It might be the most famously un-fruity fruit of all, but we dare you to find a berry more delicious – or versatile – than the tomato.
Possibly one of the most important plants in our collective health and history, there’s practically nothing the tomato can’t do, from boosting our antioxidants to improving our soups, salads and pastas,
It truly is a wondrous plant – and good for our hearts in so many ways. So thank goodness there are so many wonderful types of tomatoes to love!
That’s right, tomatoes are actually berries from a botany standpoint – but don’t tell the U.S. Supreme Court that!
The fruit is a big-time harbinger of the classic “umami” flavor, the mysterious fifth flavor profile that leaves us with that earthier, meatier impression. And due to how it registers on the palette plus the fruit’s comparatively low sugar levels, it’s long been considered a “culinary vegetable,” a distinction shared with other un-fruity fruits like bell peppers, cucumbers, avocados, and pumpkins.
That loose definition was put to the test in 1887, when a U.S. tariff law sought to impose a special tax on vegetables – but not fruits. The case made it all the way to the top court in the land, with SCOTUS officially declaring the tomato a vegetable, in a legal sense, since it’s typically served with dinner, not dessert.
Still, while the Justices’ argument may work in the human world, Mother Nature isn’t always the biggest fan of logic – or strict meal planning. And while the plant may be registered as a vegetable in the accountant’s office, it still remains every bit a berry in the garden.
So Many Tomatoes, So Little Time…
But even before the plant rose to infamy through the U.S. courts, it all had to start somewhere, and for tomatoes, that first seed was planted in Central America.
The plant first gained gardening distinction among the Aztecs, who called it tomatl, which translates, roughly, to “the swelling fruit.” Tomatl turned into tomate when the Spanish conquistadors took over, and took the popular plant with them back to Europe, where it became an instant smash, especially among the Mediterranean states where the fruit’s vines found a sunny soulmate in the perfect climate.
Since then, farmers around the world have been hard at work cultivating any number of tomato varieties – and today there are literally thousands of cultivars to choose from.
Yet while we here at FruitStand would never stand in the way of more types of tomatoes entering the world, the classics are the classics for a reason. And some of varietals always seem to pop up on the list of most popular types of tomatoes, including -
The best types of tomatoes for those who like to snack, these oblong little wonders are perfectly bite-sized and easy to pop right into your mouth – or on top of your salad, or soup, or pasta.
They may not taste quite like their fruity namesake, but they’re pretty sweet as far as tomatoes are concerned. And their thin-but-firm skin, which comes in shades of red, yellow and orange, bursts open to reveal their juicy, delicious insides, making them an adventure in color and texture.
Often confused with the cherry tomato, this varietal is actually a little bit bitter – though still small enough to fit several in the palm of your hand.
Grape tomatoes also come in shades of red and yellow, and carry a tangy sweet bite. But these types of tomatoes rock a bit of thicker skin, making them optimal for withstanding the heat of cooking, baking or roasting.
Rounding out our series of tomatoes named after other types of fruits are plum tomatoes.
‘Plum’ actually represents an entire tomato sub-category, known for their oblong, almost cylindrical shapes and very few seeds. As such, these types of tomatoes are especially prized for canning, whether made into paste or preserves or pre-made sauces.
Technically a type of plum tomato! This varietal may be the most popular of the category, however, thanks to their wonderfully tangy and tomato-y taste.
Roma tomatoes are also noted for their firm textures and meaty insides, that, like their other plum cousins, make them great for cooking, roasting or preserving.
When the average person thinks of a tomato, they’re most likely conjuring the image of a beefsteak.
These beauties are arguably the world’s most popular type of tomato, responsible for the classic tomato slice that sits so proudly on top of so many burgers and BLTs. Beefsteaks are big, and strike a lovely balance of meaty flesh and juicy bite, with an easy mild taste that makes them all-around winners.
Tomatoes on the Vine
You can find these types of tomatoes at the store or the farmer’s market exactly as advertised: Tomatoes on the vine – AKA Campari tomatoes – are left attached to their strong, green vines to continue absorbing nutrients until they’re fully ripe.
When they reach that point, they’re some of the tastiest types of tomatoes around, with a sweet, tangy flavor, firm skin and juicy bite, making them a great option for nearly anything a tomato can be an option for!
Heirloom tomatoes represent another whole category of tomatoes in and of themselves, of which thousands of tasty words could be written.
There’s a whole galaxy of heirloom tomatoes to choose from, coming in all shapes, sizes and flavor profiles. But they all have one thing in common: Sprouting from seeds that have been passed on for at least 50 years – which is what classifies them as “heirlooms.”
Heirloom tomatoes do tend to be on the larger and meatier side, and are so delicious, they’re often turned into a salad in and of themselves.
Some of the best and most popular heirloom tomato varieties include:
- Purple Cherokee tomatoes
- Black krim tomatoes (AKA black crimea tomatoes)
- Pear tomatoes
- Brandywine tomatoes
But just like the classics they’re named for, these types of tomatoes – and all their tomato cousins – will never go out of style.