The term heirloom or heritage just means an old variety Whilst breeders are always looking to improve existing cultivars and develop new ones, the rush of progress sometimes leaves a real gem behind.
Recently some of these old varieties have been re-discovered and are again becoming popular with home growers who have different priorities to the commercial tomato grower. You may wonder why people bother - surely the modern varieties are best? Certainly they are more disease resistant and stronger growing than the heirloom varieties but there is one over riding reason - flavour.
The flavour of heirloom tomato varieties is different to modern tomatoes. Some are much stronger flavoured, some more tart and some milder. They are different. Give them a try and see what you think. If you don't like one type, then try another next year. You may well discover what is, for you, the ideal tomato. A flavour without compare.
Like the modern tomatoes, the red heritage varieties contain lycopene, an antioxidant, cancer protecting compound. Incidentally, lycopene is more readily available to us and easily absorbed from cooked tomatoes rather than raw.
Growing Heirloom Tomatoes
Growing heirloom tomatoes is just like growing ordinary tomatoes except that they may not be quite so tolerant of poor cultivation.
Best Heirloom Tomatoes
It's impossible to say what are the best heirloom tomatoes, it all depends on your personal taste and what appeals to you and your family. Try them and see.
Heirloom Tomatoes from Thompson & Morgan (Seeds)
Black Russian Heirloom Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum).
Cordon (Indeterminate). These medium sized black tomatoes grow on compact plants bearing plenty of dark mahogany-brown fruits, with a delicious blend of sugar and acid, making a distinctive, complex flavour that has to be tasted to be believed.
Brandywine Heirloom Tomato
Cordon (Indeterminate). This variety dates back to 1885 and is regarded as one of the world's finest flavoured 'beefsteak' tomatoes ever offered.
Yields a heavy crop of firm, clear skinned, light rosy pink fruits on plants with potato like leaves.
Sub Artic Plenty Heirloom Tomato
Bush (Determinate). T&M first sold this variety in 1976. However it was first developed in the 1940's to provide the US Air Force stationed in Greenland with fresh tomatoes. It has a unique ability to set fruit under cool conditions, producing small red fruit ripening very early with plenty of flavour. Much hardier than normal, makes this particularly advantageous when spring weather after planting out can turn cold.
Apparantly Sub Artic tomatoes are totally tasteless so do not waste your time.