Heirloom tomatoes have become hugely popular for the last years. You can see them at grocery stores, at the markets and they found a special place in the menu of many restaurants. What is heirloom tomato? Does it taste better? Is it genetically modified? How to grow heirloom tomatoes? We shall answer all the questions, so read on!
Generally speaking tomatoes are divided in two categories – heirloom and hybrid. Many people are wondering what the difference between a heirloom tomato and a regular tomato is. When shopping, you may have noticed that those that are labeled as “heirloom” are pricier than other varieties. Why is that? Let’s see!
Table of Contents
- What Is Heirloom Tomato?
- Heirloom Vs Hybrid Tomatoes – What Are the Differences?
- Are Heirloom Tomatoes Genetically Modified?
- Are Heirloom Tomatoes Organic?
- Heirloom Tomatoes Are Seasonal and Have a Short Shelf Life
- Shapes and Colors
- Where Can You Get Heirloom Tomato Seeds?
- What Are the Best Heirloom Tomato Varieties?
What Is Heirloom Tomato?
We need to start with the most important question – what are heirloom tomatoes and why are they called that way? Heirloom tomatoes are those varieties that have been grown for 40-50 years without crossbreeding. The seeds are passed down from one generation to the next, hence the name “heirloom”. There are quite many myths about heirloom tomatoes so we shall look at the differences between them and hybrids.
Heirloom Vs Hybrid Tomatoes – What Are the Differences?
When you want to grow tomatoes, it is good to know the differences between hybrids and heirlooms. This will give you a pretty good idea what to expect and how to take care of your plants. Here is a list that will be helpful, especially if you are a beginner in growing your own vegetables.
As we explained above, heirloom tomato seeds are taken from the tomato itself and re-grown year after year. In simple words, this means that you know what you grow and expect the same result from the plant. With hybrid seeds it is more likely that you will get a different result in terms of yield, size, shape, taste, etc.
Both types are cross-pollinated. The difference is that a heirloom tomato is cross-pollinated by nature for many years and there is no need to monitor the process while with hybrid plants, you need to make sure that the plants have the best conditions for cross-pollination.
Are Heirloom Tomatoes Genetically Modified?
No, heirloom tomatoes are not genetically modified. Genetically modified plants are modified at a cellular level.
Are Heirloom Tomatoes Organic?
Not necessarily. What makes a plant organic is the way it is grown. If the farmer is not treating the plants with chemicals and pesticides, then the tomatoes will be organic. It is good to know, that heirloom tomatoes are more susceptible to pests and diseases, fungus, etc. In addition, heirloom varieties do not produce as much fruit per plant as hybrid varieties and generally have a lower yield which explains the higher price.
Heirloom Tomatoes Are Seasonal and Have a Short Shelf Life
Seasonality is a major feature of heirloom tomatoes. They cannot be grown all year round. Further to that, they have a short shelf life which means that it is best to consume them right after you buy them.
Shapes and Colors
Heirloom tomatoes come in a huge variety of shapes and colors – from yellow and green to red and purple.
Where Can You Get Heirloom Tomato Seeds?
There are many companies offering heirloom tomato seeds. Of course, you can join a group and ask for seeds, as there are many people willing to share. The simplest way to get heirloom tomato seeds is to simply cut a tomato in half and squeeze the seeds onto a kitchen towel. Let them air dry and store in a dry, well ventilated place until next season.
What Are the Best Heirloom Tomato Varieties?
Nowadays, you can choose from a wide variety of heirloom tomato seeds that you can grow in your garden. Some of them have interesting color, others are large in size or with interesting shape, so it depends on your personal preferences. Here are some of the best heirloom tomato varieties:
- San Marzano – probably the best known variety as it is often used in Italian dishes. It has a long red fruit and is perfect both fresh in salads and pasta sauce and for canning.
- Cherokee Purple Tomato – this variety is large in size and has a purple color. It is delicious in salads.
- Yellow Pear Tomato gets its name by its color and shape. It is small, yellow and looks like a pear.
- Black Cherry Tomato is excellent when combined with other varieties. It has a rich taste and flavor.
- Black Krim Tomato is medium to large-sized and is great for slicing. Its color ranges from deep red to dark purple with a black tint.
- Big Rainbow Tomato is easily recognized for the marbled red and yellow fruit.
Other heirloom tomatoes varieties that you can grow are Brandywine Pink Tomato, Black Russian, German Johnson, Oxheart Pink, Beauty Queen or King Tomatoes, etc.