Lee Valley Tools Gardening Newsletter
Vol. 3, Issue 3
June 2008
 
Growing Heirloom Tomatoes
 
 
 
Assorted heirloom tomatoes
 
 
The author's home-grown bounty of heirloom tomatoes.
 
     
  Textbook definitions of heirloom plants suggest that any variety cultivated before 1940, the first year of hybrid introductions, can be declared an heirloom. However, purists contend that the only true heirloom plants are those that have been passed down through generations, not just those that date prior to 1940.

The tomato is biologically categorized as a fruit and is similar to other seed-producing garden favorites such as peppers and melons. Gardeners have historically referred to it as a vegetable, and little effort has been made to change that distinction.

Hybrids Versus Heirlooms
 
 
  • A hybrid plant is the result of crossbreeding two genetically different varieties to create a new one. Heirloom plants are open-pollinated. Their seeds are true to type, meaning they produce plants with exactly the same traits as the parents.
  • Many hybrids have built-in disease resistance; most heirlooms do not.
  • Hybrids have a generally higher yield than heirlooms.
  • Hybrid plants and seeds are easy to find and purchase in garden centers; heirlooms are not.
 
 
               
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