Q: I love to can tomatoes I have grown in my garden. Since I live in southern Michigan, which kinds of tomatoes should I grow for the best canning results? Some of the ones I have grown in the past lost their shape and flavor during the canning process.
--Christine Hake, Paw Paw, MI
Canning is one of the best ways to save some of your summer harvest for year-round use. Michigan is in USDA Zone 5, which has enough summer heat to grow nearly all tomato varieties, as long as they have full sun and well-drained soil.
Choose tomatoes for canning that are flavorful, meaty, and, if you'll be canning whole tomatoes, small enough to fit through the opening of the jar. You can get a lot of information about tomato varieties from the Tomato Growers Supply Company catalog, which sells many different kinds of seeds. Here are just a few good choices for canning: The 'Opalka' variety is a newly available heirloom paste tomato originally from Poland. It has excellent flavor, is very meaty, and has few seeds. The fruit is generally about five inches long and is shaped like a banana pepper. 'La Roma' is a hybrid tomato that produces a significantly larger crop than the standard Roma. It tastes delicious, and like all plum tomatoes, has an ideal texture for canning. 'Classica' is a red pear tomato with wonderful flavor. The deep red fruit is perfect for canning, as well as for making sauces. It's also known for an exceptionally large crop.