It’s that time of year where the seed catalogs are starting to appear almost daily in my mailbox. Every season I pour over catalogs finding the best seeds for our home garden. This year I am going to be trying a few different grouping techniques in the garden including separating my vegetables and my flowers. Last year I tried a lot of companion style planing but certain varieties of flowers like cosmos and zinnias grew so large they overtook the vegetables which I believe led to a lot of powdery mildew on my tomato plants. There are hundreds and hundreds of tomato seeds and plant varieties out there and I used to overwhelm myself by growing so many different varieties simply because I wanted to see what they looked like. After a few seasons of doing this I realized that I don’t really care for raw tomatoes and I can a ton of different sauces, salsas and pureed tomatoes. There are certain tomatoes that are the best tomatoes for canning. They have minimal seeds and lots of “meat”. Last year I tried everything from seeds to buying young plants and I have a found a few tried and true favorites. I still grow many other tomatoes for salads and other cooking needs but growing about 10 of these varieties (mixed) Provided me with 24 quart jars, and 36 half pint jars of canned tomato goods.
Some tomato terms before we get started.
What is the difference between a determinate and indeterminate tomato?
Determinate tomatoes: Grow large and in charge and then the fruit ripens all at once (about a two week span) after that the plant will begin to shrivel back and produce little to no new fruit.
Indeterminate tomatoes: Will grow and produce fruit gradually until frost kills the plant.
A way that I like to remember is Determinate tomatoes are determined to produce all at once. Knowing the difference between these two types is helpful if you plan on succession planting. you can rip out your determinate plants once they are done producing to make room for late season summer crops or cold weather fall plants.
Here are some of my favorite seed sources
What is the difference between an heirloom and a hybrid tomato?
An heirloom tomato has been grown without cross breeding for over 40 years. Hybrid tomatoes are typically hand pollinated to crossbreed tomatoes to get the best characteristics. Things like resistance to disease and pests. Sometimes at the sacrifice of flavor. I am not against hybrids but I do notice a significant difference in taste and depth of color. That being said, I have to use a hefty amount of pest control for my tomatoes so if you are looking for something less maintenance, a hybrid variety might be a better fit for your garden. Just because it’s heirloom doesn’t mean it’s organic.
The Best Tomatoes for Canning
Cour Di Bue Tomato – One of my favorite tomatoes I grew last year was the Cour Di Bue from growjoy.com. I ordered a few tomato plants for canning from this site and the plants and customer service was top notch. I had two plants show up a little under the weather and they sent me healthy replacements no questions asked. I will be ordering from them again this year as I was extremely happy with how the produce turned out and it was nice to not have to buy an entire packet of seeds. The Cour Di Bue Tomato produced a beautiful heart shaped tomato that was larger than my other canning varieties. The Cour Di Bue is an heirloom variety that takes between 70-80 days for maturity. If you would prefer seeds you can find them here.
Super Italian Paste Tomato – This was another plant I tried from growjoy.com. I picked bushels and bushels of tomatoes from one of these plants. I had so many tomatoes for canning from one plant that I had to give them away before having them go to waste. These tomatoes have few seeds and are super flavorful. They made awesome ketchup (recipe here).
Amish Paste – Amish Paste tomatoes are great tomatoes for canning because like the Super Italian they have less seeds and more meat. Noticing a trend here? Amish Pastes are very prolific and tend to produce a majority of their tomatoes at once as they are (along with most paste tomatoes) determinate. They will produce large huge vines so they need hefty support but you will get a huge bounty of tomatoes. Most determinate varieties will produce all their fruit within a two week period which is nice for a long day of big batch canning.
San Marzano – The San Marzano is a flavorful cylinder shaped tomato that is slightly less acidic than other canning tomato varieties. It is also very prolific. I found that this variety kept it’s vibrant red color long after being canned making it perfect for sauces.
Roma – Romas are fast little buggers that have the same structure as a amish paste or a super Italian but they mature a week or so faster. Romas are one of my favorite varieties of tomatoes for canning because they are first to fruit, extremely hearty and prolific. I ordered one plant from grow veg, two from a roadside and started a few seeds of my own. Oddly enough the plants from the roadside stand didn’t produce near as well as my grow joy or seeds from baker creek. I used this variety for dehydrated tomatoes.
Costoluto Genovese – These are another one of my favorite varieties of tomatoes for canning because of their unique ripple shape. They are very flavorful and beautiful looking. They are wonderful sliced on a platter with some good olive oil and salt or put into sauces and ketchups for preserving.
These are all of the varities of tomatoes for canning that I grew for my 2020 garden but there are so many wonderful varities out there that are also good for canning. These include:
- Atkinson (heirloom)
- Bonny Best (heirloom)
- Bradley (heirloom)
- Sweetie (heirloom)
- Red Pear (heirloom)
- Big Mama (hybrid)
- Biltmore (hybrid)
- Fresh Salsa (hybrid)
- Gladiator (hybrid)
- Golden Fresh Salsa (hybrid)
- Green Envy (hybrid)
- Arkansas Traveler (heirloom)
- Heinz (hybrid)
- Opalka (heirloom)
- Rutgers (heirloom)