I think the best part of gardening is knowing that at the end the season we will (usually) end up with an abundance of food that can be preserved and put on the shelves or in the freezer for later use.
The work is rewarding in and of itself. The mystery of placing seed in the ground in the spring, watching it grow and harvesting later on always electrifies me. It’s a kind of vulnerable magic that we get to tap into every year.
But purpose is found in the act of enjoying the fruit of that labor. Literally. For without the delicious act of consumption, all the other parts of gardening would eventually seem meaningless.
We grow many varieties of fruit and vegetables on our small farm. But it is our tomatoes that I love the most.
And that’s a significant thing to admit to. For in June I love our strawberries, and in July I can’t get enough of our sweet corn. But a fresh, sun ripened tomato, plucked from the vine, is to truly be celebrated. Not only is this delicious fruit amazing when eaten fresh (and often right there, unwashed, in the garden), but it can be preserved in so many different ways and enjoyed all the through the winter months, and beyond.
Almost every variety of tomato can be preserved. But there are a few varieties that I think are the best for certain methods of preservation.
Sun Gold Cherry – When it comes to fermenting tomatoes, this is my go to variety. Sun Golds are already naturally sweet, which enhances the fermenting process. They are can be picked a little early without losing flavor. And one vine produces a lot of tomatoes, which is handy when you want to ferment large batches or have restricted planting space.
For a simple fermenting recipe using Sun Gold tomatoes go here.
Saucing & Canning
Heirloom Tomatoes – Varieties like German Johnson, Brandywine and Pink Elephant are phenomenal saucing tomatoes. They tend to be more juicy than traditional saucing tomatoes, but they are also meaty and their flavor is exceptional.
Amish Paste – We discovered this variety of saucing tomato a few years ago, and since then it has been a staple in our garden. Plants are proficient and high yielding. Tomatoes are good sized and meaty. Blending these with heirloom tomatoes is our go-to saucing preference.
San Marzano – This is a very high yielding plant that grows smaller “plum” type tomatoes. The fruit is firm and low in acid. The skin is easy to remove. For many, including our family, this is a must variety to grow if you plan on making sauce.
A few more thoughts
I really think you could use any variety of tomato for saucing. Some varieties of Roma tomatoes are firm but lack flavor. Other varieties of “standard” tomatoes like Beefsteak or Better Boy will boil down into sauce, but their high water content might turn some homesteaders off. I think it’s better to eat these kind of tomatoes fresh, but that’s just my opinion.
I’m sure I’m missing some varieties in my list. The ones listed are favorites that we’ve singled out over the years. Through experimenting we may likely find that other varieties are just as good, or even better than some of these. You may as well.
Let this list serve as a starting point to the new saucer, rather than an absolute judgement on the conversation. If you’re trying to decide which tomato varieties to grow this year, maybe this list will offer some direction.
Enjoy your fruits! For that is the point of it all. How you do it is entirely up to you.