In fact, heirloom tomatoes are unique, old-fashioned (and delicious!) varieties that may carry in their genes a remarkable story about an Indian tribe, a hardscrabble Appalachian farm or someone’s great grandmother from Ukraine. Heirlooms, (or “heritage” varieties) were commercially abandoned in the last century in favor of laboratory hybrids - for their alleged disease resistance, vigor and uniformity. But, diligent seed saving practiced by generations of nameless farmers, seed savers and backyard growers over the ages helped preserve and rescue hundreds of these rare, “open-pollinated” varieties from obscurity—allowing us to re-discover and enjoy their living legacy today! If you’re a lover of tomatoes, but haven’t yet discovered the heirlooms, take a closer look. We think you’ll be surprised.
In an age of genetic modification and corporate “ownership” of our staple seed crops, the resurgence of heirloom vegetables (as well as fruits and livestock) is neither fad nor accident. Heirlooms represent part of a healthier food paradigm marked by a return to traditional, earth-friendly and sustainable methods of land management and food production. We organic gardeners and other denizens of mother earth won’t cede away bio-diversity and the right (indeed, responsibility!) to save and plant our own seeds. We will continue the age-old practice of selecting, storing, studying and disseminating the best genes of our valuable crops. Local seed saving initiatives like this are technically simple and within the reach of any small farm or garden. Practicing and promoting in-the-field crop selection and seed saving by gardeners and growers and supporting regional seed “conservancies” and “banks” not only enhances community food security, it preserves delicious pieces of living history along the way.
Granted, heirloom tomatoes are groovy-looking and unusual -- and could possibly help feed a hungry planet – but, really now, HOW DO THEY TASTE?
Simply put: the best heirlooms consistently possess, hands-down, superior flavor, sometimes described with words like, “idiosyncratic, fruity, suggestive” and “complex”. Also, contrary to rumor, many heirlooms tend to be easy to grow, disease-resistant and highly productive. Some heirloom tomato varieties, we should add, can be prone to anomalies of appearance such as cracking and uneven ripening, which might make them less fit for shipping. No matter, all the multi-colored, exotic ‘maters we grow will be gratefully consumed close to home, either by shareholders or us, fresh, sauced or dehydrated for the winter. At LDF we’ve trailed and tasted over 75 tomato varieties and are now distributing a handful of our very favorites. Get to know the heirlooms and, like us, you may find yourself saving seeds from those favorite, fall fruits! Stay in touch for more info on alternative tomato propagation and heirloom seeds.