How many Tomato Plants to grow?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans eat between 22- 24 pounds of tomatoes per person, per year. (More than half is consumed as ketchup and tomato sauce.)
One bushel of fresh tomatoes weighs 53 pounds and yields approximately 18 quarts of canned tomatoes or 15 to 18 quarts of juice. Approximately 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes makes 1 quart of canned tomatoes.
A single tomato plant can yield as much as 15-25 pounds per season depending on the variety.  Suppose I can get 15 pounds of tomatoes from each plant.  In a year’s time, my family of three will eat:

  •  16 quarts of pizza sauce (in 32 pint sized jars)
  •  10 quarts of marinara sauce
  •  18 quarts of salsa
  •  24 quarts diced/whole tomatoes

That’s 68 quarts of tomatoes!!
So, in order to stock our pantry with the tomato products we eat regularly, I’ll need to grow around 214 pounds of tomatoes. That means I’ll need between 14-20 tomato plants in order to accommodate my family’s needs.
Here are our favorite tomato varieties for Eating, Cooking and Canning:

Eating Fresh

Here are some great varieties to try:
Our Mortgage Lifters are great on sandwiches or with cottage cheese.
The Beefsteaks we grow have great flavor when freshly diced on pasta dishes.

Black Cherry : If you like cherry tomatoes – then you will LOVE this heirloom variety. They produce tons of small round black and reddish fruit that are perfect for salads, salsa – or just eating one after another! They have a super-sweet rich flavor that can’t even be compared to those bright red cherry tomatoes you find in the plastic boxes at the grocery store. They are a prolific producer – and keep on growing and producing until frost.
Brandywine: This is a favorite among so many gardeners – and for great reason – the flavor is amazing and they make a great slicing tomato! They grow very large and dense, and can also be used for canning great pasta sauce.
Cherokee Purple : It produces large, beefy tomatoes that have a dark deep red to purplish hue. When sliced open – they are meaty and make a mean tomato sandwich – but they also are great for juice and pasta sauce – and they give beautiful color and taste to fresh or canned salsa.

Tomatoes For Cooking
When it comes to cooking with tomatoes, we look for tomatoes with great flavor and that are heavy-walled, and stand up to temps in the oven or on the stove top.
Red Pearl Grape (Cherry) Tomato : Much like the black cherry tomato, these little cherry-style tomatoes are perfect for snacking on and for cooking in pasta dishes. Each plant produces hundreds of smaller tomatoes that are perfect for slicing in half and adding to penne or linguine dishes.
Valencia Orange Tomato: produces loads of perfectly shaped tennis ball-sized orange tomatoes. It cooks down perfectly to make fresh, super-sweet pasta sauces. It’s low acidity level doesn’t lend itself well for any canning applications.

Tomatoes For Canning
When it comes to canning, you really want plants that have great flavor, are heavy producers – and have higher acidity levels for safe canning. In addition to the following 3 varieties – the Purple Cherokee and Brandywine listed above are also great performers for canning as well. They are perfect for adding great flavor to canned juice and sauces.
Amish Paste : This is the heirloom variety of what most know as a “Roma” tomato. Thick walled and great for making sauces and ketchup – this is a perfect tomato for canners! They are also great for salads because they stay nice and firm when sliced.
Roma : Roma tomatoes – the other canning workhorse variety we plant each year. The Roma’s meaty substance makes it a great choice when it comes to thickening up our pasta and pizza sauce.
Black Krim : Another “Fantastic” tasting tomato! It originates from Russia, and has really become a favorite among heirloom tomato lovers. A word of caution – be prepared to support this one – it grows large!

tomato2

One final word… when raising tomatoes, always plant at least 10% MORE that what you think you will need. Blights, pests and weather can have a major impact on your yield, so always be prepared with extra plants.

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