The other evening, Lara & I were preparing dinner.
I said “our sauce is going to be so delish using these heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market“
Lara said – “what’s an heirloom tomato?”
Hmmm….Couldn’t exactly put it into words….I said something about the seeds & the funny shapes.
Not a solid response ~ so I needed to really find out.
Thought maybe you’d like the answer too. Hence, this post.
We toss around names, descriptions & sometimes don’t really know what we are talking about … kinda, but not exactly.
I like to know stuff & since you are here, you probably like to know stuff too.
Maybe you know the heirloom answer already, if so share with me something else you want to know about & I will provide.
What is an Heirloom Tomato
or maybe better stated…
What Makes a Tomato an Heirloom
An heirloom tomato is one which has been around since at least 1940 or pre WWII. Not the actual tomato of course ~ the seeds!
The seeds of an heirloom tomato have been passed down from generation to generation in a particular region.
So kinda like a family heirloom…imagine “Uncle Earl has left you his prized heirlooms and you are handed a folded, dirty envelope filled with tiny beige seeds.
Well, in that scenario you may be a bit disappointed, but not with the taste of heirloom tomatoes.
Heirloom tomatoes are open pollinated. That means they are pollinated by insects or the wind. Not by human intervention.
The other type of tomatoes are hybrids.
Hybrid tomatoes are pollinated with human intervention. They are bred to have commercially attractive characteristic and to travel well to stores. As such, hybrids are genetically mutated. Not bad mutation, just engineered to be a certain way.
The hybrid mutation gives those tomatoes red color, regular shape & ability to travel well but impedes their ability to make sugar. As a result they taste pretty bland.
Heirlooms have no genetic mutation. Without such, heirlooms are varied in color, wonky in shape, but they can pump up the sugar, hence the better flavor.
Just like people, don’t judge a tomato by its appearance. The green/purple mis-shapened one might not win a beauty contest, but will take the trophy for taste!
Varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes
There are a variety of heirloom tomatoes available these days such as:
- San Marzano
- Green Zebra
- Gardener’s Delight
- Cherokee Purple
- Big Rainbow
- Chocolate Cherry
Collecting Heirloom Seeds
You can buy heirloom tomatoes at your local grocer or farmer’s market.
Once you do, you can harvest your own seeds. Then you can pass them down to your kids! No, you can plant them again next year and the year after that.
Collecting heirloom seed is as easy as picking ripe tomatoes, chopping or mashing into a jar till less than half-full, filling with water, shaking from time to time and allowing to sit for 1–6 days until seeds sink to the bottom.
Once the seeds have sunk to the bottom, scoop them out and rinse until the seeds are clean. Then lay them out on a paper towel or cloth in a safe place to dry out.
Once dry, put them in an envelope and include them in your will. Just kidding!!
Put the envelope in a spot you will remember & plant them next year.
To learn all about growing tomatoes read here.
We were so hungry I didn’t take photos of dinner. I will next time we make our simple heirloom tomato sauce & share it with you.
Feel free to let me know anything home & garden related that you’d like to know more about.
** Kelly **