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What Are Dwarf Tomatoes?

What are dwarf tomatoes, anyway?  Does “dwarf” refer to the plant or the fruit?  You may have seen some dwarf tomato seeds being offered for sale, so let’s talk about what they are.

Once Upon a Time…

There were nine dwarves.  Wait, weren’t there only seven in the Snow White story?  Yes, but there are nine that are the base for the Dwarf Tomato Project.

In a nutshell, the Dwarf Tomato Project sought to breed some new dwarf tomato varieties.  While there were some already in existence, the vast majority were determinate tomatoes which didn’t usually grow all that big in the first place.

Dwarf tomato plants generally top out at 3 to 4 feet, which makes them ideal for anyone who wants to grow tomatoes in containers.  It’s also fantastic for people who want to grow their tomatoes in the ground, but they don’t have a lot of space.  Actually, the plants are ideal for almost anything (unless you really prefer huge tomato plants).

Funny story, for the Dwarf Tomato Project, they did start naming the different lines/lineages after the dwarves in Snow White.  Although they did have to come up with a couple of extra names, seeing as they ended up with 9 lines to start.

Are Dwarf Tomatoes Determinate or Indeterminate?

Rugose (left) and Regular (right) Tomato Leaves

Actually, there are both kinds. which makes it really exciting!  And there are dwarves with regular leaves and also potato leaves.  From what I can tell (so far) all the dwarf varieties have rugose-type leaves.  The rugose are thicker and “crinkly” compared to regular tomato leaves.

A picture can be worth a thousand words, so here is a photo that shows rugose leaves (on the left) compared to regular non-rugose leaves (on the right).

The picture with the rugose leaves was from one of my bush-type tomatoes.  They are shorter and stockier, with a thick main stem.  And they were all determinates, so they bore their fruits and then passed away.

These new dwarf indeterminates start bearing when the plants are smaller, much like a determinate.  But, they keep on producing, all the while slowly growing.

Fruit sizes vary, but most of the varieties that have piqued my interest so far have been in the 4 to 6 ounce range.  However, there are dwarf tomatoes which have large fruits — even up to a pound.  I will be growing one variety in 2020 that averages 10 ounces — definitely a good size!  But, I am also growing dwarf cherry-type plants, so they will be interesting as well.

Oh — the project also sought to make it so that the tomatoes themselves were tasty — no “plastic” tastes allowed!  😀

Dwarf tomato plants are an exciting new direction for the tomato garden.  I look forward to sharing my experiences with the dwarves with you, as they grow!