It’s sometimes difficult to sort through the staggering array of tomato and pepper varieties available in today’s markets. I try to help customers at the market by asking a series of questions, focusing on the ultimate use of their tomatoes. This post offers descriptions of the growth habits and flavor of heirloom tomato and pepper varieties.
How to Decide Which Variety is the Best for You
The best way to sort through the huge variety of tomato and pepper varieties is to think about your end use. Start with these sample questions to refine the selection process, and then add your own questions to get to the best variety for “you”.
- Do you make a lot of salsa?
- Are you at the cabin and away from home a lot?
- Do you entertain and want beautiful color and variety in your salads?
- Are you into DIY and want to dry, can or pickle your tomatoes?
- Are you a novice gardener and want the best chance of success?
- Do you have limited space and need to grow on a deck or a patio?
Heirloom Tomato and Pepper Varieties Summarized by Growth Habits and Flavor
The following photos are signs I use at the farmers’ markets, and they are organized by color and/or type of tomato, primarily because these categories are easiest to explain to customers at a busy market. For more specific information on size, growth habit, flavor, and disease resistance see this post which gives more in-depth information
Best Tomato Varieties for Early Tomatoes and/or Best for Disease Resistance:
Best Main-Season Tomatoes for Slicing & Fresh Eating (i.e., think BLTs):
Best Beefsteak-Type Heirloom Varieties (think BLTs and bragging rights – generally later):
Heirloom Tomato Varieties – Gourmet Black Varieties:
Best Heirloom Tomato Varieties – Sweet Orange Varieties:
Best Heirloom Tomato Varieties – Mild Yellow & Tangy Green:
Best Heirloom Tomato Varieties – Gourmet Striped:
Best Variety of Cherry Tomatoes (Heirloom & Hybrid):
Best Pepper Varieties – Hot & Spicy:
Best Pepper Varieties – Sweet:
Your selection of varieties will be much larger if you buy seeds and start your own plants. For a detailed tutorial on starting plants from seed, see this post.
Share some of your favorites? I’d love to hear about the varieties you like or love, as well as the ones that haven’t done well for you in the past, for whatever reason.