All About Heirlooms and Hybrids (week 12)
Michael here, for this weeks newsletter I wanted to do something a little special and talk about a subject that I find fascinating- the history of our beloved heirloom and hybrid tomato varieties. Here I go…
A vegetable story and why we grow what we grow.
This time of year the word Heirloom gets thrown around a lot by farmers and customers trying to find the best tasting or most colorful fruits and veggies. We all have an idea of what an heirloom looks like, but what does the word heirloom really mean? Before farming I thought that it was just a colorful tomato and beyond that I didn’t give it much thought.
Heirloom vs. Hybrids the debate…
I’m not taking sides on the two, but both have advantages. The heirloom definition stripped down is a seed variety that is older than 50 years or pre-WWll. Heirlooms are also open-pollinated and when the seeds are saved they tend to have the same characteristics each season. A hybrid is a controlled pollination of two plants to get desired traits. The first generation of hybrids tends to grow better, produce higher yields and have disease resistant traits. Typically the seeds from hybrids are not saved because the plants are genetically unstable. We grow both heirloom and hybrids.
My two favorite tomatoes… Sun Gold and Cherokee Purple
One of the most popular and tasty hybrid varieties is the beloved Sun Gold Cherry tomato. A Japanese seed company that was searching for the sweetest tomato possible developed the Sun Gold in 1992. We grow this tomato for that very same reason. It’s one of the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever tasted, which is why we gave it the nickname “farmers candy”.
My favorite heirloom during the summer is the Cherokee Purple tomato. This beautiful tomato became mainstream from Craig LeHoullier a PHD chemist living in Westchester, PA. Like many gardeners he develop a passion for growing strange and unique looking heirlooms. His passion for growing hard to find heirlooms gave him a serious reputation among gardening circles. One day in 1990 a stranger sent a package to Dr. LeHoullier containing a few tiny tomato seeds and a note explaining that the seeds dated back to the Cherokee Indians. Dr. LeHoullier loved the tomatoes so much he forwarded the seeds to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Johnny’s Seeds. How my life would have been different if Dr. LeHoullier didn’t care for the taste and chucked the tomatoes in his compost bin. Luckily for us this is now one of the most popular and beloved heirlooms to eat.
We love growing heirloom and hybrid varieties!
Typically small farms across America are able to share unique heirloom breeds that are grown for taste, but might look a little strange. Most often big commercial growers choose hybrids because of their reliability year after year. Each year our little farm balances out the positives and negatives of growing both heirlooms and hybrids. Let us know what your favorite tomato varieties are!
I hope you enjoyed a bit about the history of heirlooms and hybrids. We will have both varieties of delicious tomatoes at our farm stand tomorrow evening. We hope to see you there.
With kindest regards,
Michael and Shanon
***Our farm stand is open every Wednesday evening over summer from 4:00pm-7:00pm***
Hillview Farms 8/17 Farm Stand Bounty:
Classic Red Tomatoes (We have some BEAUTIFUL slicer tomatoes coming in!)
BEAUTIFUL heirloom tomatoes!
Summer Squash (green/costata romanesco/golden zucchini and straight-neck squash)
Mountain Fresh Arugula
*** Flats are just $20.00 for 10# of tomatoes! Order through e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or text Shanon: (619)246-0507***