Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Heirloom Tomatoes

This year I was introduced to heirloom tomatoes. A friend had purchased a few seed packets from Baker Creek ( and after planting all that he wanted he passed the remainder of the seeds on to me. Of course I started them in seed pods as quickly as possible and was eager to learn all I could about what he called "heritage tomatoes". He told me about the Purple Cherokee tomato that turns purple when ripe and how it had been grown in Arkansas by Native Americans for hundreds of years.
First, they are called heirloom because they are not genetically engineered like most seeds that you buy in stores. Those seeds come from companies that genetically alter their seeds, called Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), to produce more resilient plants that can stand up to harsh pesticides. But in our home garden we don't use pesticides so they are not necessary. Also, GMOs produce plants with sterile offspring. Meaning you can't replant the seeds from those tomatoes and expect much of anything to grow! So the heirloom variety comes from the fact that these tomatoes have seeds that can be reproduced year after year and saved for use the next year. This is the way our ancestors did it for hundreds of years. These specific types were chosen because they did better in our climate and produced fertile fruit. Also these fertile plants can cross pollinate with other tomato species, so you could possibly end up creating your own unique tomato variety! Here are the four varieties that I chose to grow.
  • Cherokee Purple
  • Brandywine
  • Rutgers
  • Beefsteak

I started out with 36 seed pods growing 4 different varieties. 31 made it to true "leafing out". Of course I don't need 31 tomato plants, so I decided to pay it forward. Since my goal is to encourage other people to plant veggies gardens as well, I gave 4 plants to my dad and 4 plants to one of my coworkers. From one mans heirloom seed packs he was able to stock his garden, my garden and two people he doesn't even know with fresh tomatoes all summer long. I just love the idea! So now I'm down to 23 plants, still a lot, but I know I can always make the surplus tomatoes into salsa and can it for the winter!


  1. I like the spoons as markers. This year, I ran out of popsicle sticks so I used wood clothespins that I took apart. I looks funny, but it works. Your plants look great!

  2. Thanks! I need to post some follow up pics, the four varieties look totally different from one another now. I've got small fruits, but they are still green yet!