A Visual Guide to Tomatoes | TUTTLE RIDGE FARMS

More than 7,500 varieties of tomato are grown around the world, but only a handful are widely available. Here’s a rundown of what you’ll find in stores and farmer's markets.

The largest of all tomatoes, these can weigh as much as 2 pounds each. In stores, you’ll see mostly red or pink varieties, but at farmer's markets a wider color spectrum is available. The best tomato for slicing, beefsteaks have a distinctive kidney shape and the quintessential tomato flavor. Since their flesh is relatively firm, they’re also good for cooking.

This doesn’t indicate a variety so much as a farming method. Most supermarkets sell tomatoes that are picked green and ripened with ethylene gas — which changes the color nicely but does nothing to impart flavor. Ripening on the vine produces a richer, more tomatoey tomato, and also a much more perishable one. But beware: “Vine-ripened” tomatoes in large stores may be picked as soon as the first blush of red appears, which is far different from a fully ripe tomato. Shop at farmstands for the real thing. You’ll pay a premium, but it’ll be worth it.

There are thousands of varieties, each with its own distinct coloring and flavor, like the striped, spicy-tasting Green Zebra or the maroon, smoky-sweet Cherokee Purple. Buy some at the farmer’s market and experiment: Try a tomato salad with three or four different heirlooms, some fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Oblong, with meatier flesh and fewer seeds than other varieties, these are the preferred tomato for cooking — but they’re also popular raw. In fact, if you’re craving a salad during the winter, plums are your best bet for anything close to real tomato flavor.

Another option for year-round tomatoes are Camparis. Relatively new to the tomato scene, they’re round, smaller than a plum tomato but bigger than a cherry one, deep red and remarkably sweet. There are only three suppliers for the entire country, though, so you may not find these everywhere.

Yellow or Orange 
When it comes to tomatoes, yellow and orange generally signal a sweeter treat, since yellow and orange varieties have less acid than their red brethren. They also add gorgeous color to a dish.

Grape, Cherry & Pear 
These bite-sized varieties are ideal for salads and snacking, and perfect for kids. They’re sweeter than larger tomatoes and often have firmer flesh. Grape tomatoes are the most popular: They look like tiny plum tomatoes and are exceptionally sweet. Cherry tomatoes are round and slightly larger, with a little less sugar and a little more juice; they’re the ones that squirt when you bite into them. Pear tomatoes come in a variety of colors, with yellow and red most common, and are — surprise — pear-shaped. They, too, can be quite sweet, and are usually small enough to pop in your mouth.

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