The 15 Most Important Types of Tomatoes to Know: Taste and Where Each Grows

Tomatoes lying on a pile on top of each other, tomato texture. Selective focus.
Kamila Koziol/Shutterstock.com

Written by Jennifer Hollohan

Updated: September 6, 2023

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Summertime isn’t complete until you add some flavorful tomatoes to your plate. Whether you grow your own or buy some from the store or farmer’s market, the height of summer is the ideal time to bring some home. But before you dive into all the ways to eat, cook, and preserve tomatoes, it would be helpful to learn about the different types. After all, while you can’t go wrong with any tomatoes, some work better for specific culinary applications. So below, you will find a guide to the 15 most important types of tomatoes.

1. Cherry Tomatoes

Everyone loves cherry tomatoes. The small, tender fruit is perfect to pop right into your mouth. They are sweet and juicy, perfect for snacking and raw eating. These tomatoes are native to South America and can get grown in USDA Zones 2-11. 

Feel free to cook, grill, or dry them. Turn them into sauces or add to salads. 

Varieties

  • Sun Gold
  • Super Sweet 100
  • Husky Red Cherry
Outdoor grown Cherry tomatoes, F1 Sweet Million, ripening on the vine in a garden.

Cherry tomatoes grow abundantly on the vine.

2. Cocktail Tomatoes

Cocktail tomatoes are small and fun to eat. Their soft but meaty flesh is great for grilling or turning into sauces. You can even stuff them! This sweet fruit has a traditional tomato taste and grows well in zones 2-11.

Varieties

  • Indigo Rose
  • Red Racer F1
  • Purple Zebra F1

3. Currant Tomatoes

This type is much smaller than cherry tomatoes. Some varieties are even ¼ of the size. Currant tomatoes are very sweet. They grow well in every zone and are ideal for preservation and making chutneys.

Varieties

  • ‘Hawaiian’
  • ‘Sweet Pea’
  • ‘Spoon’
A closeup of a female hand picking very small ripe pea sized cherry tomatoes in a vegetable garden.

Currant tomatoes are significantly smaller but mighty tasty!

4. Early Tomatoes

You guessed it. Early tomatoes grow earlier in the year. While it means you can enjoy tomatoes sooner, these have a less pronounced flavor.

The fruit must ripen between 55 and 75 days post-transplant to be considered an early tomato. They grow in zones 2-11. Feel free to use them in sauces, stews, cooking, or salads. You will likely want to add herbs to enhance the flavor, though.

Varieties

  • Bush Early Girl
  • Juliet
  • Husky Cherry Red

5. Globe Tomatoes

Globe tomatoes are the quintessential grocery store tomato – large and round. Their mild flavor makes them very versatile. Use these in sandwiches, sauces, and salsas. Plus, they grow well in zones 2-11, so keeping these on your table is easy.

Varieties

  • Alicante
  • Celebrity
  • Early Girl
Fresh ripe globe tomatoes, whole, isolated

Globe varieties make a regular appearance in grocery stores.

6. Grape Tomatoes

You have likely seen grape tomatoes in small containers in the store. They are meaty, rich, juicy, and balanced. You can enjoy them in salads and sandwiches or pasta. Additionally, they hold up well to cooking by roasting or grilling. They thrive in zones 9-10.

Varieties

  • Red Candy F1
  • Sweet Hearts F1
  • Pink Champagne
Grape Tomatoes - 'Principe Borghese' variety - growing on the vine in an organic home garden

Grape tomatoes are easy to pop in your mouth as a standalone treat.

7. Green Tomatoes

Most people have heard of fried green tomatoes. However, this color of tomato is far more versatile than many realize. They are good for pickling, grilling, sandwiches, salsas, sauces, and desserts and great for juicing. Their firm, meaty flesh tastes tangy and a little tart.

Varieties

  • Green Zebra
  • Thunder Mountain
  • White Beauty
unripen tomato fruit on plant in bunch very attractive with natural green and red soil back ground

Green tomatoes make a fantastic addition to many culinary dishes and can even bbe added to baked goods instead of Granny Smith apples.

8. Heirloom Tomatoes

This category feels a little broad, but specific tomato varieties fall into it. They are rich in flavor and ideal for sandwiches, grilled salads, and side dishes. The growing zones for each heirloom tomato will vary slightly based on the variety. 

Varieties

  • Black Russian 
  • Arkansas Traveler
  • Bonny Best
Wooden box filled with fresh vine ripened heirloom tomatoes from farmer's market.

Heirloom tomatoes are packed with nutrients and come in nearly every color under the sun.

9. Oxheart Tomatoes

Oxheart tomatoes are large and meaty, like beefsteaks. But they have an elongated bottom. Their mildly sweet flavor makes them ideal for canning and stuffing. They grow best in zones 8-10.

Varieties

  • Bull’s Heart
  • Yellow Oxheart
  • Orange Oxheart
Oxheart tomato (Cuor di bue), ripe, whole

Oxheart tomatoes are large and meaty like beefsteaks, but they have an elongated bottom.

10. Pear Tomatoes

These oblong-shaped fruits are similar to cherry tomatoes. Pear tomatoes have a sweet and tangy flavor, making them ideal for salad or fresh eating. Plant them in your garden in zones 2-12.

Varieties

  • Red Pear
  • Yellow Pear
The fruit of the yellow pear tomato, The organic yellow-pear tomato.

Pear tomatoes have a sweet and tangy flavor.

11. Purple Tomatoes

Technically, purple tomatoes vary between a purple/black color. They have an earthy flavor that makes a fantastic sandwich. Grow these in zones 5a-8b.

Varieties

  • Brad’s Black Heart
  • Black Beauty
  • Purple Boy
fresh purple heirloom tomatoes on the vine in a garden

Purple tomatoes are unique and eye-catching.

12. Red Beefsteak Tomatoes

Red beefsteak tomatoes are extremely juicy but have a mild flavor. Their firm and meaty flesh is perfect for sauces and salsas or as sandwich toppings. They are relatively flat and can get up to four pounds. These thrive in zones 2-11.

Varieties

  • Beefmaster
  • Brandywine
  • Cherokee Purple
Whole and cut tomatoes on a wood board.

Beefsteak tomatoes typically weigh at least one pound but can get up to four pounds!

13. Roma Tomatoes

Roma tomatoes are considered paste (or plum) varieties because they are ideal for sauces, stews, and tomato paste. Their tangy flavor makes delicious bruschetta, and their dense flesh makes them great for canning. Grow these varieties in zones 3-11.

Varieties

  • San Marzano II
  • Amish Paste
  • Sunrise Sauce
Plum (Roma variety) tomatoes on vine changing from green to red

Roma (plum) tomatoes grow on lengthy vines that need support.

14. Specialty Tomatoes

It sounds like a catch-all…and it kind of is. This category holds tomatoes that got bred for specific traits and characteristics but don’t fit neatly into any other category. Their growing zones vary.

Varieties

  • Striped Cavern
  • Yellow Stuffer
  • Burpee’s Long Keeper
Tomato (breed: Yellow Stuffer) with water droplets on black slate with dark background (solanum lycopersicum)

The Yellow Stuffer is a specialty variety.

15. Vine-Ripened Tomatoes

Vine-ripened tomatoes retain their freshness long after the harvest. They are particularly sweet and juicy, making them ideal for many culinary applications. Add them to salads, sauces, and jams, or roast them. Their growing zone varies.

Roasted tomatoes on the vine in a cast iron pan

Vine-ripened tomatoes are known for their peak freshness and delicious flavor.

Summary of the 15 Most Important Types of Tomatoes

TomatoFlavorUSDA Hardiness Zone
CherrySweet2-11
CocktailSweet2-11
CurrantSweetall
EarlyVariesVaries
GlobeMild, balanced2-11
GrapeSweet, slightly tart9-10
Green TangyVaries
HeirloomRange from tangy to sweetVaries
OxheartMildly sweet8-10
Pear Sweet, slightly tangy2-12
PurpleEarthy5a-8b
Red BeefsteakMild, balanced2-11
RomaTangy3-11
SpecialtyVariesVaries
Vine-ripenedSweetVaries


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About the Author

Jennifer Hollohan is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on gardening, mammals, and travel. Jennifer has over twenty years of writing experience. She holds a Master of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, which she earned in 2005, and is a Herbalist. Jennifer lives in Colorado with her family. She loves hiking, admiring wildflowers, gardening, and making herbal tea.

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