Did you know that all Heirloom tomato varieties are open-pollinated but not all open-pollinated tomato varieties are heirlooms? A little bit of a tongue twister, certainly, and perhaps just as confusing as the term “heirloom” itself.
Heirloom plants (known as heritage plants in some parts of the world) were those grown during earlier periods of human history, and plants were not commercially developed. Since the 1940’s, industry growers have favored strains of tomatoes that offer uniform red color, but sacrifice sweetness. Heirloom tomatoes come in all colors, shapes and sizes, and have a sweet, juicy quality not readily found in commercially grown varieties.
Here’s some background on how the term Heirloom came into use, as well as interesting notes and photos of heirloom tomatoes: Facts about Heirloom Tomatoes
Or, forget about trying to figure out all the details, and simply take a trip to your local Farmers Market. Start cooking with heirlooms right away with this sweet and juicy recipe: Panko-Fried Heirloom Tomatoes
Fresh heirloom tomatoes are coated in panko breadcrumbs and fried to a deep golden brown. Then they’re topped with poached eggs, drizzled with mornay sauce, and garnished with green garden chives. Simple yet impressive for breakfast or brunch.
If you’re interested in purchasing heirloom tomato (or other heirloom) seeds, get familiar with the Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit organization started in 1975, with the mission of saving North America’s diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations.