Names for Tomato shape/sizes

atash(8b)November 30, 2007

I have noticed that in seed catalogs, almost anything bigger than a "salad tomato" is called a "beefsteak". I think that's not quite right!

"Cherry" seems to be a catch-all for anything that is bite-sized (one bite per fruit).

Essentially wild tomatoes, with fruits the size of a pea or even smaller, and their domesticated varieties, are called "currents".

A "grape" is an elongated "cherry". Maybe they have thicker walls compared to seed cavities than cherries? Not sure.

"Pear" tomatoes are shaped like a pear and are typically the size of a "cherry".

"Plum" tomatoes are roughly the size and shape of a small prune (a prune is a type of plum, and not a dried plum as is often mistakenly believed!). They tend to be dry, for using as sauce.

Is there any name for elongated tomatoes with pointy ends? They look more like chilis than tomatos. There aren't too many of these but a few paste tomatoes look like this.

Small round or flattened-round tomatoes that take a few bites to eat, and are typically cut in halves or quarters for salads, are typically called "salad tomatoes". Are there any other names for this size and shape?

The one that is often missing from seed catalogs is the "slicer" or "globe". Those are slightly flattened-round tomatoes big enough to cut slices from for a sandwich. This is a good size for my purposes, because beefsteaks are hard and sometimes impossible to ripen in my climate.

Beefsteaks, it seems to me, are the really big ones, with narrow seed cavities wedged in between interior and exterior "walls". Ideally they are big flattened globes, but they are often dimpled and widely and irregularly lobed (which is a huge problem for me as fungii often incubate in their cozy little recesses). Does "beefsteak" imply anything else about flavor or texture? I think the seed catalogs overuse the word because of its evocative effect on their customers--it fires neurons in the buyers brain associated with "beef"--much as a many vegetables are described as "buttery".

I am aware of a few odd tomato shapes, like the ones with blocky fruits shaped like a bell pepper (often hollow too--and used for making stuffed tomatoes) and fluted tomatoes.

Thick walls, and thin seed cavities, seem to make a more popular tomato. Tomatoes with lots of seed cavity are perceived as watery and gelatinous, as opposed to "juicy" which presumably means moister wall flesh. It seems to me that plum types and pointed-end types often have high flesh-to-seed-cavity ratios, and dry flesh, which is why they are popular for sauce. Cherry and salad types often have a lot of seed gel, but this does not always seem to be true.

What sizes/shapes am I missing? I'm trying to write up a description of tomato varieties for my website.

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I've seen "ridged" or "ruffled" to describe toms like Costoluto Genovese or Zaptoc Pleated which has "pleated" in its name.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 5:51PM
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I likely have the scan of the pages on the internet. Just cant remember the file names I called the scans.

Back in the late 80's, I believe. descriptions for shape (and all kinds of other traits) were set for researchers from all over to have as a standard.

Ill try to find it but the scan is from a fairly hard to come by book from an International Symposium.

"High Round"
are some shapes that come to mind.

It had listings for transervse and longitudinal
href="">(what do those terms mean?)
as well as shoulders, blossom scars, etc

I think I also sent copies at one time to Paul when he was developing his tomatodatabase site.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 6:08PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

atash, which seed catalogs are you looking at?

I ask only b'c globe, bomb-shaped and many other words are used to describe shape at the retail sites I know of.

The long ones you refer to some call sausage shaped or elongated.

But I do disagree with your saying that most varieties that have those tiny fruits are called currant tomatoes. I find that not to be true . And it's really important to know which are and which are not currant varieties in terms of the blossom structure and possible chances for X pollination..

The word slicer, for instance, doesn't imply a shape, rather it implies a function. Slicer doesn't necessarily mean something to do with sandwiches.

There are varieties that are pear shaped that range from the small red and yellow pears to huge pear shaped ones around one pound.

The word beesteak has been discussed here and you might find it with a search, but eseentially all it means is a fruit that is longer than wider with few seed cavities and fewer seeds than most. That definition was made back in the 30's in the Michigan State Bulletin and still obtains today.

If you were to read some of the descriptions of tomato shapes for the many thousands of varieties listed in the SSE Yearbooks I think you'd be amazed at the range of words that have been and are used.

But in the non-commercial world with respect to home growers there are no standard descriptions, so if I were you I'd describe your own varieties as you see them.

If you want me to cut and paste what you wrote above and make some comments there I'd be glad to do that when I have more time.

So which catalogs/websites have you looked at for terms that are used in describing tomato shape? Just curious. ( smile)


    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 10:15AM
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Please don't misunderstand me; I'm claiming very little. I am repeating the language that I found in my perusal of seed catalogs and in other literature, such as a book I checked out from the library entitled "In praise of tomatoes", by Ronni Lundy.

I'm not claiming my sources are authoritative...I was only trying to get a sense of common usage.

I'm not claiming that tiny tomatoes ARE current tomatoes and especially not claiming that they are necessarily Lycopersicon pimpinellifolium.

I'm soliciting corrections and addenda. I am trying to use descriptions accurately and as close to common usage as possible. Where there are authoritative definitions I will be happy to mention them.

My website is being built up as an encyclopaedic reference on topics such as survival gardening. This has been quite an educational experience for ME. I've had food gardens off and on for my 43 years of existence, and I am still learning so many things the hard way...for example, I bought a "self-fertile apple"--says so right on the tag in big letters--and learned not only that apples are barely self-fertile, but this particular variety is poorly suited to home gardeners. It has been one disaster like that after another. If it would have come down to "survival", we would have starved waiting for my self-fertile apple to bear!

>>>The word beesteak has been discussed here and you might find it with a search, but eseentially all it means is a fruit that is longer than wider with few seed cavities and fewer seeds than most.

The American Heritage Dictionary simply says "Any of several varieties of tomato having large fruit with thick flesh."

In my ignorance, I assumed that size had something to do with the expression, and noticed a large number of modest-sized tomatoes being referred to as "beefsteaks" (Siletz, for example)--hence my suspicion that it is used somewhat loosely as a suggestive sales term.

"In praise of tomatoes" explicitly states that beefsteaks are "deep red"!! However, I have not noticed such a usage in seed catalogs. You can see why I might be confused, with such inconsistent usage.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 12:15PM
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tom8olvr(Z5 MA)

When you figure out the shapes/sizes then there's the growth habit. Oh and then theres the color. Can't forget the foliage types. It's quite a lot of fun! :)

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 3:28PM
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>>When you figure out the shapes/sizes then there's the growth habit.

I think I actually understand that one. The big difference is determinate vrs indeterminate--but then sometimes one sees "semi-determinate" and even more mysteriously, "semi-indeterminate"!

A precious few determinates are self-supporting. I suppose that's worth mentioning.

>>Oh and then theres the color.

I have some sense of that, but not enough. I know that taste and texture have a rough correlation with color, with intense colors having the most flavor, red-yellow bicolors often being rather sweet, while yellows and "whites" (off-whites) usually but not always being bland. I don't have a strong sense of what "black" tomatoes taste like, and I don't know if pinks taste any different than reds because pinks are very rare in my part of the world (I've never had one as an adult). I'm pretty sure "purples" aren't really purple, but they too are rare here so I've never seen one of those in person either.

>> Can't forget the foliage types.

I know "regular leaf", rugose, and "potato-leaved". I know some "regular leaf" are highly dissected and ferny-looking. I also know that reputedly rugose and "potato-leaved" are more resistent to certain foliar diseases.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 10:51PM
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tomatogreenthumb(6 WV)

I like those secular shaped, beefsteak sized maters that weight 8 to 10 know, the ones that are deep enuf pink to call them red. And if they have a old timey beefsteak flavor, that's a plus too.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 1:56PM
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tom8olvr(Z5 MA)

Funny to say, but I like those big ratty catfaced ones... they generally are the first to arrive in my garden (due to low temps when pollinating - I hear). They taste sooo good after having NOTHING all winter... And of course the oxhearts -gotta love an oxheart tom! :)

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 11:50AM
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