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Heirloom Tomatoes: The 7 Best Varieties to Grow

Nothing says summer like biting into a juicy, freshly picked homegrown tomato. No tea no nightshade, but store-bought tomatoes pale in comparison to the plethora of colors, flavors, shapes, and sizes of heirloom tomatoes. Seed savers have passed down seeds through generations of growers to make your BLT, Caprese salad, marinara sauce, and salsa more flavorful.

If these seeds are so superior, how come you can’t find heirloom tomatoes at the supermarket? Heirloom tomatoes are unpopular with farmers because they require more attention than their hybrid counterparts and don’t produce as much fruit. Their thin skin makes them more apt to become bruised during transport than grocery store tomatoes that have been bred to have thicker skin to withstand travel. Another reason heirlooms aren’t mass-produced is because they usually have a shorter shelf life and are less disease resistant than hybrids.

Thankfully, heirlooms are available at farmers’ markets across the country and can even be grown in your backyard. You say tomato, we say heirloom. Read on to find out what heirloom tomatoes are, what makes these berries (yes, technically tomatoes are berries!) unique, the best varieties to grow, and tips for producing sweet and juicy fruit.

What Are Heirloom Tomatoes?

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“Heirloom” denotes the same meaning as your grandmother’s silver, it has been passed down for generations. Gardeners and growers have maintained these seed lines over the years for their rainbow of colors and sweet, juicy flesh. This non-hybrid cultivar (cultivated variety) of tomato is open-pollinated, which means that they are pollinated naturally by birds, insects, wind, or human hand. Unlike the seeds of hybridized plants, heirlooms are said to “breed true”. Plant lady translation: They share the same DNA, so their offspring will look and taste just like their parents. Heirloom seeds can be classified as family heirlooms, commercial heirlooms, mystery heirlooms, or created heirlooms.

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