Tomatoes That Can Well – What Are The Best Canning Tomatoes

By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden

In many areas we’re planning our summer gardens, and that usually means we’ll include tomatoes. Perhaps, you’re planning a big harvest and want extra tomatoes for canning. Let’s take a look at some of the best canning tomatoes.

Choosing Good Canning Tomato Varieties

Tomatoes that can well will have lots of meat, limited juiceand, of course, lasting flavor for the best results. Consider, do you want tomake sauce or put up the tomatoes whole? Perhaps chopped or sliced will workbetter. This is good to decide before you choose which tomatoes to grow.

Another question you will need to answer at some point is whetheryou use a pressure cooker or just a hot water bath. As with other fruits youpreserve, you’ll want all the jars to seal properly and sometimes that willdepend on the type of tomato you grow and the acidity found in that type.

Some tomatoes contain low-acid. Not enough acid in your mixture can deter sealing. Unfortunately, it may also allow botulism to develop. Low-acid tomatoes can be adjusted for the safest canning experience and a more secure seal. USDA guidelines recommend lemon juice or citric acid be added to home-canned tomatoes. Balsamic vinegar is another option. Or put low-acid tomatoes in a pressure canner to ensure safety and a proper seal.

Tomatoes That Can Well

Some say the best tomato canning tomato varieties are paste orromatomatoes. Some of those are included in the list below, along withsome of the best heirloom tomatoes for canning.

  • Clint Eastwood’s Rowdy Red – (open-pollinated, indeterminate type mature in about 78 days) Robust, bold taste with 8 oz. fruits. Deep red, firm flesh, lots of acidity. Said to be disease resistant. This interesting tomato was named after Rowdy Yates, the character played by Clint Eastwood in Rawhide.
  • Bison – (heirloom that matures in 70 days) Rich with some acidic flavor, these round and red tomatoes produce in cooler climates, even when it is damp. Great specimen for growing in a container. This is a determinate type.
  • Better Boy – (hybrid, 69-80 days to maturity) A long-time favorite for canning, this indeterminate tomato has lots of meat, though it’s a juicy slicer. Fruits are 8 oz. or bigger.
  • Amish Paste – (heirloom with 80 days to maturity) Few seeds and thick walls make this meaty heirloom type a great specimen for canning. A paste tomato, it grows flavorful 8- to 12-ounce fruits. A low moisture type, much of the meat remains through to the final sauce.
  • San Marzano – (heirloom that matures in 80 days) Limited seed cavities, a sweet flavor, and meaty flesh are characteristics of this traditional Italian paste favorite. It has especially low acid.

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Best Tomatoes for Canning

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We all love seeing those big beautiful heirlooms on farmer’s market tables. These days, they come in all the colors of the rainbow and every shape and size imaginable. A lot of what makes those varieties so tasty is their juice, which is perfect to add moisture and flavor to a salad or sandwich but will add work and frustration in a canning kitchen.

Fear not, heirloom lovers! Most people buying table tomatoes at a farmers market are looking for juicy heirlooms, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of excellent canning heirlooms available for the home grower.

While I’m sure grandma loved a good slicing tomato, she was keen enough to also select out low moisture, high flavor canning varieties and many of those seeds survive today.

The Best Tomatoes for Canning

It’s that time of year where the seed catalogs are starting to appear almost daily in my mailbox. Every season I pour over catalogs finding the best seeds for our home garden. This year I am going to be trying a few different grouping techniques in the garden including separating my vegetables and my flowers. Last year I tried a lot of companion style planing but certain varieties of flowers like cosmos and zinnias grew so large they overtook the vegetables which I believe led to a lot of powdery mildew on my tomato plants. There are hundreds and hundreds of tomato seeds and plant varieties out there and I used to overwhelm myself by growing so many different varieties simply because I wanted to see what they looked like. After a few seasons of doing this I realized that I don’t really care for raw tomatoes and I can a ton of different sauces, salsas and pureed tomatoes. There are certain tomatoes that are the best tomatoes for canning. They have minimal seeds and lots of “meat”. Last year I tried everything from seeds to buying young plants and I have a found a few tried and true favorites. I still grow many other tomatoes for salads and other cooking needs but growing about 10 of these varieties (mixed) Provided me with 24 quart jars, and 36 half pint jars of canned tomato goods.

Some tomato terms before we get started.

What is the difference between a determinate and indeterminate tomato?

Determinate tomatoes: Grow large and in charge and then the fruit ripens all at once (about a two week span) after that the plant will begin to shrivel back and produce little to no new fruit.

Indeterminate tomatoes: Will grow and produce fruit gradually until frost kills the plant.

A way that I like to remember is Determinate tomatoes are determined to produce all at once. Knowing the difference between these two types is helpful if you plan on succession planting. you can rip out your determinate plants once they are done producing to make room for late season summer crops or cold weather fall plants.

What is the difference between an heirloom and a hybrid tomato?

An heirloom tomato has been grown without cross breeding for over 40 years. Hybrid tomatoes are typically hand pollinated to crossbreed tomatoes to get the best characteristics. Things like resistance to disease and pests. Sometimes at the sacrifice of flavor. I am not against hybrids but I do notice a significant difference in taste and depth of color. That being said, I have to use a hefty amount of pest control for my tomatoes so if you are looking for something less maintenance, a hybrid variety might be a better fit for your garden. Just because it’s heirloom doesn’t mean it’s organic.

The Best Tomatoes for Canning

Cour Di Bue Tomato – One of my favorite tomatoes I grew last year was the Cour Di Bue from I ordered a few tomato plants for canning from this site and the plants and customer service was top notch. I had two plants show up a little under the weather and they sent me healthy replacements no questions asked. I will be ordering from them again this year as I was extremely happy with how the produce turned out and it was nice to not have to buy an entire packet of seeds. The Cour Di Bue Tomato produced a beautiful heart shaped tomato that was larger than my other canning varieties. The Cour Di Bue is an heirloom variety that takes between 70-80 days for maturity. If you would prefer seeds you can find them here.

Super Italian Paste Tomato – This was another plant I tried from I picked bushels and bushels of tomatoes from one of these plants. I had so many tomatoes for canning from one plant that I had to give them away before having them go to waste. These tomatoes have few seeds and are super flavorful. They made awesome ketchup (recipe here).

Amish Paste – Amish Paste tomatoes are great tomatoes for canning because like the Super Italian they have less seeds and more meat. Noticing a trend here? Amish Pastes are very prolific and tend to produce a majority of their tomatoes at once as they are (along with most paste tomatoes) determinate. They will produce large huge vines so they need hefty support but you will get a huge bounty of tomatoes. Most determinate varieties will produce all their fruit within a two week period which is nice for a long day of big batch canning.

San Marzano – The San Marzano is a flavorful cylinder shaped tomato that is slightly less acidic than other canning tomato varieties. It is also very prolific. I found that this variety kept it’s vibrant red color long after being canned making it perfect for sauces.

Roma – Romas are fast little buggers that have the same structure as a amish paste or a super Italian but they mature a week or so faster. Romas are one of my favorite varieties of tomatoes for canning because they are first to fruit, extremely hearty and prolific. I ordered one plant from grow veg, two from a roadside and started a few seeds of my own. Oddly enough the plants from the roadside stand didn’t produce near as well as my grow joy or seeds from baker creek. I used this variety for dehydrated tomatoes.

Costoluto Genovese – These are another one of my favorite varieties of tomatoes for canning because of their unique ripple shape. They are very flavorful and beautiful looking. They are wonderful sliced on a platter with some good olive oil and salt or put into sauces and ketchups for preserving.

These are all of the varities of tomatoes for canning that I grew for my 2020 garden but there are so many wonderful varities out there that are also good for canning. These include:

  1. Atkinson (heirloom)
  2. Bonny Best (heirloom)
  3. Bradley (heirloom)
  4. Sweetie (heirloom)
  5. Red Pear (heirloom)
  6. Big Mama (hybrid)
  7. Biltmore (hybrid)
  8. Fresh Salsa (hybrid)
  9. Gladiator (hybrid)
  10. Golden Fresh Salsa (hybrid)
  11. Green Envy (hybrid)
  12. Arkansas Traveler (heirloom)
  13. Heinz (hybrid)
  14. Opalka (heirloom)
  15. Rutgers (heirloom)

Use of Tomatoes

Tomatoes are classified according to their use. Are you looking for slicing tomatoes for making sandwiches? If so, those varieties often are labeled as beefsteak type tomatoes. They produce large, heavy fruit and need more heat during a longer growing season.

Do you plan to make tomato sauce? Those kinds of tomatoes are called paste or Roma tomatoes.

Or, do you primarily want to use tomatoes in salads? Look for varieties that produce smaller fruit within a shorter growing season and are labeled cherry or salad tomatoes.

We grow mostly beefsteak, salad, and some cherry tomatoes. Although we have grown paste tomatoes, I prefer using other tomatoes in making my homemade canned spaghetti sauce.

Watch the video: What To Do With All of Those Cherry Tomatoes PART 1

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