What is Considered an Heirloom Tomato? Important Facts

Heirloom tomato varieties come from previous generations. It is due to the farmers’ practice of saving the best seeds each year. Their genetic diversity gives them various colors and odd shapes. How do heirloom varieties differ from hybrids and GMOs?

Farmers pass down heirloom tomatoes from one generation to the next. Heirlooms come from open-pollinated plants. That means insects, birds, animals, wind, or rain pollinate the tomato flower. They are not hybrids or have not undergone genetic modifications.

Heirloom tomatoes breed true. It means heirloom tomato seeds will produce plants like their parent plant. You also can get similar fruit year after year. 

Some heirloom varieties date back to the 1800s. The DNA of an heirloom variety comes from the same stable cultivar on both sides. People grow heirlooms for food, historical interest, expanded variety access, and seed preservation.

Hybrid seeds do not always breed true. Farmers will need to keep buying hybrid seeds to get the same plants. Plant breeders cross-pollinate two different plant varieties to get a hybrid tomato. 

Cross-pollination is a natural process that occurs within the same plant species members. Increasing the flavor of hybrid varieties is not a top priority. 

The main focus of breeding is to enhance resistance to pests and diseases, thick skin, and firm flesh. It will make harvesting them easier using machines.

Scientists create GMOs (genetically modified organisms) by altering DNA in a laboratory. Heirloom tomatoes are often hardier than GMOs or hybrids. They tend to taste better than non-heirloom varieties as well.

What Are The Four Different Categories Of Heirloom Tomatoes?

1) Commercial heirlooms: open-pollinated varieties more than fifty years in circulation.

2) Family heirlooms: A family’s passed-down seeds over several generations.

3) Created heirlooms: Crossing two known parents. Then de-hybridizing the resulting seeds for many years.

4) Mystery heirlooms: natural cross-pollination of other heirloom varieties.

What Is So Special About Heirloom Tomatoes?

Farmers have been growing heirloom varieties without crossbreeding them for over 50 years. Typical supermarket tomatoes are hybrids that researchers have crossbred to get particular characteristics. 

Heirlooms tomatoes are easy to bruise and have a short shelf life. They need extra care in transportation and storage. They are juicier, tastier, and pricier too.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Heirloom Tomatoes?

The soft and thinner skin is liable to crack or bruise. Heirloom tomatoes are moderate to low yields compared to hybrid varieties. Disease resistance and predictable harvest are less. 

Heirlooms will give you about half of the crops you expect from hybrid or modified plants. The produce will also be less pleasing and perfect in appearance.

Heirloom plants will grow wild and may need more space. They will need strong trellises to support and good pruning. They are more sensitive to diseases, pest infestations, and environmental conditions.

Are Heirloom Tomatoes Safe To Eat?

Lycopene in heirloom tomatoes helps relieve oxidative stress in people. It also protects your skin from harmful UV rays. 

Heirloom tomatoes are a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals. The potassium in them lowers blood pressure and folate levels. It helps reduce heart attack threats.

What Is The Difference Between Heirlooms And Regular Tomatoes?

Regular tomatoes are famous for their yield, disease resistance, and shelf life. Heirloom varieties are significant for their color, shape, and flavor. Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated, so you can save seeds and plant them. 

Regular tomatoes have a uniform appearance. Heirlooms often come with deep cracks and bumps.

Which Is Better, Heirloom Or Hybrid?

Farmers have been passing down heirloom varieties from generation to generation. So, heirlooms have become well-adapted to specific places and climates.

Heirlooms have gained a natural defense against certain pests and diseases. Without resorting to chemicals, farmers can beat lots of issues.

Hybrids are beneficial when looking for consistency in the size and shape of produce. It is a cross between two varieties of the same species. 

Scientists deposit pollen on stigmas of different types to create hybrids. Merging the best characteristics helps them meet garden challenges.

Heirloom Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes

Do Heirlooms Taste Better?

Heirloom tomatoes taste better than hybrid varieties. Their exceptional flavor strengthens when passed down throughout the ages. Yellow heirloom tomatoes have milder tastes with less acidity. The pink ones are the sweetest, with a good balance of acidity and sugar. 

Black ones have an earthier flavor that some people may call smoky. Striped heirloom tomatoes are tongue-catching with their sweet and juicy taste.

Why Is Heirloom So Expensive?

Growing difficulties, high delicacy, and shorter shelf life make heirloom tomatoes more expensive. Lack of mass production, less availability, and transport issues enhance its price. Due to their unique color and flavor, they are in high demand

Heirloom tomatoes need extra care and attention, resulting in high prices. They need a longer growing season. Many believe they are worth the price because of their superior flavor.

Are Heirloom Tomatoes Rare?

Heirloom tomatoes are rare and in danger of extinction. With no immediate action, they will disappear in another generation or two. Growing these different varieties helps increase global agricultural biodiversity. 

Heirloom tomato consumption encourages farmers to cultivate and preserve them. It will help keep these endangered heirloom tomato varieties from extinction.

Are Heirlooms Healthier?

The Juiciness and sweetness of a good heirloom tomato are like a cherry or a grape. The best time to pick heirloom tomatoes is at the peak of their ripeness. It gives them higher vitamin content. Their antioxidant diversity helps protect our cells from aging.

Growing And Caring Methods For Heirloom Tomatoes

You can save heirloom tomato seeds in two main ways. Let the tomato reach its full ripeness. Remove the seeds with a spoon. Spread them on a piece of paper or cloth to dry. The fermentation process is the second method to save seeds.

Determinate and indeterminate are the two types of tomato plants. The heirloom tomatoes need lots of sunlight, rich soil, mulching, and regular watering. They also need the support of trellis, stakes, and cages to thrive.


Brandywine, San Marzano, Cherokee chocolate, and Marvel stripe are examples of heirloom tomatoes. Some consider Green Zebra a created heirloom as it is a bred variety.

Some heirloom varieties are at least 50 years old. Some are over 200 years old. Farmers will often pass heirloom tomato seeds to their children. Many believe it is vital to keep these heirloom varieties alive. It will help preserve the plant’s genetic diversity.

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