The best tools are those that provide straightforward solutions to complex queries. In the homesteading and gardening world, a common conundrum may be deciding which crop varieties to grow, especially when considering a crop — such as tomatoes — that’s available in hundreds of diverse varieties.
Variety selection, after all, can be about so many factors. Be it taste, appearance, adaptability to one’s climate, disease resistance, or when a variety will mature, all kinds of traits play into what will be the best choices for your garden or farm.
We are beyond thrilled to announce the release of a snazzy new tool that brings clarity — and a whole lot of fun! — to the process of narrowing down which tomatoes to grow. Our new Tomato Chooser app profiles 333 tomato varieties, and, even better, allows you to sort and filter all of these varieties by exactly the characteristics you’re looking for. Within the app, you can filter by any (or all) of these traits:
• Open-pollinated vs. hybrid
• Growth habit (determinate, semi-determinate or indeterminate)
• Disease resistances
• Good for hot or cold climates
• Days to maturity (early, main season or late)
• Best storage methods (canning, drying, etc.)
Finally, you can even filter by which varieties have been rated as having exceptional flavor by one of our tomato experts. We drew on five experts — Amy Goldman, Carolyn Male, Craig LeHoullier, William Woys Weaver and Gary Ibsen — and the books they’ve written about tomatoes to gather our flavor ratings, along with several descriptive quotes about many of the varieties.
While the app’s ability to filter the tomato varieties is ultra-cool and useful, you can use the app in other ways, too. If you simply want to browse the descriptions and color photos — and have a blast discovering new varieties you’ve never heard of, from heirloom gems to modern releases — you can view all 333 tomato profiles in an alphabetical list.
Anytime you find a tomato you know you want to grow in the future — or that you have grown before and loved — you can mark it as a favorite within the app to easily come back to later.
I can honestly say that playing around with this app has made me more excited than I’ve ever been for seed-starting season to come around this spring. I’m especially eager to try some of the flavorful varieties I’d never even heard of before, such as ‘Ferris Wheel,’ ‘Manyel’ and ‘Soldacki’.
The Tomato Chooser app is available on the Apple App Store for $1.99. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Please leave a comment here if you try any of the varieties from the Chooser, and let us all know what you thought of them. Happy growing!
Shelley Stonebrook is MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine’s main gardening editor. She’s passionate about growing healthy, sustainable food and also runs Stonegrass Farms Soap Co. in her spare time. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.