Facebook Twitter Google RSS

Apr 21, 2010

Heirloom Hybrid v. Old-Fashion Heirloom Tomatoes

On 21 April 2010 the Wall Street Journal, Home Section ran an article on the the similarities and differences between new tomato hybrids and heirloom tomatoes.  The new hybrids promise the same flavor as heirlooms but with much more disease resistance, ability to withstand bugs, and productivity. 

Heirloom seed collectors such as Amy Goldman, board chairwoman of the Decorah, Iowa-based nonprofit Seed Savers Exchange are not happy with the new term "heirloom hybrid."  For most heirloom seed collectors, "new hybrids threaten an important gardening heritage. One advantage to heirlooms is that, unlike hybrids, seed from a plant can counted on to grow looking like the parent."

Heirloom tomatoes are cherished for their different shapes, colors, and flavors. Some of these characteristics make them difficult for large-scale growers and that is simply part of their appeal. One of the reasons for this is that most are indeterminate meaning they grow on very tall vines that need support.

Part of the reason for the new heirloom hybrids is consumer demand. According to Patty Buskirk, owner of Seeds by Design, Inc. a wholesale seed supplier in Maxwell, California, "[t]here was such a high demand for heirlooms in the grocery store."

Characteristics that hybridizers have been working are: 1) a longer shelf life; 2) making shapes more uniform for ease of packing, and 3) creating more compact plants that are easier to maneuver.

Some of the new hybrid heirloom tomatoes introduced in recent years include:
Tye-Dye, a red-and-yellow marbled tomato with the heirloom flavor of Big Rainbow, Pineapple and Georgia Streak (introduced by Burpee);

Country Taste (introduced by Park Seed);

Golden San Marzano a yellow version of the heirloom San Marzano (introduced by Territorial Seed Co.).

 Brandymaster, a tomato with the taste of the heirloom Brandywine but in yellow and red with uniformly shaped fruits and disease resistance (introduced by Better by Design, Inc.);

Patty's Yellow Striped Beefsteak, a tomato similar to the heirloom Big Rainbow, but with more intense flavor, uniform shape, and bigger yields (introduced by Cook's Garden).
For more see: Chaker, Anne Marie.  "You Say Tomato. They Say Phony. New Hybrids Promise Same Flavor, Less Fuss; Heirloom Lovers Stew." Wall Street Journal, Home Section, 21 April 2010.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
View all posts by Margaret →


GR2's Pinterest Shareboard "Global View - Spectacular Spaces, Renewal Spaces"


©2009-2014 GR2 Global LLC

All photos used for general educational purposes and authors/owners given credit. Please send an email to info@gr2global.com to discuss any content or copyright issues.