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The Benefits of Growing Heirloom Tomatoes and Potatoes

Updated on February 17, 2013
Colorful heirloom tomatoes
Colorful heirloom tomatoes | Source

About Heirloom Tomatoes and Potatoes

The Benefits of Growing Heirloom Tomatoes and Potatoes

Two very popular and nutritious foods are virtually inedible today. The red tomatoes on the supermarket shelves are specifically bred for long distance travel with no consideration for nutrition. The common white potatoes are so heavily sprayed with pesticides that only organic potatoes are recommended. What we are eating now are known as hybrids - a cross between two or more varieties.

As more and more people demand nutrition from their foods, an option is heirloom fruits and vegetables. If you can't grow them, look for them at your local farmer's market.

What is an heirloom plant?

Heirloom fruits and vegetables are defined in several different ways.

For tomatoes:

- the variety has to grow from seed that has been saved from a previous fruit

- the seeds must have been available for over 50 years (the Brandywine has been grown for more than 100 years).

- the heirloom tomato must then have its own history or folklore.

For potatoes:

- it can be considered if it is a cultivar that has been grown for a particular length of time - usually quite long.

- it can be considered an herloom plant because it has been preserved and passed down by a group or family.

What is meant by an open - pollination?

This term is commonly applied to heirloom plants because when the seeds are planted the next generation of plants will look like the parent. With potatoes it is a bit different because they are not grown from seeds. Potatoes grow by planting the buds (or eyes) that naturally sprout from the potatoes.

With hybrids and genetically modified potatoes there are no eyes so you cannot plant from previous potatoes - you always have to buy more seeds.

How is it more nutritious?

Unlike the mass produced foods of today that are shipped long distances and must be able to survive, with heirlooms this was not necessary. Heirlooms were grown locally and did not have to survive shipment. Recent research has also shown that the newer vegetables and fruits of today have significantly less nutitional value than heirlooms plants.

What about pest problems?

Locally grown food tends to survive pest attacks and avoid diseases. Planting food that is best for your soil and climate gives the heirloom the opportunity to be the most pest-resistant type of plant. By saving seeds from your own previous grown successful heirlooms, each year the plants will become hardier and more reliable.

About the heirloom tomato

What makes the tomato unique is that genetically they have evolved with natural resistance to both pests and disease. Heirloom tomatoes have been adapted for centuries to thrive in different climates and in various growing conditions.

The heirloom tomato is also an open pollinator - this means it is grown from the seed of an earlier fruit. Hybrids, a cross between two or more plants means the seeds must be purchased annually.

Look for a wide range of colors such as green, purple, white, pink, black, orange and stripes.

About the heirloom potato

Heirloom potatoes are not the common hybrid potatoes found in the average supermarket. Scientists have not altered heirloom potatoes to create the large tubers we have become used to.

You'll have the pleasure of enjoying taste when you bite into the many different colors of the heirloom. The more colorful potatoes tend to have a flavor that is stronger than the creamy whites or yellow.

A major benefit of heirloom potatoes is their gradual growth. Because heirlooms are less uniform than the mass produced hybrids, they tend to ripen at different times. This allows you to have a slower harvest and gradual supply for eating.

Added benefit - the costs of heirlooms

The cost of heirlooms is generally less expensive than buying hybrids. There is even a greater money saving benefit because with heirloom potatoes you will use the buds - with tomatoes you use seeds. Your annual cost will now be zero dollars.

Also consider growing potatoes native to the environment. See links below for these potatoes.

For more information on heirloom tomatoes and potatoes, see the links below.

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Have You Ever Grown or Eaten Heirloom Tomatoes or Potatoes?

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    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      What a shock that we cannot find tasty foods. Since I have been around so long I remember when tomatoes were soooo good - now I can't be bothered to even try, they are tasteless.

      Thanks for the comments!

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I've been trying to find decent tomatoes for the last 20 years, but I'm convinced they no longer exist. After trying over and over but having to throw out the tomatoes that look good but are totally tasteless I have given up hope of finding "real" tomatoes. Recently I bought a couple of tomatoes labeled "heirloom," but they weren't good either. Potatoes aren't quite so bad, but I don't think I'll ever have any as good as a bushel I bought in Massachusetts about 25 years ago! Thanks for shedding more light on this subject. I hope I'm wrong and that someday we'll be able to buy truly good tomatoes and potatoes again.

    • akune profile image

      akune 5 years ago from Surrey, England, United Kingdom

      Thank you for this

    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I have not been happy with the tomatoes that I have been purchasing this summer at the supermarket. They are firm on the outside but sort of mushy in the middle. I thought maybe it had to do with the weather and growing conditions. Recently I purchased some at the local farmer's market and the quality was much better. Now I am more informed thanks to your hub on heirlooms.