Killer Farm Tomatoes Attack

The Heirlooms vs The Hybrids

What is all the recent hype surrounding heirloom tomatoes? What is the difference between a heirloom and a hybrid tomato? Are heirloom tomatoes any better for you than the more typical “commercial” varieties?  We are going to answer these questions by examining our mild mannered friendly fruit,  Solanum lycopersicum.

From a botanical standpoint, tomatoes are indeed a fruit and a part of the nightshade family.  However, in 1893 the Supreme Court ruled that the tomato should be classified as a vegetable for import and customs regulation purposes.  There are around 7500 varieties of tomatoes (according to Wikipedia) and they are divided in several categories that are mainly indicated by shape and size – Globe, Beefsteak, Oxheart, Plum or Paste, and Cherry.

We grow a wide variety of tomatoes at the farm,  mostly heirloom type but also some of the  hybrids.  The term heirloom is used vaguely to describe tomato varieties that are openly pollinated as opposed to a hybrid tomato that has been bred through controlled pollination to perfect the tomato and make it more attractive. Every heirloom variety is genetically unique and inherent in this uniqueness is an evolved resistance to pests and diseases and predisposition to specific growing conditions and climates. Hybrids on the other hand can have advantage over the heirlooms in the field because of their selective breeding making them more resistant to disease and pests.

The short answer is that hybrid tomatoes (Early Girl, Celebrity, Beefmaster, Cherry) might be a bit less flavorful if purchased at the store but are far better looking than heirloom tomatoes due to their genetic adaptations. The most popular hybrids for commercial growers have been bred for shipping, so are hard and perfect. They look better but don’t have much flavor.  I think most would agree that the hybrid varieties grown on our farm are very flavorful because they are allowed to ripen while on the vine and picked at the right time. 

Heirlooms, while they may be lacking in the desirable outward appearances, are decidedly sweeter and have a much more intense flavor than their tomato cousins, proving once again that beauty really is only skin deep. An added bonus is that the heirlooms have way cooler names – the Cherokees, Mister Stripey, Russian Purples, Brandywines, and Zebras help boost their image substantially.

Nutritionally speaking, all tomatoes pack a whallop with Vitamins A, B1, B3, B6, C, E and K, trace minerals Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Phosphorus and antioxidants Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Lycopene.

Here are some of the interesting varieties of tomatoes that you will find in your CSA boxes and on the farm!

Category:  Globe
Name:  Celebrity
Type:  Hybrid
Origin:  USA

Ambitions:  Ditch this hybrid image and finally live up to my name!



Category:  Globe
Name:  Mister Stripey
Type:  Heirloom
Origin:  USA
People I Look Up To:  Mister Rogers



Category:  Beefsteak
Name:  Pink Brandywine
Type:  Heirloom
Origin:  USA
Favorite Hangout:   Between some avocado, lettuce and maybe some bacon!



Category:  Oxheart
Name:  Fuzzy Peach
Type:  Heirloom
Origin:  USA
Fun Fact:  These are pretty rare, super sweet and yep, they have a fuzzy exterior!



Category:  Beefsteak
Name:  Cherokee Purple
Type:  Heirloom
Origin:  USA
History:  Reportedly over 100 years old, this variety, as the name suggests was grown by the Cherokee people in Tennessee.

Category:  Globe
Name:  Green Zebras
Type:  Heirloom
Origin:  USA
Alter Ego:  Dubbed a “modern” heirloom it comes in red and black (with green stripes) too!

Category:  Plum
Name:  Purple Russian
Type:  Heirloom
Origin:  Ukraine
Rumor Has It:  The seed for this old Ukrainian variety originally came from Irma Henkel of the Ukraine in the 1980s.

Category:  Beefsteak
Name:  Pineapple
Type:  Heirloom
Origin:  France
AKA: Hawaiian Pineapple, Pineapple Pie

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