Do you know tomatoes are one of the most popular fruits in the world?
Yes, that’s right—it’s a fruit and not a vegetable contrary to general understanding.
Tomatoes are delicious and full of nutrients that you can eat both raw and cooked. It’s used in different cuisines as they add rich flavour to the foods.
Whether you're an expert gardener or a beginner, planting tomatoes are extremely appealing because they're easy to plant, produce high yield, and don’t need much care.
You can also grow tomatoes in pots or hanging baskets, making it a high-yield plant for those who don’t have space for gardening.
In this article, we will cover heirloom tomatoes and how you can quickly grow and care for them.
What are Heirloom Tomatoes?
The tomato is a member of the Nightshade or Solanaceae family and botanically known as Solanum Lycopersicum.
The tomatoes are classified as fruits because these are the berries of the tomato plant and come from just a single ovary within each tomato flower. It’s like peppers and cucumbers that are also fruits but called vegetables.
The heirloom are organic tomatoes that have been grown from seeds and aren't genetically modified. These are open-pollinated through bees, insects, or winds without any human intervention.
The Heirloom have been grown for the past several decades. These have rich flavor and come in different colors and sizes. Many people think tomatoes come in only red color, but you often find it to be in yellow, orange, or black.
What is the difference between Heirloom vs. Hybrid Tomatoes?
Since ancient times, the growers use high-quality seeds from plants whose characteristics they preferred. They saved the seed then use it to grow the next batch of crops. The plant that resulted eventually came to be known as Heirloom Tomatoes.
But as the population grew and the demand for food increased, the botanist discovered how to cross-pollinate different varieties of tomatoes manually to create a plant that would develop traits.
The desirable traits include high yield, pests and insect resistance, longer ripening time, and sturdiness during storage. Most often, these modified tomato plants are incapable of passing these characteristics through the seeds of those plants. These are known as Hybrid Tomatoes.
The seeds of hybrid tomatoes, also known F1 seeds, which stands for filial one or “first children.” These seeds come from plants that have been cross-pollinated manually to ensure the resulting seeds take on the best qualities of each plant.
Hybrid tomato seeds germinate to produce plants that are more disease or pest resistant. Also, the fruit from hybrid seeds is very uniform in appearance and flavor. You often get very rich and bright color tomatoes that make it easy for retailers to sell to customers.
But these hybrid tomatoes are often picked green and let it ripe during shipping. It improves the delivery areas as tomatoes won’t rot quickly and can be shipped to further regions. However, you won’t get the best flavor from them.
Heirloom are again gaining popularity as people are getting conscious about what they eat and moving away from hybrid plants.
However, you may not find these tomatoes at the supermarket because these are highly perishable and not much profit to the retailers. You can sometimes find in the local farmer’s market.
What are Heirloom Tomato Varieties?
There are four types of heirloom tomato varieties. These relate to the size of the tomato and the growing pattern.
1. Salad Tomatoes
These heirloom varieties tomato you often find in the local market. These are red, round tomatoes used in salads, frying, grilling, or baking.
These are the most common type of heirloom variety grown in the home, and you can choose it in different colors, sizes, and flavors.
2. Cherry and Cocktail Tomatoes
These are the smaller varieties of heirloom and eaten raw. You often find these in the veggie platters.
The cocktail tomatoes are slightly larger than the cherry tomatoes and come in many colors such as red, orange, yellow, and golden. These have a delightful flavor, and it tastes great even when eaten raw and whole.
3. Plum Tomatoes
The plum tomatoes are great for cooking. It contains more flesh and less water than other tomato types. It’s great for making tomato sauce and ketchup.
The shape of plum tomatoes is oval and is firm. This also makes it ideal for grilling or making pizza sauces and use in pasta dishes. The baby plum tomatoes have extra rich, sugary flavor without being too juicy that makes it popular among food enthusiasts.
4. Beefsteak Tomatoes
Beefsteak tomatoes are larger than other types of tomatoes. It can grow at several pounds each and is suitable for baking whole or stuffed.
It comes in several sizes and colors, including pink. The Yellow Beefsteak tomatoes are famous and come in a hybrid variety that is called Colossal.
Due to its large size, these are often sold as a single piece and often sold in the local supermarkets or farmers market.
How to grow Heirloom tomatoes in pots
The good thing about growing heirloom is that you can grow anywhere. If you don’t have space or optimal soil and sunlight condition to grow tomatoes directly in the ground, you can plant it in a container or pots.
The container gardening is gaining popularity among urban dwellers as they often have less ground space to grow plants.
Most of the heirloom varieties can be grown in a large enough pot. However, some types require a container that can hold at least five gallons or more for spreading their roots.
As often, the biggest challenge with container gardening is the ability to provide enough nutrients and water to the plant. As long as you can provide necessary water and feed it regularly, you can successfully grow it in the pots.
If you're growing it from the seed, then you will have to germinate seeds for six to eight weeks before the last expected frost. It provides the proper growing temperature for the seeds to germinate.
Make sure that you buy the high quality, sterile seed compost or seed-starting mix and fill the tray with the soil. Plant the seeds about a quarter of an inch deep. Maintain around half an inch distance to provide the plant some space.
After the germination has taken place, you can choose the healthy and more robust plant from the seed container and prepare it to move into the growing pot. Use the best quality compost that contains no lumps to impede the growth of the tomato seedling.
Water gently on the seed and don’t soak the soil. Place the container where it can have temperature roughly 70 to 80 degrees F (21 to 27 degrees C). You can cover the box with a plastic wrap to retain the moisture and improve the germination rate.
Remove the plastic wrap regularly to let the airflow around the plant. It prevents rotting or generating the fungal disease. It takes about seven to ten days for the seed to germinate. Move the container to a place where it can get sufficient sunlight.
If you're growing it in a greenhouse or using artificial lights, place the lights directly above the plants and move them up as the plant grows. Don’t let the hot light bulb touch the plant. An uneven or dim light may cause the stem to get too long and narrow to support the weight of the plant.
After two weeks, the tomato plant should start growing leaves, and you should give it liquid feed once a week. Use proper care and prevent it from disease, and you should get a strong and growing tomato plant in a couple of weeks and ready to start flowering.
Tomato Plants don’t like too much water as the root may rot or grow fungus. Always water conservatively and provide good air circulation around the roots.
What are the best Heirloom tomatoes for the south?
The heirloom tomatoes grown in the south should be able to withstand the harsh climatic condition such as hot and dry weather. The heirloom tomato flowers are susceptible to warm temperatures.
When the temperature goes above the normal range, it often sheds the flower. This is why the best heirloom tomato to grow in the south is heat and drought tolerant.
Another challenge of growing tomatoes in the south is high humidity. The high level of moisture creates a suitable condition for the blight disease. Once the tomato plant gets infected, it’s difficult to control and shortens the growing season.
Following tomatoes are suitable to grow in the south as these have better resistance to blight and can withstand higher humid and hot weather conditions.
69 to 80
Medium, Red, Glove
Medium, Red, Glove
75 to 90
Small, Pink-red, Plum
Where to buy Heirloom Tomatoes?
You can buy heirloom tomatoes seeds or plants from your local garden center.
Some large home improvement retailers such as Home Depot, Lowes, and Walmart also sell gardening plants and seeds that you can purchase. But their availability may be limited during the summer.
The best option is to order it online such as Amazon. You can get large varieties and different colors and shapes of heirloom seeds that you can plant at home. Most of the seed packages also come with growing instructions.
Here are few Heirloom Tomato seeds that you can buy.
Heirloom Tomato Recipe—Fresh Soup
I love making my soup from container-grown tomatoes. These are highly nutritious, and if you like, you can freeze it to enjoy it a year long. It’s straightforward to make and takes less than half-an-hour to prepare.
Here are the ingredients you need to make an Heirloom Tomato Soup:
- Four cup chopped tomatoes
- Two cut vegetable broth
- One sliced onion
- Four whole cloves
- Two tablespoon butter
- Two tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Two teaspoon sugar
- One teaspoon salt
Take a container and heat it at a mild temperature. Put the sliced tomatoes, broth, onion, and cloves in the pot and stir it. Let it simmer at the medium heat for about 20 minutes. Keep stirring it occasionally.
Move the soup through a food mill into another large bowl and discard the solid particles in the food mill. Melt the butter in the empty soup pot at medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a roux and cook while frequently stirring until it gets medium brown.
Check the soup, ensuring there are no lumps, and add the remaining mixture in the soup and still it well to get a thick uniform mix.
Add the sugar, salt as per your taste and heat it for 5 to 10 minutes. You can then serve it immediately or cool it for storage.
When you're looking to grow edible gardening, nothing compares to the taste of homegrown tomatoes picked fresh off the vine. These are easy to grow and don’t need much effort.
You can plant it in the season and get a large yield of tomatoes in the summer. Being able to pick a ripe tomato and eat it straight from the vine is a wonderful experience to have.
You can also buy it from the local market, but you won’t get the freshness and flavor of the freshly picked tomatoes.