Over the years, farmers, homesteaders and people with a keen interest have shaped the way we grow and consume food. We see some varieties of vegetables and fruit in the stores, yet we have very little available to us in terms of the variety that is accessible. Though not all varieties of fruit and vegetables are suitable for commercial selling there definitely are many that are suited to home-growing or buying from the farmers’ markets. Honestly though, some are just so fascinating that you just need to know about them.
As tomatoes made their way around the world filling itself into many cultures it became a staple for many countries. Easy enough to grow, fantastic flavour and colour. It added a richness to a dish while allowing it to be used in a range of ways. Though it was not a fast process as the first tomatoes are believed to have been in use by the early Aztecs around 700 AD with Europeans only being introduced to this magnificent fruit, and/or vegetable, in the 16th century. By the time the Spanish had arrived the cultivation of the plant was widespread through south and central America. Some believing it to be an aphrodisiac. It was also an overall rocky start to the simple tomato’s life, however. Seemingly appearing in Europe in a Nepalese cookbook in the mid-16th century, it was a widely used ingredient. Though it faced much scrutiny due to naming conventions or people believing it to be poisonous. This is due to the fact that members of the Solanaceae family, to which the tomato belongs, are in fact poisonous. Each plant in this family has an interesting history and may surprise you to know that potatoes, eggplants, and peppers are included in the Solanaceae family. On the other hand, this family includes the deadly nightshade which was rather similar to the tomato plant. This is partly why many avoiding the plant believing it to be poisonous. There are many other theories and instances recorded in connection with the tomato, beginning from its origins as an aphrodisiac all the way to a favourite fresh food on the table. Though I am fairly certain that the tomato still has quite a journey ahead.
It is difficult to say how many varieties of tomatoes exist in the world. Roughly 3,000 varieties of heirloom or heritage tomatoes in active cultivation worldwide and up to 15,000 known varieties. Many plant enthusiasts carry on bringing us new varieties with amazing colours, incredible flavours and unusual looking plants. Tomatoes are by far one the most interesting plants to grow and fruits, and/or vegetables, to consume. There is a ridiculous variety of tomatoes never mind the colours and shapes that are out there. I personally have not always enjoyed eating raw tomatoes however, since being introduced to different types and the flavours they offer my tune has changed. Here are ten tomatoes you may not know:
Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter
The 1930s was an uncertain time leading many people to have multiple forms of income with some really inventive ways as well. During this time there was a man named Radiator Charlie who worked as an auto-mechanic. He had a talent for being able to pretty much fix whatever he desired. At some point, he decided to start work on developing his own genuine tomato. After about seven years of carefully cross-pollinating his plants by hand he finally came to his prize tomato. He sold seedlings for a dollar each, giving him the opportunity to pay off his mortgage.
Galapagos Wild AKA Wild Galapagos Tomato
This particularly rare and rather odd tomato comes from the Galapagos island as the name suggests. Said to be growing straight on the seafront, there are two species of this plant that grow on the island giving locals something extra for their cooking. The skin is thicker or tougher than most tomatoes, and they also seem to take that little bit longer to germinate. They are a small variety making them similar in size to cherry tomato types. They also offer slightly more flesh than tomatoes of the same size with a nice sweet flavour.
African Vining Tomato
This tomato variety has yet to make its name on the world stage. Large and heart-shaped this beauty really works well as a slicer tomato, making sauce or salsa and even great in salads with the good amount of flesh it gives. From 120 to 400 grams very fleshy, dense flesh with very few seeds. Excellent, extremely sweet flavour. The origin is unknown though it seems more enthusiast have begun growing this variety since 2014.
Cream Sausage Tomato
Now I know the name is a little weird and out there, but it is a great tomato with a low acidic flavour. Being a white tomato variety, it offers a new dimension to your average garden salad while bringing a different aesthetic to the table. The tomato shape is elongated much like a San Marzano would be. It is most often used as a paste tomato which makes it ideal for making a tomato paste that will impart tomato flavour into your food without the red colouration that is typically associated with tomatoes.
Blue Berries Tomato
If you are looking for a little fun in your fresh food dishes and something to just have on the counter for a snack, then this variety is perfect for you. These little cherry-sized blue bombs of deliciousness add an intriguing depth to a dish both in colour and flavour. I would suggest keeping these for a roasted tomato pasta dish, snack bowl, or even just a sneaky garden snack while you are tending to your plants. They are also interesting, in terms of how they react to the sun. In a shaded area, these tomatoes ripen to a red colouration while those exposed to more sunlight will be a deep blue/purple colour. This can lead to bunches being different colours which looks amazing.
Dr Wyche’s Yellow Tomato
This is a very large variety of tomato. Great for people who love to have incredible tomato sandwiches as it offers big slices fitting across an entire slice of bread, and big flavour to match. As a yellow/orange variety, the acidity level is much lower making it very sweet. I personally prefer the sweetness of yellow tomatoes, especially when lightly grilled. This has become more popular over the years as more YouTubers speak about the varieties they grow. Dr Wyches’s is a must if you enjoy the large slicer tomatoes.
Lemon Drop Tomato
Like most tomatoes, this variety prefers to be in warmer climates and so may be difficult to grow in the northern climates. However, once they do take, they are prolific growers that give a decent amount of fruit through the season. They are small and best suited to a salad and other dishes which require small tomatoes such as roasted cherry tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. It also offers a bit of that tartness one looks for in a regular tomato. This makes it great for making sauces or adding to your batch of sauce destined tomatoes.
A tantalizing cherry tomato with the yellow of a golden ray of sunshine. This gardening treat is a sweet bomb of a little tomato. The name is German meaning ‘little blond girl’, coming from eastern Germany, that seem to create an abundance of tomatoes, as they have enormous bunches on the thick stems. Ensure you have a good amount of space for these tomatoes, especially as they are indeterminate. This means that they keep growing instead of reaching a specific size. I imagine it would also be fun to have your guests trying to pronounce the name.
Dwarf Wild Fred Tomato
For a medium-sized variety, you could look at these for sauces or slicers for your sandwiches. This dwarf plant gives you a great deal as both a slicer and sauce making type. If you have limited space such as balcony growing or general urban settings, then this variety could be just right for you. The flesh of the tomato has purple-like tinge which I find rather pretty on a plate or in a salad. Though for sauces you simply get a nice dark red colour.
Like most elongated tomatoes such as these, they are great for making tomato paste or salsa. Though I would recommend giving them a go in a sandwich or fresh as they have a slight spiciness about them. Red all over with golden stripes it really turns heads. Giving a splash of extra colour to your garden while making the dinner table that little bit fancier. What is also particularly lovely about this variety is that they are happily set closer together and in pots. If you only have a balcony then this tomato variety may be just what you are looking for, limited space requires a bit more selective planning, so it is always good to know some options.