Tomato Varieities

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to get-your-tomato-plants-in-the-ground week. If you haven't already (and really, you needn't have) this is the perfect weekend to select and plant your tomato bed. But what to plant? tomatos in a clocheIn the Pacific NW, it's best to chose varieties that mature quickly, as we have a shorter, cooler summer than say, Long Island. Big slicing tomatoes and juicy heirlooms will seldom ripen completely and should therefore be avoided. (Plus, you can buy them at the farmers markets from our Eastern Wa farmers.) A better choice is any cherry tomato variety. CHerry tomato plants produce smaller fruits, by nature. These small fruits are able to come to maturity AND still have time for sun-ripening sweetness. Ditto for the paste tomatoes, which are best for cooking. Paste tomatoes are your Romas, San Marzanos, Principhe Borghese, etc. These tomatoes are excellent for canning, as well, as they have strong flavor and a lower water content than slicers. If you're really craving a fuller fruit (good for slicing or panzanella salad) go for a medium-sized tomato at most. Taxi Yellow has grown popular over the last year and puts up a waxy yellow tomato with decent flavor and some acid, too. It's not overly sweet. Stupice are red tomatoes of the same size, though they are a bit sweeter. But really, the variety matters far less than the size of the tomato, so choose what you like sticking to this guideline.

Make sure to leave at least 18" between your plants, and be sure to water them deeply. I plant my tomatoes in an offset pattern to maximize space. In cooler climates, cloches are extremely helpful throughout June, as they really give the plants a nice strong start. In warm climates, just set them out directly.