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Heirloom Tomatoes

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February 7, 2018

Host: Gary Bachman, Ornamental Horticulture Specialist


The tomatoes currently available in the grocery store makes us think about picking fresh garden tomatoes in 2013 today on Southern Gardening. 

Traditionally many home gardeners consider waiting until Easter to think about planting tomatoes. I want you to start thinking now about heirloom tomatoes, which are not your typical grocery fare.  They come in every shape, size, and color imaginable. The fruits are treasured as having more flavor, increased nutritive value, and greater natural beauty.  But what makes an heirloom tomato different?  In a word tradition.  Heirloom tomatoes were commonly passed down within families much like furniture or dishes. A great example is the Nebraska Wedding tomato.  The seeds of this “love apple” are given to brides as part of their trousseaus, keeping alive the tradition of giving part of the farm to newlywed couples.  Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated, which means they will produce true from collected seed.  From the gardening standpoint, once you find an heirloom tomato you really like, saving seed each year can ensure continued enjoyment for the future.  Mother Earth News released the results of the “best tomatoes to grow where you live” poll in the spring of 2010.  Gulf Coast favorites included:  Brandywine, Arkansas Traveler, and Cherokee Purple.  We continued the evaluation of heirloom tomatoes for the Bachman garden in 2012.  Good producers in 2012 included Cherokee Purple, Red Zebra, Vintage Wine, and Angora Super Sweet.    Many gardeners I speak with are amazed when I confess I don’t like fresh tomatoes. I grow them because my wife likes them.  So in effect, I grow the “love apples” out of love.  Check your local garden centers for available varieties.  There is no reason not to try some heirloom tomatoes next year.  I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening. 

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