Most of the tomatoes available to buy in the shops are hybrids that have been created for maximum growth, uniformity of color and shape plus durability for shipping and shop life, as opposed to taste. However, heirloom tomatoes – which are also known as heritage tomatoes – actually originate from older varieties from which seeds have been preserved and passed down the generations. These are valued primarily for their outstanding flavor but they also have a definitive shape and come in a variety of colors including purple, green and orange. Many are also as sturdy as the hybrid types too.
This type of tomato has grown in popularity in recent years and has become much more available as a result. These are unbeatable in both aesthetics and taste, bringing as much to the garden as they do to the dinner table not to mention their contribution to recipes and dishes with their variety of colors, sizes and shapes.
Gardeners love their wonderful flavor as well as the diverse range of shapes, sizes and colors so it is not surprising that they have risen in popularity with them too. In the past, these heirloom tomatoes were produced purely for their taste, as opposed to their resistance to pests and disease, the elements or to withstand transportation. Now these are deemed to be strong contenders that have endured throughout the years. They are much sought after by chefs who find them wonderful to use thanks to the wide range of colors, their unconventional appearance and of course their distinctive taste. Much more flavorful than their hybrid varieties, they can be replicated true to form.
The young plants are vulnerable to cutworms- these sever the plant off at the upper end of the soil – but this can be avoided if you place an aluminium foil collar around the plant’s base. This category of tomato plant will ripen early as a rule and their fruiting season is short. If hybrid tomatoes are regrown from collected seeds, most will be different from the original hybrid plant. This ensures the growers are dependant on seed distributors for crops in future. Like many plants, tomato cultivars may be acclimatized over a period of growing seasons so they will continue to flourish in specific geographical locations by selecting and saving the seeds. To do so you must first beat the birds to the seeds then save them for the following year.
If you start the seeds right where you want your tomatoes, the plants will grow but the fruits produced will be restricted. It is therefore better to start the seeds indoors in trays perhaps using grow lights within 6 inches of them. When these seedlings shoot a second batch of leaves, it is time to transplant them into separate pots. Take care when separating individual plants by loosening the soil in the trays then fill the pots with moist starting mix, lightly packed with a hole in the mix, using a dibber. Pack the soil firmly around the seed and water slightly. If your seeds start early it is possible they will need outgrow their pots and need transplanting again. When the time approaches to plant your seedlings outdoors, they will need to be hardened in preparation. This can be done by moving them outside during the day and placing them in the shade for around a week at which point your heirloom tomatoes should be ready for planting in the garden. After doing so, you will need to water them regularly and support them with stakes or cages as they grow.