Tomatoes are the most popular plant in home gardens. They are part of the nightshade family, which includes potatoes and eggplant. Early explorers in Central America found tomatoes being grown by the Aztecs, brought plants back to Europe and later introduced them into North America.
In general, tomato plants grow on a bush and can grow in height to more than 9 feet. The leaves can be up to 12 inches long, and each leaf has five to nine leaflets. The plants produce yellow flowers with five points. The tomato is a perennial but is usually grown as an annual. There are six main groups of tomato varieties.
Cherry tomatoes are bite-sized and ripen early. The grape tomato is very similar to the cherry, but more egg-shaped and with a sweeter taste. Both varieties are good container plants. Among the cherry/grape varieties with foliage that differs from most tomato plants is the Galina, which has a dark-green leaf similar to a potato plant, and the Micro Tom, a dwarf variety with a deep-crinkled leaf. The Red Robin, another dwarf variety, also has a deep-crinkled leaf.
Main crop tomatoes mature in early to mid-summer and produce big, round fruits. The main crop tomatoes, which in some classifications include the beefsteaks, include some with foliage that is more similar to potato and carrot leaves than what is typically thought of as tomato leaves. Among those are the Imur Prior Beta, Kimberly and Stupice. The Silvery Fir Tree tomato has foliage similar to the carrot plant.
The beefsteak tomato is the largest of the tomato fruits. They are among the last varieties of tomatoes to mature. Most types of beefsteak plants are similar to other types of tomato plants, though the Brandywine Pink, Brandy Boy Hybrid and Earl's Faux have foliage similar to the potato plant.
Also known as the plum tomato, Romas are cylindrical and often have a pointed bottom. These are used to make paste, sauces and ketchup. The Opalka has wilted-looking leaf foliage that makes it easy to identify, and the Stripe Roman type has wispy leaf foliage.
Long keeper tomatoes are small, yellow-orange and can be stored for several months if kept in a cool place. The Extreme Bush type is easy to identify because its leaves curl up and in.
Bethney Foster is social justice coordinator for Mercy Junction ministry, where she edits the monthly publication "Holy Heretic." She is also an adoption coordinator with a pet rescue agency. Foster spent nearly two decades as a newspaper reporter/editor. She graduated from Campbellsville University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English, journalism and political science.