Captivating Cultivars: Beyond Red Kitchen Tomatoes

When you think of a kitchen garden, tomatoes are one of the first things that come to mind.

We’re all so used to using them in salads, salsa and sauces that it’s one of the first things most home gardeners want to add to their gardens.

In fact it was the humble tomato that first drew me to gardening. I remember eating some delicious juicy sweet heirloom tomatoes in an Italian restaurant and thinking it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. 

Unless you’re going to a specialty market or farmers market, unique heirloom tomatoes can be hard to find in a typical supermarket. It was for me and so I decided to try to grow my own. This decision opened up to me a magical world I fell in love with. I discovered there are over 10,000 varieties of tomatoes with this number growing each day, according to Auburn University.

They come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and amazing work is being done in the world of tomato breeding to bring us new and exciting cultivars. Here are just a few of the exciting types of tomatoes out there.

Antho tomatoes

Anthos are tomatoes that develop a dark pigmentation on their outer skin when exposed to sunlight.

The often blue/black hues are due to the varieties being high in anthocyanins, a compound believed to be rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants are also in blueberries, grapes and other fruits and vegetables. These types of tomatoes have been growing in popularity among tomato enthusiasts due to their unique flavor profiles and beautiful looks with striking coloration, patterns and striping.

Some note that it actually gives berry-type flavors to the tomatoes themselves. There are  even varieties that  turn completely black. Some popular varieties include midnight Roma, lucid gem and blue beauty.

Currant tomatoes

Currant tomatoes are more closely related to wild tomatoes which were first domesticated in south America. They grow small and in dense trusses with fruits usually being quarter-inch or smaller. They can be quite decorative and also easy to toss into salads popping in your mouth as a bite size treat. They are prolific and vigorous giving home growers an abundant harvest. Some popular varieties include Champagne Bubbles and Spoon.

Micro tomatoes

Micro tomatoes have recently become very popular. These mini plants usually grow to under a foot allowing those without space to still enjoy having cherry tomatoes. They also serve double duty, acting as cute decorative centerpieces,  and can be grown indoors by a bright window. These small plants eliminate the need for trellising as well and can be grown in pots as small as 6-inches wide. Some popular varieties include Tiny Tim, Orange Hat and Micro Tom.  

Green when ripe

"Green when ripe" is just like it sounds. This type of tomato stays green when it's ripe and ready to be picked. Some will lighten in the shade of green or get a bit of an orange cast. These tomatoes are often picked based on feel. When the tomato is a bit soft when squeezed it is ready to be picked.

I find these tomatoes to carry a very unique flavor not in other tomatoes due to the increased amounts of chlorophyll. To me they taste sweet, tangy and refreshing. Unlike regular green tomatoes, which are simply unripe tomatoes, you won’t find a sharp acidic off-putting sourness. Some popular varieties are Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Green Zebra and Cherokee Green. 

Final thoughts

I hope this has inspired you to seek out more of the many wonderful varieties out there. The tomato space is an exciting world and can reward you with flavors you've never tasted before.


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