Heirloom tomatoes. I think we have all seen them. Big, plump and multicolored. But what are they and where did they come from? According to Carolyn Male and Craig Lehoullier, two top tomato experts, heirlooms fall into four categories:
Where did the term “heirloom” come from you ask? Well Kent Whealy of Seed Savers Exchange first used “heirloom” in relation to plants in a speech he gave in Tucson Arizona in 1981. He had asked permission to use the term “heirloom” from a man named John Withee, who had used it on the cover of his bean catalog. John had taken the term from Professor William Helper at the University of New Hampshire, who first used “heirloom” to describe beans that friends gave him back in the 1940’s. To me heirloom means a family item that has been passed down for many years and is kept within the family. Pretty cool how it was applied to tomatoes.
Heirloom tomatoes have a large range of flavors and colors. The best tasting tomatoes you have ever had! Their flavors range from smoky and deep to candy-like and sweet. You never know, your neighbor could be growing the best tomatoes in the world in their backyard and you would never know it. Heirlooms are a dying breed. You should be able to find them at some farmers markets and maybe a few big box stores. But if we could teach our children to keep their own gardens, the future could have an abundance of heirlooms and not just tomatoes but all types of heirloom vegetables. Wouldn’t that be sweet??
Want to read more about heirloom flavors? Check out this article.
And learn some new greenhouse tomato growing tips here.