What Is An 

   Heirloom Tomato?


According to two of my favorite tomato pals, experts Carolyn Male and Craig Lehoullier, respected tomato experts; heirloom tomatoes fall into one of four categories:


    The commercial heirloom tomato. Open pollinated tomato varieties more than 40 years old, introduced by seed companies before 1960. In the photograph, Yellow Pear.

   The family heirloom tomato.  Favorite tomato varieties whose seeds have been  saved and passed down from generation to generation. In the photograph, Aunt Ruby's German Green.


The created heirloom tomato.  A tomato that's been crossed deliberately using two heirlooms, or an heirloom and a hybrid, to have certain characteristics.  Initially a hybrid, it becomes dehybridized through saving and replanting the seeds for about 5 seasons, until it grows consistently true to what the grower has in mind.  In the photograph, Black Ruffles.


  The mystery heirloom tomato.  A tomato which arises accidentally from natural cross-pollination or mutation in the garden. This is the way most heirloom varieties originated.  In the photograph, Serendipity Striped.





The mystery 10 to 12 oz. tomatoes shown above, with a 4" pumpkin for size comparison, are from a variety called Brandokee, and were expected to be a deep, rich pink. So far, itís a mystery why these fruits grew out yellow in my garden in 2001. The flavor is sweet, just marvelous. We saved some seeds and have grown out more plants year after year. The resulting fruits are very sweet, big,  juicy, beautiful golden yellow tomatoes, some with a faint blush. It has been named Laurel's California Gold.


        Why don't tomatoes taste the way I remember?

Although a few hybrid varieties have been developed for great flavor; in general commercial tomato breeders have focused on hybridizing tomatoes to make them perfectly symmetrical and red, with a long shelf life, and durable enough to survive the rigors of automated harvesting and long-distance shipping, picked green, with no chance to ripen on the vine. Something had to go. Sadly, for tomato lovers, it was flavor.

         How can I get that old-fashioned tomato flavor?

Just plant some of these tantalizing heirloom tomato varieties in your home garden this year. They are easy to grow, and as hearty and disease resistant as commercial hybrids.  There is simply no comparison to the dry, grainy, flavorless things you find at the supermarket, where the boxes in which they ship taste better than the tomatoes. They have been compared to eating cardboard. This is an insult to cardboard.

       Are tomatoes really an aphrodisiac?



Recommended Reading ~ my favorite tomato books.

The Great Tomato Book, by Gary Ibsen, available here for $16.00. 

100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden, by Carolyn Male, available here for $18.00.

The Heirloom Tomato Cookbook by Mimi Luebbermann, available here for 18.00


      The Three Book Set is $50.00

For more information about these books and Laurel's Favorite garden products, click the link for the Growing Tips and Garden Products page. Growing Tips and Garden Products.


Homegrown heirloom tomatoes have the marvelous mouth-watering, warm-from-the-sun, old-time taste you remember, or may have never experienced...  a juicy, delicious, sweet & tangy, smooth & succulent, rich, elaborate old-fashioned tomato taste.

          " You need more tomatoes."  ~ Laurel


Home: www.heirloomtomatoplants.com

 original materials, photos and copy contained herein are protected by copyright and are the sole property of Laurel's Heirloom Tomato Plants.

Painting "Two Heirloom Tomatoes" by Tom Hapgood, used with the kind permission of the artist.