Heirloom Tomatoes - A Variety Of Tomatoes

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Heirloom tomatoes are a variety of tomatoes grown from seeds that are usually over 50 to 100 years old. They are non-hybrid, open-pollinated cultivar tomatoes.

The use of the word heirloom can mean that the seeds have been passed down through generations, from farmer to farmer or parent to child and they are still growing today. Or it could mean any seed older than 50 or 100 years old; the jury is still out on this definition with many debates raging on for the use of heirloom to describe the wide variety of tomatoes.

What everyone does agree on is that an heirloom tomato needs to be an open-pollinated plant. This means it is pollinated by the wind, insects or birds, not man. And cultivar means that it is a plant species is being cultivated and given a specific name and that it can repopulate itself again in the same manor and retain all its characteristics.

There are several names of heirloom tomatoes available today which recently as ten years ago became available. There are over a hundred heirloom tomatoes and list grows every year as long as the tomatoes adhere to the standards put forth by the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP) or the cultivated plant code.

Many of the most popular heirloom tomatoes are Brandywine, a large, pink fruit, red outside, clear inside, it has been said to have been grown from a seed passed to a farmer in an Ohio farm and then traded to several large seed companies who preserved it's heirloom status.

In addition to Brandywine tomatoes, there is the Cherokee Purple, one of the only known 'black' or deep rose colored tomatoes; the Green Zebra, a small green tomato with either yellow or reddish stripes depending on when you pick them. They are rather tart and are often man-made therefore they can not be an heirloom tomato, although it is often categorized as one.

Black cherry tomatoes are tomatoes everyone should be familiar with. They are the smallest of the heirloom tomatoes and come in a cluster on a fine like grapes and are sometimes referred to as grape tomatoes.

The Hillbilly and the Big Rainbow are similar heirloom tomatoes because of their yellow, large fruit with red swirls of color; however their origin is unknown so verification into the heirloom society is iffy at best. One of the best stories behind an heirloom tomato is the Mortgage Lifter tomato. A man by the name of "Radiator Charlie" who owned a radiator business during the Great Depression lost his business and decided to breed his best four tomato plants into one giant tomato that tasted better and sweeter than any one of them individually. He was able to come up with the best tomatoes and advertised that they could easily feed a family of six. He began selling his plants for a dollar a piece and that was when a dollar was a dollar and so after four years, he was able to pay off his mortgage. People began calling the large tomatoes the Mortgage Lifter after that and "Radiator Charlie" was able to retire after a few more years.

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