Through all my many years of gardening I’ve heard about these Heirloom Tomatoes. I’ve seen them in the local nurseries and the Regional Farmers Market, but never tried to grow them. Which brings me to my quest to figure out what the heck these Heirloom Tomatoes are all about?
When I started to dig into this a bit, no pun intended, I found out Heirloom tomatoes are considered to be a variety of tomato plants that have been passed down through several generations. Ok, I get that. It makes total sense because heirlooms are known to be items that are pasted on to your children or other family members, But why tomatoes and when did this start?
The earliest record of the use of the word “heirloom” to describe tomatovarieties is 1940. Now with over 4,000 tomato varieties, choosing the heirloom tomatoes that you want to raise is sure to be a difficult task. Heirloom tomatoes come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, and tastes.
The history of the Heirloom Tomatoes could be how it was introduced originally. Or it could be more a geographical thing of where the tomato originated and how it came into use. The popular “Brandywine” was developed by Amish farmers near Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1885. Or perhaps the story of the tomato is a family one where a particular heirloom variety has been used in the same family for generations.
In order to become an heirloom tomato, the variety much meet three criteria; it must be produced from 100% heirloom tomato seeds of the same variety, no cross-varieties, the tomato must have been produced for more than 50 years, and each variety of heirloom tomatoes must have it’s own story to tell.
After doing a little research and learning about the Heirloom Tomatoes my next question is “Do heirlooms really taste any better than a store bought tomato?”
What I know about store bought tomatoes these days is that they travel farther and farther to get to our plates. And all this traveling means hybrid tomatoes are being bred for traits like storage and disease resistance at the expense of taste, color, and texture.
During the 2010 Seed Savers Exchange 4th Annual Tomato Tasting event that takes place during Labor Day weekend, that’s right folks a tomato tasting event where an estimated 1000 people tried 35 different heirloom tomatoes. I have to get me there.
Here are some comments from the tasting event.
“Hard to believe these are all tomatoes.”
“I can’t believe how many different flavors there are.”
“These tomatoes really are better.”
Now the last quote (“Gross!” ) was probably a clone of my youngest son. He will eat a vegetable, as long as it processed and looks and tastes like a hot dog. The other quotes sound like heirlooms will taste better then the store bought kinds. There are so many Heirloom varieties to choose from I’m sure you can find the right one for your tastes. And once you find that perfect tomato, you only have to buy it once. That’s because heirloom tomatoes are a great way for home gardeners to get started saving seed.
So after looking into the Heirloom Tomatoes I’ve decided to give them a shot. This year I started to grow Alicante, Sausage and Brandywine Black Heirloom Tomato Plants. I’ll keep you posted on their progress.
Towards the fall I will start looking into how to save seeds to replant next season.
As Joe Dirt would say “Life’s a garden, dig it”. Until next time, have a great day.