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Tomato Terminology

The following is a list of tomato terms I assembled to provide you useful information while you shop for the most suitable varieties of tomatoes for your garden.

Beefsteak - A type of tomato rather than a variety (although there really is a particular variety named 'Beefsteak.') Usually considered a large, irregular shaped tomato with solid flesh.

Cotyledons - The first leaves formed from the seed.

Crack Resistant - A tomato that inherently resistant to cracking, a problem usually caused where rain falls sporadically, or where there is excessive rain.

Cultivar - The variety of a plant. However, technically there is a difference between cultivar and variety. Cultivar is considered to be a product of intentional breeding whereas Variety is the product of accidental crossing. The terms are commonly used interchangeably.

Determinate - When terminal buds set fruit plant growth stops. Plant needs little or no staking. Harvest is only about a week to ten days.

Globe - A round shaped tomato.

Heirloom - An heirloom is generally considered to be a variety that has been passed down, through several generations of a family because of it's valued characteristics. Since 'heirloom' varieties have become popular in the past few years there have been liberties taken with the use of this term for commercial purposes. Heirloom tomato experts, Craig LeHoullier and Carolyn Male, Ph.D. have classified down heirlooms into four categories:

  1. Commercial Heirlooms: Open-pollinated varieties introduced before 1940.
  2. Family Heirlooms: Seeds that have been passed down for several generations through a family.
  3. Created Heirlooms: Crossing two known parents (either two heirlooms or an heirloom and a hybrid) and dehybridizing the resulting seeds for how ever many years/generations it takes to eliminate the undesirable characteristics and stabilize the desired characteristics, perhaps as many as 8 years or more.
  4. Mystery Heirlooms: Varieties that are a product of natural cross-pollination of other heirloom varieties.

Note: All heirloom varieties are open-pollinated but not all open-pollinated varieties are heirloom varieties.)

Hybrid pollination - Cross pollination accomplished by removing anthers of parent x before the release of pollen. Y parent's anther tube is opened and pollen removed to deposit on stigma of parent x.

Indeterminate - Plants that will keep growing and producing new blossoms even after fruit set. Harvest may last for several months.

Locules - Chambers within the tomato's fruit that hold the seeds within a jelly-like substance. Most fruits have 2 or more chambers and large fruited varieties have as many as 10.

Lycopersicon esculentum - The genus and species name for Tomato. All plants have a genus and species name, which are indicated in italics.

Maturity - The number of days from transplanting seedling to the first mature fruit. Early-Season varieties generally mature between 55 to 68 days; Midseason varieties- 69 to 79 days; Late season varieties from 80 days and beyond.

Oblate - A slightly flattened round shape of a tomato.

Open-pollinated - Seeds from open-pollinated varieties produce plants and fruit that are identical to their parent. (Note: All heirloom varieties are open-pollinated but not all open-pollinated varieties are heirloom varieties.)

Personal favorite - A variety that has been a favorite through years of growing.

Pollination - Pollen grains released by anther and fall to the stigma, usually of the same flower.

Potato-leaf - Foliage without indentations on leaf margins. Looks similar to leaves of potato plant.

Regular-leaf - Foliage with indentations on the leaf margins.

Semi-Determinate - tomato plants are larger than determinate (bush types) but smaller than Indeterminate plants. These plants usually require staking.

Widely adapted - A variety adapted to growing well in several growing zones.