Heirloom Tomato Basics

Heirloom Tomatoes are so called because they are grown from seeds whose lineage can be traced back centuries. In the past few years, heirloom tomatoes have grown in popularity especially in the high end culinary world. They are known for their intense flavor and wide variety. Another lure of the heirloom tomato is its thick and rich meat that some people have even likened to the taste of strawberries and even mango.  These types of tomatoes are not any more difficult than todays hybrids.  The Square Foot Gardening style allows for great results, in small spaces, for types of tomatoes.

As mentioned, there is a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes. These cultivators also come in a wide array of color and even tastes. If your regular tomato comes in Red, Orange, Yellow and Green; be prepared! Heirloom tomatoes offer you colors like a deep rich burgundy that is almost black, which is sported by the Black Krims variety and has a beautiful pink tinged meat that will look great on any salad dressed with a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Another Not-So-Ordinary variety found in the Heirloom tomato family is the white Cherry tomatoes that have been named as the White Wonder.

A few of the more preferred Heirlooms include the Tangerine. The Tangerine is a bright orange variety that is similar to Tangerine oranges. One of the main reasons that the tangerine tomato is preferred is the fact that they look like the grander cousin of the common tomatoes that are widely grown and sold in farmers markets.

The plum tomato is also a very popular version. An Heirloom plum tomato is the sausage tomato, the only difference being that it is elongated like a sausage. Another favorite heirloom tomato is the one called Big Rainbow. This beauty of a tomato is very low in its acid content and has very few seeds. The Big Rainbow definitely stands ups to its name with some tipping the scales at 2 to 3 pounds and has very rich meat. A cherry tomato that has been said to have a very fruity taste is the Galina. This cherry variety is known to have a much higher sugar content compared to others.

For those farmers that are situated in a very foggy area. There is hope because some varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes do well in foggy climate and one of them is the Green Zebra and the Green Grape. The tomato crop may dwindle in the hot summer months because their skins tend to crack, resulting in low quality yields that don’t even reach the bigger markets.

Sadly, the Heirloom Tomatoes are not seen as very lucrative produce. A lot of farmers shy away from cultivating heirloom tomatoes because they believe that it does not sell well in the market! This is actually true. Even Brandywine Heirloom tomatoes (considered to be the most sought after heirloom tomato) that have a dark rich hue did not get the proper recognition they needed until they were extensively promoted and written about. This lack in enthusiasm by the farmers can be easily remedied by an increase in public awareness as to how much heirloom tomatoes can offer the palate.  In recent years this has been changing.  If you are lucky enough to find some at market, don’t be shocked by the price.  I have seen them sell for 5 dollars plus per pound.  I would be easier (and cheaper) to grow them yourself in a Square Foot Garden.

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