Heirloom seeds are the best way to preserve the flavor of history. Each one of us grew up with certain types of vegetables that we would like to enjoy as adults and pass down to our children. The simplest way to do that is to grow out own vegetable favorites so we always have them on hand.
Heirloom tomatoes is a good example of passing down a flavor heritage through garden vegetables. These tomatoes seeds are passed down through the generations, making it possible for use to enjoy the same tomato variety and flavor that our grandparents enjoyed.
Through a simple homegrown tomato we are able to preserve a little bit of our heritage, grow the best tasting tomatoes and keep our home garden produce free of any GMO food items.
All tomatoes are a major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin K.
Check out these 23 popular heirloom tomatoes and plant some in your home garden for GMO-free rich taste and diverse colors. Heirloom tomatoes seeds can be purchased through a seed exchange.
Small, heart shaped red tomato that has a dual flavor of both tartness ad sweetness. Originally from Russia, this heirloom tomato was handed down by Russian immigrants living in Oregon in the early 1980‘s. This heirloom tomato variety grows in clusters of three and ripens early in the spring. The vines are unsightly and straggly and will need to be supported, but vines produce prolifically all summer.
This is a very tart tasting, yellow tomato that is originally from Russia. Robust, sturdy plants grow well in cool climates and poor soil. The inside flesh is white and it makes a nice slicing tomato that ripens in early spring. If the tart flavor is too much for eating as a slicing tomato, try Azoychkas in a tangy salsa recipe for flavor and color. Also great for use in fresh chow-chow or for pickling.
Pink, yellow, orange, black or red slicing tomato that is filled with flavor. Somewhat fickle to grow, Brandywine will produce abundantly when grown in full sun and well draining, fertile soil. If this tomato is not happy in its growing location, it won’t produce. Amend garden soil with compost to promote drainage and increase fertility before planting Brandywine plants. Use more compost as a side dressing or as a mulch to keep the plant well fed during the growing season.
Brandywine has remained a popular tomato variety for its flavor, color and texture.
The blackest of all tomato varieties, shiny black skin with red skin makes this variety a knock-out when sliced. Meaty, rich flavor, few seeds and thin skin. Hangs well on the vine and stores very well, and the flavor improves with room-temperature storage.
This tomato is rich in anthocyanin, which is the same antioxidant found in blueberries and blackberries. Anthocyanins offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits, so not only is the Black beauty beautiful and tasty, eating them provides a myriad of health benefits.
A heirloom variety from the Black Sea region of Russia. High yields of fruits have a rich tomato flavor and turn to reddish black when mature. Interior is reddish green and very sweet. Excellent for salads and sandwiches.
Plant in full sun and well draining soil. Keep soil consistently moist throughout the growing season. Add a side dressing of compost to provide a constant food source for high yielding plants.
The yellow flesh inside this heirloom fruit is marbled with red in the bottom half. Tomatoes have a big, lumpy beefsteak shape with a very mild and sweet flavor. Fruits typically reach 22 ounces and make an attractive addition to any table when sliced and placed on a platter.
Tall plants grow best in full sun and well draining soil. Plants will need to be staked and tied. Amend soil with compost prior to planting to promote drainage and increase fertility. Add a side dressing of compost mid-way through the growing season to provide a steady supply of food for the plant.
Large heirloom tomato that is dark brown with tinges of green color when ripe. The names comes from the skin color, not the flavor. The more fertile the soil, the larger the fruits the plant will produce. It’s not uncommon for Cherokee Chocolates to reach the size of grapefruits if the soil is amended each year and has good drainage.
This is a happy heirloom tomato plant that will grow well in any home garden that receives 6-8 hours of sun each day.
As the name suggests, this heritage tomato has purple tinted skin. Originating from Tennessee, Cherokee Purple tomatoes have been passed down to us from Native Americans of the Cherokee tribe. This purple skinned tomato has a full, rich flavor and its large size makes it perfect for slicing and placing on a sandwich. Easy to grow in full sun and well draining soil.
Large, tomato with green skin and flesh. Tart taste and sturdy flesh makes them a good tomato for frying. This tomato variety is a late starter, but will continue to produce fruits until first frost.
Disease resistant, grows well in cooler climates. Harvest all remaining tomatoes prior to first fall frost and use to make green tomato pickles.
Dwarf Emerald Giant
This heirloom tomato variety produces full sized tomatoes on small plants. Dwarf Emerald Giant originated in Australia from a cross between Golden Dwarf Champion, which is a medium sized fruited yellow dwarf, and Green Giant tomato. Fruits range in weight from half a pound to a pound. Plants are small and sturdy, making it a perfect choice for growing in a container or a small garden.
This super sweet tomato has been around since at least the late 1800‘s. It’s very popular today for its consistently large size, smooth, unblemished skin and sweet flavor. Fruits have been known to reach up to 3 pounds, but sometimes ripen when only half a pound. Typical mature size is one pound.
Amend soil with compost prior to planting to promote drainage and increase fertility. Add a side dressing of compost mid-way through the growing season to provide a steady supply of food for the plant.
The name aptly describes this large tomatoes with green flesh. This tomato is meaty with a small seed cavity. Ripens in late summer and can be harvested when flesh has a slight give when pressed with finger.
Select a planting location in full sun. Amend soil with compost prior to planting to promote drainage and increase fertility. Add a side dressing of compost mid-way through the growing season to provide a steady supply of food for the plant.
The name suggests a breakfast food, but this is the best heirloom tomato variety for sandwiches. Full of flavor, but very little juice so it won’t make sandwich read soggy. Plant in full sun and well draining soil and each plant will produce about 7 large yellow tomatoes.
Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom
Yellow, meaty and dense tomato with thin skin. This tomato plant produces large yellow tomatoes that weight 10-16 ounces in late summer, taking close to 100 days to reach maturity. It contains very few seeds, making it great for slicing.
A delicious cross of sweet and sour, red and yellow. A happy accident of a plant that just grew in among the Brandywine plants and produced a beautiful, flavor-filled tomato. Plants grow very tall and will require staking to keep upright.
Heirloom cherry tomatoes that are small in size but have a big flavor. This cherry tomato won the 2014 SSE’s Tomato Tasting Contest. Easy care plant needs full sun and well draining soil to produce hundreds of small fruits throughout the summer gardening season.
The stripes are not perfect, but the flavor always is. These huge, beefsteak-type red-and yellow fruits with a high sugar content are delicious and pretty to slice because of the bi-coloring. Weighing up to two pound each, Mr. Stripey heirloom tomatoes have always been popular in the southern states. This variety grows best in regions with long, hot summers. Plants reach up to 10 feet and produce fruits all summer.
Tiger striped oblong tomato is great for slicing, dicing or sauces. This heirloom is a cross between and Antique Roman and Banana Legs tomatoes. Gorgeous 5 inch long fruits contains very few seeds and the plant produces fruit all summer when planted in a sunny location.
This is a large, delicious heirloom tomato with a prosperous financial history. It was originally developed by a man in West Virginia to pay off his home mortgage. The cross- breeding was successful and the plants produced fruits that weight up to two pounds. Seedling of the Mortgage Lifter were sold and the West Virginia tomato breeder was soon mortgage-free.
This tomato variety originates in the Himalayas, making it a great heirloom fruit to grow in cooler climates. Medium sized red tomatoes are quick to ripen and full of flavor. Vines reach 6-8 feet tall and will need to be supported. Plant in a location that receives 4-6 hours of sun daily.
Big -growing plant produces small yellow tomatoes that have a big flavor. Vine can grow up to 10 feet and will need to be supported to keep the hundreds of yellow cherry Sun Gold tomatoes off the ground. Plant in full sun and harvest hundreds of sweet yellow heirloom cherry tomatoes all summer.
Most all garden supply centers sell beefsteak tomato plants. They remain a popular variety of tomato due to their consistent large size. The Super Beefsteak is the true heritage tomato and regularly produces fruits over one pound. This heirloom variety also has smoother skin and smaller blossom end scars.
Flavorful red tomato is easy to grow in home gardens – just give plant a sunny location, fertile soil and consistent moisture and it will reward you with summer long production.
The deep, dark red skin color is almost purple and the flavor is rich and full. The plant is sturdy and compact, making it an excellent choice for growing in a container. Fruits are round and can weigh up to one pound. Rosella Purple originated from a cross between Budai, a small red fruited dwarf, and Stump of the World, a popular variety from Australia.
Easy to grow, plant in good quality potting soil, feed bi-weekly with a water soluble fertilizer and place container in full sun.
Tomatoes are low in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol and contains about 20 calories.
The fruit’s biggest health benefits are:
- Vitamin C: An essential nutrient and antioxidant. One medium sized tomato can provide about 28% of the recommended daily intake.
- Potassium: An essential mineral, beneficial for blood pressure control and cardiovascular disease prevention.
- Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K is important for blood coagulation and bone health.
- Folate (B9): One of the B-vitamins, important for normal tissue growth and cell function (6). It is particularly important for pregnant women.
- Lycopene : An antioxidant that has been shown to reduce prostate cancer. Additionally, lycopene can increase HDL (healthy cholesterol) and reduce LDL (bad cholesterol).
They are also good sources of Vitamin E, Vitamin B6,Thiamin, Niacin, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Copper, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Manganese and a good source of dietary fiber.
Nutritional and health benefits can be derived from fresh, canned or dried tomatoes.