Every year we grow way to many tomato plants, with all the heirloom tomatoes out there it’s hard not to fall in love with the taste, beauty and heritage of these tomato plants. In this post I’ll share with you what makes heirloom tomatoes special, and the unique qualities of my favourites that you need to plant this year!
Have you ever tasted a tomato fresh from the garden, and wondered why it tastes so much better than the ones in the store? Maybe you’ve taken awe at the shapes, colours, and unique traits that homegrown backyard tomato plants have.
Heirloom tomatoes may have caught your eye and taste buds before, and that of many other gardeners. In fact these tomatoes are the result of the best of the best that nature intended saved by backyard gardeners and farmers.
Ready to discover what really makes these tomatoes special, of course.
Heirloom Tomato Varieties
What are Heirloom Tomatoes?
The term “heirloom” refers to older, well-established varieties of open-pollinated plants. These plants have developed stable genetic characteristics over time.
Often, classic heirloom varieties evoke a sense of nostalgia because they were often found in the gardens of older generations.
In fact, heirloom seeds can become an important part of a family’s history as they are passed down from one generation to the next.
Learn more about heirloom fruits and vegetables from the Farmers Almanac.
Hybrid plants, on the other hand, are the result of highly controlled cross-pollination between different varieties of the same species of plants.
Although cross-pollination can and does occur in nature, the results are too random to be reproduced and marketed on a mass scale. Therefore, the hybrids you see in stores are not open-pollinated like heirloom varieties.
In order to sell a hybrid variety commercially, its breeding must be carefully monitored in order to ensure the same characteristics are present across all plants sold under that name.
Unfortunately, this high level of human involvement in their development causes many to believe hybrid plant varieties are also “genetically modified.”
Which is Better: Heirlooms or Hybrids?
There is no right or wrong answer to that question. Heirlooms are often treasured for their delicious flavor, while many hybrids are prized for their vigor, high yields and superior disease resistance.
The biggest difference between the two is this: Heirloom varieties grow true from seeds. You can save and use their seeds year after year and get uniform results. Hybrids do not offer that type of genetic stability. Plants grown from the seeds of hybrid plants are unlikely to look or perform like the plant from which the seeds were collected.
So, if you like to collect and grow your garden from seeds, heirlooms are a better choice for you. If not, there is no need to limit your options to just one.
Heirloom Tomato Plants To Plant this Year
Best Heirloom Tomatoes
Like treasured jewelry or furniture that has been handed down through the family, heirloom seeds have been passed on through generations of gardeners and often hold interesting stories.
While there is no industry standard on what defines an heirloom, it is generally agreed that it must be an open-pollinated variety, meaning the seeds can be saved and grow “true”, nearly identical to the parent plant.
Thats why I’m proud to share Botanical Interests Heirloom seed collection with you as an example of the heirloom varieties that exist in our gardening zones in North America.
Botanical Interests considers open-pollinated varieties over 50 years old to be heirlooms.
Heirloom Tomato Seed Collection
Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomatoes
Cherokee Purple Pole Tomato Seeds
‘Cherokee Purple’ is said to have been given to a Tennessee family by the Cherokees over 100 years ago.
This treasured tomato has just the right balance of sweetness and even a hint of smoke, making it a winner in taste tests.
From summer to fall, you’ll harvest more than enough 10–12 oz. tomatoes from this well-regarded heirloom variety.
Provide support for vigorous vines that reach 6′ or more.
Italian Roma Bush Tomato Seeds
‘San Marzano’ may very well be the mother of all paste tomatoes, as it is believed by some tomato aficionados to be the parent of almost all the paste tomatoes bred in the U.S. since the 1920s.
For generations, Italians have cherished this large, paste tomato as the very best for sauce and canning, and when it comes to sauce, Italians would know!
Vigorous vines reach 6′ or more.
Brandywine Red & Yellow Blend Pole Tomato Seeds
Brandywines have been favored by tomato lovers for more than 100 years.
Fruits often weigh around a pound but can weigh close to 2 pounds!
‘Yellow Brandywine’ turns golden yellow when ripe, with a balance of sweet and tart
‘Red Brandywine’ has a rich, well-balanced tomato flavor.
Red seeds are stained with organic coloring to indicate the red tomato, while the yellow tomato seeds are their natural color.
Beefsteak Pole Tomato Seeds
Beefsteak’ is a century-old favorite not only for sandwiches, but also any dish calling for rich, tomato flavor.
Vines are so vigorous (up to 6′ or more) you will need a sturdy wire cage to support them and the 1–2-pound fruits!
Produces summer to fall.
Pineapple Pole Tomato Seeds
You’ll be impressed with this high-yielding variety.
These luscious tomatoes ripen to yellow-orange accented with hints of red that go through the solid, meaty interior of the fruit.
Large, beefsteak type fruits don’t have a lot of seeds but are filled with complex, low-acid tomato flavor with a hint of fruitiness that’s just the right balance of sweet and tangy.
Provide support for the tall plants and their heavy, 1–2-pound fruits.
Black Krim Pole Tomato Seeds
This Russian heirloom originated in Krymsk on the Black Sea in Russia.
Baseball-sized fruits weigh 10–12 ounces and have reddish-brown flesh filled with a rich, slightly salty flavor.
Fruit sets well in heat and is a reliable “black” tomato, producing even under adverse conditions from summer to fall.
Provide support for plants that can reach 6′ or more