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Heirloom Tomato – Best Tomato Varieties

4 March 2010 No Comment

Heirloom tomatoes, also known as “heritage” tomatoes, are tomatoes whose seeds have been openly pollinated and passed down from one generation to the next since 1940 or earlier. Many heirloom tomato varieties offer traits that have been bred out of hybrid commercial tomato varieties, giving them characteristics and flavors that you won’t find in tomatoes grown from non-heirloom seeds. Heirloom tomato varieties have adapted and thrived for sometimes hundreds of years, creating genetically unique strains that do not suffer from the blandness that is evident in some hybrid strains.

A tomato’s origin is an important part of it being classified as an heirloom tomato. Commercial heirloom tomatoes must have been in circulation for at least 50 years in order to qualify, while family heirlooms need to have been passed within the family for several generations. It is possible for hybrid tomatoes to qualify as heirlooms, but they must be a hybrid of two known tomato heirloom strains and then be openly pollinated for up to 8 years or more to remove the hybridization from the resulting strain. Heirlooms are top tomatoes, and it’s not possible to create new heirloom strains without an investment of time.

Growing heirloom tomatoes is generally quite easy, as heirloom seeds come from strains that have adapted to their environments and stood the test of time. As tomato heirlooms are often cultivated organically through the generations, they may require a bit more insect prevention and care than some hybrid strains as they have not had pest and disease resistance bred into them. Most heirloom strains can thrive with very little extra care, however, and any effort that is put into them will be repaid with plentiful and delicious tomatoes when the harvest comes around.

Heirloom tomatoes can vary greatly in color, size and taste; “Big Rainbow” heirloom tomatoes bear large yellow fruits with red swirls and are generally mild and sweet, while “Brandywine” heirloom tomatoes are pink and offer a more robust (yet excellent) tomato flavor. Other popular varieties include “Black Krim” and “Cherokee Purple” heirlooms that are so dark that they appear almost black, and “Mortgage Lifter” heirlooms that are purported to have once produced a crop of large pink fruits that were delicious and plentiful enough to save a family farm.

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