Over the past two months we have been conducting a survey of the best tomato varieties that gardeners using GrowVeg.com would recommend to others. It can be tricky choosing which tomatoes to grow since most seed catalogues contain a wider variety of them than any other fruit or vegetable. It would be quite possible to spend a lifetime working through each kind to find the best and still not have tried them all. So what do real gardeners like you and I recommend as the top varieties?
Tomatoes always get the best place in my garden. Over half my greenhouse is given over to tomato plants and I usually grow several others outside. It’s not just because tomatoes taste so much better when freshly picked and ripened on the vine. Nor is it just that they are a high-value crop as they keep producing for almost two months of the year. It’s also because of the interesting types I can grow – so much more than what is available in the shops. This year I grew five different varieties, three of which I had never grown before and I was particularly interested to see whether others recommend them in our survey.
About 51% of those who voted recommended standard shape tomatoes and a further 46% recommended cherry-type ones. Far fewer recommended the larger beefsteak and plum types which certainly ties in with my experience that they can be hard to get good results from. This year for the first time I thinned out my big tomatoes, removing half the fruit as you would thin a fruit tree in order to get a better crop over the wet and overcast summer we experienced in the UK. I will certainly be repeating this in the future, as getting good numbers of beef type tomatoes to ripen away from sunny climates can be a tricky business.
Of the regular shaped tomatoes, the traditional Moneymaker was top of the bunch with 18% growing it. Other well known favourites were Alicante and the F1 type Shirley. A few people recommended heirloom types, whilst others went for the ultra-early Tigerella or the blight-resistant Ferline F1.
Cherry type tomatoes were headed up by the ever popular Gardeners Delight at 23% – the only variety of tomato that I have grown every year without fail due to its reliable sweet fruit that are produced over a long season. Other interesting small tomatoes were Sungold, a yellow-orange variety and Tumbling Tom which can be grown in hanging baskets.
Of the beefsteak and plum types, no strong winners emerged with Brandywine being the only one that more than one gardener recommended. The rest were largely Italian types but with a great range in the varieties chosen.
So next year, I’ll still be growing Gardeners Delight but I’ll add a few of the above to my list. I prefer the texture of Sub Artic Plenty to Moneymaker and I’d like to see if I can grow it late and harvest tomatoes near Christmas by bringing a plant indoors – unfortunately blight wiped out my chances of doing that this year. But I will definitely be trying Sungold and I want to get some early season Tigerella growing too. At least, that’s what I’m planning now. I’m sure those hundreds of varieties in the seed catalogues will tempt me into a few more come the new year So do add your own favourites and comments below and perhaps I’ll end up growing your recommendations as well!