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Horticulture and Home Pest News
Horticulture & Home Pest News is filled with articles on current horticulture, plant care, pest management, and common household pests written by Iowa State University Extension specialists in the Departments of Entomology, Horticulture and Plant Pathology.

Heirloom Tomatoes For the Home Garden

This article was published originally on 8/13/2008

What is an heirloom tomato? These tomatoes are often the most anticipated of tomato varieties grown in home gardens each summer. But how do they get the name heirloom, you might ask? Heirloom tomatoes have been passed down from generation to generation. But unlike antique cars, it's not necessary for cultivars to have been grown 100, 50, or even 25 years ago to earn an heirloom designation. Instead, all heirlooms are open-pollinated cultivars, not hybrids. This means the seed can be saved and replanted each year. In fact, this is how heirloom tomatoes are kept in production. Noted for Taste. Heirloom tomatoes are known to be some of the best tasting tomatoes. That is why they are so highly anticipated each summer. These tomatoes were bred for taste, not for long-distance transport. So, many are quite fragile once ripe. But heirlooms are not only tasty, they are beautiful as well. Heirlooms come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Ripe fruit can be pink, red, yellow, orange, purple, green, or combinations of colors. Heirloom tomatoes should be available in grocery stores and farmer's markets in August and September. Try several different cultivars, maybe you will find one or two that you want to grow in your garden next year. Then you will become one of the many gardeners that prefer these flavorful reminders of the past.  Some popular Heirloom Tomato Cultivars

Cultivar Fruit Color Type Comments
Amana Orange Orange Indeterminate Late
Amish Paste Red Indeterminate
Big Rainbow Yellow and Red Indeterminate Late, large fruit
Black Krim Purple/Black Indeterminate Large fruit
Brandywine Pink-red Indeterminate Black & yellow fruit available
Costoluto Genovese Red Indeterminate Irregular shape, paste/juice type
Cherokee Purple Purple-red Indeterminate
Druzba Red Indeterminate
German Pink Pink Indeterminate
Green Grape Green Determinate Small fruit
Green Zebra Green Indeterminate Striped fruit
Hungarian Heart Pink Indeterminate
Kellogg's Breakfast Orange Indeterminate Large fruit
Martino's Roma Red Determinate Oval fruit
Mortgage Lifter Pink-red Indeterminate Large fruit
Oxheart Red, pink, or orange Indeterminate Large, heart-shaped fruit
Persimmon Yellow/gold Indeterminate Large fruit
Pineapple Orange and yellow Indeterminate Large fruit
Ponderosa Red Red Indeterminate Large fruit
Red Fig Red Indeterminate Small pear-shaped fruit
Speckled Roman Red with orange/yellow Indeterminate Speckled oval fruit
Silvery Fir Tree Red Determinate Compact plants, early
Valencia Orange-red Indeterminate
Wapsipinicon Peach Yellow/gold Indeterminate Slightly fuzzy fruit
Wyche's Yellow/gold Indeterminate
Yellow Pear Yellow Indeterminate Small pear-shaped fruit

Green zebra heirloom tomato (immature fruit).  Photo by Cindy HaynesGreen zebra heirloom tomato (immature fruit). Photo by Cindy Haynes

Year of Publication: 
2008
Issue: 
IC-499(15) -- August 13, 2008