ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is an heirloom tomato?

Updated on August 24, 2014
Patsybell profile image

I inherited my love of gardening from mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, and Master Gardener emeritus.

Big and juicy

Sliced Pineapple and Paul Robeson heirloom tomatoes have that  rich, old fashioned tomato flavor.
Sliced Pineapple and Paul Robeson heirloom tomatoes have that rich, old fashioned tomato flavor. | Source

Tomatoes with a story

Heirloom has many defintions. My definition is a plant that has been passed down for generations. Usually these plants are indeterminate, open-pollinated (non-hybrid) plants that lack disease resistance.

It's easy to pass down heirloom seeds for generations because seeds can be collected and will show the traits of the original seed. Collecting pure or true seed that faithfuly reproduce similar plants is possible because tomatoes are generally self pollinating.

Season stretching indeterminate heirlooms are usually big tomato plants needing strurdy staking or support. Heirlooms that are indeterminate are continuously growing bigger and taller. They produce fruit until first frost, are usually preferred by home gardeners.

Determinate tomatoes grow to a defined height and generally produce all their fruit at once. A good choice for containers or when you want a lot of tomatoes all at once for recipe making or preserving.

Heirlooms often lack disease resistance. Since these tomatoes have been around for generations, it's not usually an obsticle. This is seldon a problem in a clean garden using crop rotation and organic gardening practices.

Heirlooms are the tomatoes we love and want to pass on to future generations.

Heavy producer

Grow an endless supply of these little Riesentraube tomatoes on indeterminate vines. Volunteer seedling tomatoes come up every year in the garden.
Grow an endless supply of these little Riesentraube tomatoes on indeterminate vines. Volunteer seedling tomatoes come up every year in the garden. | Source

Are heirlooms better?

Big heirloom tomatoes are the darlings of the garden these days. You can find a few heirlooms at the big box garden centers. But for the best choice - pick the tomatoes with a past.

My neighbor always has the first ripe tomato of the season. I suspect she's made a deal with the devil.

Most heirlooms will not survive commercial production. They are usually thin skinned and just simply could not survive the transport.

Buying seeds online or from a catalog will give you a huge selection of tomatoes. For example, you usually won't find Royal Hillbilly or Carbon tomatoes locally. See if there is an organic grower at your farmers market.

Most of my tomato choices are heirlooms. I try some different tomato varieties every year and keep keep the best tomato choices from last year. One year I grew all black tomatoes; like Carbon and Paul Robeson. That was a very good, juicy and abundant year.

This year I am growing several oganic bicolor heirlooms. Bicolor and striped tomatoes are often red and yellow, like Copia or Gold Medal. They can be green like the Black Stripe and Green Zebra tomatoes.

Define "heirloom"

Ask the next three gardeners you see, "Whats an Heirloom?" They might say, "A variety that has been passed down through a family for generations," or "An herb, fruit or vegetable that has been around for 50 or 100 years" or "Any plant that was grown befor World War II."

The term "heirlooms" can apply to any plant, not just tomatoes.

My neighbor who usually wins "Earliest Tomato" victories may be because she usually grows hybrids bred to produce early. I usually grow big heirlooms that ripen later in the season.

The neighbor who made the deal with the devil? She's not talking. (To me.)

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    6 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Most heirlooms just keep growing and producing tomatoes until frost. Be prepared to install heavy duty tomato cages when you plant the tomato

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)