I am not a huge tomato fan. With that being said, I’ve apparently been missing out and have been eating the wrong tomatoes my whole life, as heirloom tomatoes are unique and unlike what you’d think a tomato tastes like.

An heirloom tomato is considered to be a variety that has been passed down through several generations of a family. In order to be characterized as a heirloom tomato, it has to be at least 50 years old. From there, the tomatoes are broken down even further into certain classifications.

Heirloom Tomatoes Classified


Photo by Jenny Georgieva

Commercial heirlooms

These tomatoes are open-pollinated varieties introduced before 1940, or tomato varieties more than 50 years in circulation. Open pollinated means that they are non-hybrid plants and pollination happens naturally by insects, birds, or the wind and without human intervention.

Family Heirlooms

Family heirloom tomatoes are from seeds that have been passed down through several generations of a family.

Created Heirlooms

These are tomatoes that have crossed two known parents (either two heirlooms or an heirloom and a hybrid) and dehybridizing the resulting seeds for however many years it takes to eliminate the undesirable characteristics and stabilize the desired characteristics. This could take up to 8 years or more.

Mystery heirlooms

Mystery heirlooms are varieties of tomatoes that are a product of natural cross-pollination of other heirloom varieties.

Why They Taste So Good


Photo by Amanda Shulman

In today’s world, our tomatoes no longer taste the way actual tomatoes are supposed to taste. What we grow today can’t truly be classified as a real tomato, as the chemicals and processes which are used to get them to consumers change how the tomatoes are suppose to taste. Meanwhile, with heirloom tomatoes you get subtle differences with each kind. The yellow heirloom tomatoes are milder, while the red heirloom tomatoes have more of an acidic flavor.

In regular tomatoes, the taste and flavor have been taken out when they’re grown. The heirloom tomatoes are so unique and craved because they truly taste how a real tomato should. The tomatoes in our generation have been bred for mechanical harvest, shipping, and shelf life, rather than quality.

Also, the hype of the heirloom doesn’t stop there. They are perfect for those who appreciate not only the taste of food but its appearance as well. They all look different; some heirloom tomatoes are solid yellow, while others have pink on them. Also, some are more striped in their appearance.

They come in a variety of colors, from green to yellow, orange, pink, and red, which at times almost looks brown. When comparing them to a regular tomato, the skin is thinner and more prone to bruising, which gives them an even more unique look.

Why The Tomato You Eat Isn’t The Real Deal


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However, we are losing many of our heirloom tomatoes as many smaller farms that supported family heirlooms are closing. The multitude of these tomatoes, which have adapted to survive for hundreds of years, have been lost thanks to fewer hybrid tomatoes due to their being bred for their attractiveness. Most of the tomatoes we eat are cross-pollinated plants. The pollen is intentionally delivered from one plant to another so that the offspring carries the best traits from both parents.

Hybrid tomatoes are bred for commercial production and also to have thick skin, so unlike the heirloom tomatoes they won’t bruise as easily through the delivery process from the farm to the customer. The tomatoes you’re buying at the store are picked when they are green and hard, shipped across the country, and sprayed with high concentrations of ethylene gas. Basically, you aren’t getting the real thing when you buy tomatoes at the grocery store.

Conversely, heirloom tomatoes are the real deal, which is why you can’t find them as easily and why they might cost more. They can’t be shipped from other counties, because they can’t make the distance before going bad, as no chemicals preserve them. However, by staying true to their natural state, they taste the way a tomato is suppose to taste.

Trust me, you won’t be disappointed with the flavors of heirloom tomatoes.