You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato - Heirloom Tomato Basics

Now I'm no tomato aficionado, but I do know a savory marinara sauce when I smell one, or a summer fresh capresse salad when I taste one!

But what I don't know much about are the oh so popular heirloom tomatoes. So I did a bit of reading and thought I'd share the basics I learned...

An heirloom is generally considered to be a variety that has been passed down, through several generations of a family because of it's valued characteristics. Since 'heirloom' varieties have become popular in the past few years there have been liberties taken with the use of this term for commercial purposes.

*Tomato experts, Craig LeHoullier and Carolyn Male, have classified heirlooms into four categories:

Commercial Heirlooms: Open-pollinated varieties introduced before 1940, or tomato varieties more than 50 years in circulation.

Family Heirlooms: Seeds that have been passed down for several generations through a family.

Created Heirlooms: Crossing two known parents (either two heirlooms or an heirloom and a hybrid) and dehybridizing the resulting seeds for how ever many years/generations it takes to eliminate the undesirable characteristics and stabilize the desired characteristics, perhaps as many as 8 years or more.

Mystery Heirlooms: Varieties that are a product of natural cross-pollination of other heirloom varieties.

**Heirloom tomatoes are also divided into fruit size categories:

Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes – small bite-sized or salad sized tomatoes.
Heirloom Paste Tomatoes – meaty flesh with fewer seeds.
Heirloom Slicing Tomatoes – large, round tomatoes also called “beefsteak” tomatoes.
Heirloom Shaped Tomatoes – odd-shaped tomatoes that don’t fit into typical categories.

**And, heirloom tomato color categories:

Red Heirloom Tomatoes – The well-known and popular color for tomatoes.
Orange and Yellow Heirloom Tomatoes – Lower in acid than typical red tomatoes, these heirlooms would be a great choice for anyone suffering from ulcers.
Pink or Purple Heirloom Tomatoes – Second lowest acid content they are similar in flavor to the red tomatoes.
Green Heirloom Tomatoes – Unusual tomatoes that remain green tinted even when fully ripe.
White Heirloom Tomatoes – Often sweeter than others, these are white or near white tomatoes.
Striped Heirloom Tomatoes – Some of the most unusual tomatoes of all these can be red and yellow; green and orange or anything in between.

So that's the basics- now it's on to growing... a whole other subject! For growing basics can be found here. Lots of work to be sure but with names like Turkey Chomp, Wayahead, Bloody Butcher and Kellogg's Breakfast they've gotta be great!

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