producing fruit early in the season, and has great resistance against the cold, as well.
Dwarf Purple Heart Tomatoes
Talk about another strange name! The Dwarf Purple Heart Tomato reminds me of the Black Sea Man Tomatoes mentioned above because of its unusually dark shading-though this determinate tomato tends towards a purplish hue rather than a brown or green. Vaguely recalling the shape of a heart, they are on the larger side of dwarf tomato varieties, but still stay smaller and neater than indeterminate tomatoes.
Caro Rich Tomatoes
It seems like Caro Rich Tomatoes are bred both as determinate tomato varieties and indeterminate varieties. Whichever the case, Caro Rich tomatoes have an unusual yellow-orangish color and a slew of health benefits! Usually the pride and glory of carrots, Caro Rich tomatoes are wonderfully rich in beta-carotene, which supports the health of your eyes and vision. The fruits are round and grow to about three and a half inches big.
Ida Gold Tomatoes
Ida Gold Tomatoes produce fruit in record-breaking time and were developed specifically for this purpose in order to thrive in short-season climates at the University of Idaho. Ida Gold Tomatoes put out small tomatoes with a unique orange color and a wonderful sweet taste. This determinate tomato thrives best in moderate subtropical temperatures, and is great to quarter and toss into your salad!
Last on our list of best determinate tomato varieties, Atlas Tomatoes are a variety of beefsteak tomatoes. They produce big, heavy tomatoes (14 to 20 ounces!) which means they’re perfect for slicing and layering between bread! Easy both for growing in containers or in-ground, the Atlas Tomato has good resistance to diseases and an even greater fruit yield.
Determinate Tomato Recipes
As mentioned earlier, determinate tomato varieties are perfect for recipes that call for a lot of tomatoes, like making tomato sauce, paste, or soup. Here are some great recipes I found to inspire your use of tomatoes in the kitchen:
- The Best Italian-American Tomato Sauce Recipe
- Creamy Tomato Soup with Buttery Croutons
- Homemade Tomato Paste
Now You Can Pick Your Own Determinate Tomato Varieties!
Tomatoes are a joy to grow at home, but you need to make sure to understand the difference between determinate tomato varieties and indeterminate tomato varieties well before choosing your tomato seeds! There are important genetic differences in the two that call for slightly different care tips. Plus, if you’re looking to grow tomatoes for culinary reasons, make sure to check how many tomatoes your recipes call for. Chances are you’ll need a lot all at once, which means your best bet is planting determinate tomato varieties. All in all, I hope this post has inspired you to pick the best determinate variety for you!
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