The Many Types of Tomatoes by Caron Golden

Summer is a great time to stock up on fresh produce in season, like watermelon, corn, cucumbers, peaches, plums—and tomatoes! You might be surprised at just how many varieties and options there are when it comes to the tomato. Tomatoes are a versatile, non-starchy vegetable to include in your diabetes-friendly eating plan.

The Many Types of Tomatoes

Types of Tomatoes

Beefsteak, Sweet 100, Cherokee, Green Zebra, Brandywine. The interesting  list of names is fun to read and seemingly endless when it comes to tomatoes. In fact, there are more than 10,000 varieties!
 
Whether you consider tomatoes fruit (because they form a flower and contain seeds) or vegetables (because they’re utilized as vegetables when cooking), you have endless choices to grow or eat. The big question is what tomatoes are best for the dish you want to prepare? A lot of it comes down to whether you want to slice them, cook with them, or snack on them.

How to Pick the Right Type of Tomato

Some tomato varieties are suitable to use for specific purposes while others are more flexible in their utility. Here are six to look for and how to get the most of their specific qualities:
 
  • Plum: Plum tomatoes are a type of tomato under which you’ll find varieties like Roma, San Marzano, and grape varieties. Plum tomatoes are dense and meaty. Having less juice and seeds and more flesh makes them perfect cooking tomatoes for sauces and ragu, pastes, broiling, and sun-dried recipes. If you enjoy canning, then go for a plum variety.
  • Beefsteak: Beefsteak tomatoes are big, meaty tomatoes with few seeds that are excellent for slicing. Slice them for sandwiches or put them on a platter drizzled with balsamic vinegar. You can also stuff them (like this Baked Egg ‘n’ Tomato Cup), can them, or make a summer soup. Beefsteak tomato varieties include  Brandywines, Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, and Super Mamande, among others.
  • Cherry: Cherry tomatoes, also known as teardrop tomatoes, whether round or pear-shaped these bite sized tomatoes are the ultimate sweet summer snack. Enjoy them on salads, try Guacamole Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes, or Quick & Easy Cheese Dip. If you are firing up the grill, skewer them on a Turkey Kebab with Avocado and Tomato.
  • Compari: Compari tomatoes are larger than cherry tomatoes but much smaller than Beefsteaks—about the size of a golf ball. Because these are low-acid, high-flavor tomatoes, they’re versatile enough to use in many ways. Try sautéing till the skin gets crunchy, add them to a salad raw, or make a cool and refreshing 2,2,2 Good Gazpacho soup.
  • Oxheart: This is another tomato that’s good for slicing, but unlike spherical beefsteaks, they’re shaped like a heart. Varieties include Cour di Bue, Hungarian Heart, Yellow Oxheart, and Giant Oxheart. You can use them like beefsteaks, which means they’d make a tasty Tomato Caprese Salad.   
  • Standard globe: These tomatoes are the ones commonly found at the grocery store. They include varieties like Better Boy, Early Girl, and Celebrity. They’re good general-purpose tomatoes. Slice them into salads, turn them into sauces, or stuff and broil. If you aren’t sure what tomato to get, these are usually a safe choice.

About Heirloom Tomatoes

You’re probably wondering where heirloom tomatoes fit into this list. Heirlooms are tomato varieties that have been grown without crossbreeding. Heirloom tomatoes are all about the seeds, which are passed down through generations. And they’re open pollinated, meaning they’re pollinated naturally by bees, birds, and humans—just not through genetic modification.
 
The varieties of various heirloom tomatoes still fall into the categories above. If you are looking for heirloom tomatoes, try your local farmers market and ask the vendor about the different heirloom tomato varieties they offer and their best uses.
 
If you want diabetes-friendly tomato recipes, sign up for the Diabetes Food Hub e-newsletter. This monthly email is packed with new recipes, tips, and tasty ways to eat diabetes-friendly meal plans.

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