The author's home-grown bounty of heirloom tomatoes.
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
Many hybrids have built-in disease resistance; most heirlooms
Hybrids have a generally higher yield than heirlooms.
Hybrid plants and seeds are easy to find and purchase
in garden centers; heirlooms are not.