How to Choose the Right Tomato

How to Choose the Right Tomato Varieties

3 Key Questions to Ask

At Johnny's, we meticulously research, develop, and select our tomato line to help ensure your tomato-growing success each and every year. To choose the right varieties for your growing needs, here are the 3 main questions to ask yourself:

  1. Which vegetative growth habit best suits your needs:

    Indeterminate (tall and viney) OR determinate (bushy)?
  2. Where will you grow your tomatoes:

    Outdoors OR indoors/in a protected setting?
  3. Which fruit characteristics are of greatest importance to you:

    Flavor, aroma, color, texture, shape, earliness, yield, culinary qualities, or otherwise?

Below you will find a short explanation of how to answer each of these three questions, followed by a Table of Tomato Types. If after reading this over you find you still cannot decide, give us a call — we'll talk tomatoes!


The prime consideration when choosing a tomato variety relates to its vegetative growth habit. There are two main types:

Indeterminate, or vining types, continue to grow new leaves, shoots, and flowers for an indefinite time period (until frost or some other factor causes them to die).

  • Indeterminate growth habit requires more elaborate trellising methods to support the larger plants, and more labor to sucker and prune throughout the growing season.
  • As a direct result of indeterminates' higher ratio of leaves-to-fruit-clusters ( > 3:1), they tend to have better flavor than determinate (bush) types ( < 2:1).

Determinate, or bush-type tomatoes, grow to a certain size, then divert their major energy stores away from vegetative growth, toward fruit-ripening.

  • Better ratio of labor-to-production potential. Determinate types are easier to contain because vegetative growth is less sprawling and concentrated into a shorter time period.
  • Fruits of determinate tomatoes ripen over a limited period of time, allowing for one or two main harvests.


The next consideration is where your plants will be grown — outside in the field or within an enclosed environment, such as a greenhouse or hoophouse.

  • If you are growing tomatoes within any type of structure, it is worthwhile to choose from varieties bred specifically for that purpose. The warmth and humidity that promote rapid plant growth in a heated greenhouse can also be favorable to fungi, bacteria, and other plant pathogens.
  • If you are growing in the field, you will want to choose varieties that are resistant to the disease pressures known to affect tomatoes to your area.
  • While browsing Johnny's tomato varieties, check for symbols that designate growth habit and other key information. Be sure to review the information on the product page for disease resistance, germination guides, cultivation and harvesting information, processing notes, and other useful features.


Helpful Rules of Thumb
  • Color: Yellow and orange tomatoes tend to be less acidic and milder-tasting than red and pink tomatoes.
  • Texture: Some people prefer the pulpier texture more closely associated with heirloom tomatoes, while others seek the firm texture commonly associated with greenhouse and determinate types.
  • Yield: Because yield is paramount to most growers, Johnny's evaluates the marketable versus unmarketable yields of varieties in our tomato line to determine the best overall combination of yield, flavor, and texture.

The one thing everyone desires most in a tomato — flavor — seems to be the quality most elusive in the standard American grocery-store tomato. Which is why the perfect home-grown or marketstand tomato is a prized commodity.

But because our preferences in tomato flavor, texture, and color are highly subjective, pleasing everyone's palate and meeting the aesthetic ideals of every customer poses a significant challenge.

Here at Johnny's we trial hundreds of tomato varieties every year — and place a premium on flavor while scrutinizing a host of additional factors that play into tomato perfection: days to maturity, appearance, habit, size, vigor, disease resistance, yield, cracking, blemishes, shelf life, and so many more. Our complex selection process is expressly designed to make your tomato choices and growing easier and more successful.

Whatever your tomato growing aspirations, we hope our selection provides for your unique needs and preferences.

Tomato Types for Every Customer

With over a dozen different categories and scores of varieties to choose from, you can enjoy old favorites and reliable performers while exploring new types holding potential for you. Choose by color, shape, growing method, and more.