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Heirloom or Hybrid? - Yes, You Really Can Have the Best of Both Worlds

By Lawrence Davis

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Heirloom or Hybrid? 

Yes, you really can have the best of both worlds—when you grow both heirloom and hybrid tomatoes. Choose hybrid tomatoes for their improved productivity and performance. Add a few heirloom plants for variety and flavorful additions to family mealtime.



Hybrids

What are they? Plant breeders intentionally cross-pollinate two different varieties or species of tomatoes, aiming to produce an offspring (a hybrid) containing the best traits of the two parents. Cross-pollination is a natural process of crosses within the same plant species. All Bonnie hybrids are non-GMO (genetically modified organisms).

Hybrid tomatoes were originally developed by crossing two different varieties of tomatoes together to create a plant with the best qualities of both parent varieties. Over time those traits were carefully bred into the plants, resulting in plants that are healthy, vigorous and resistant to common tomato illnesses, fungus infections and garden pests. This selective breeding is still continuing, and growers are constantly striving for plants that are able to grow well even in poor conditions. There are many different hybrid varieties of tomatoes on the market, and it is important for gardeners to choose the type that will work best in their own garden.

Why should I grow them? In general, hybrids offer some combination of these favorable traits: dependability, lower care, early maturity, better yield, improved flavor, specific plant size, or disease resistance. A classic example is the Bonnie Original tomato developed in 1967, offering great taste and productivity along with improved disease resistance.

 



Heirlooms: Heirloom vegetable varieties are really gaining in popularity. A lot of passionate gardeners swear by the flavor of these old varieties. But it’s not just diehard heirloom lovers who are growing heirlooms. According to the National Gardening Association, one in five American households with a yard or garden report an interest in heirloom fruits, berries, and vegetables. Bonnie Plants has carried several heirloom varieties for many years, and this year they’ve added a few more to their list of heirloom tomatoes, including Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, and Chocolate Cherry (shown below).

 



What are they? Heirlooms come from seed that has been handed down for generations in a particular region or area, hand-selected by gardeners for a special trait. Heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated, which means they’re non-hybrid and pollinated by insects or wind without human intervention.

Heirlooms have wonderful flavor, firm texture and exhibit unique colors and shapes. Unlike hybrid varieties, where the seeds cannot be used over and over again, gardeners can save the seeds from their heirloom tomatoes and plant them again the next year. These delicious heirloom tomatoes were developed over a long period of time, grown in isolated gardens to keep them from mixing with hybrid seeds. As a result heirloom tomatoes have developed a number of unique characteristics, including their unique meaty appearance and rich taste.



In order to grow heirloom tomatoes successfully gardeners will need to pay careful attention to the needs of each plant and choose a variety that is well suited to their environment. There are many varieties of heirloom tomatoes on the market, so it should be possible to find a great tomato that is perfect for your needs.

It is also important to keep in mind that heirloom tomatoes require a little bit of extra care and vigilance from the gardener. While many hybrid varieties have been specially bred to resist disease and thrive in poor growing conditions, heirloom tomatoes have not.

 



Why should I grow them? Heirlooms boast interesting flavor. Bonnie’s Heirloom Tomatoes are clearly marked on plant tags and trays. Heirlooms typically bear a tale that’s as tasty as the produce. Arkansas Traveler is a Southern favorite, originating in Northwest Arkansas prior to 1900 and finding its way across the South. This beauty yields delicious tomatoes under Southern summer conditions.

Black Tomatoes: Dark mahogany tones, delicate blend of sugar and acid, rich complexity—sounds like descriptions from a wine tasting, right? Maybe, but these phrases are also being used to characterize a subset of heirloom tomatoes—the Black Tomatoes. Varieties like Black Prince, have dark skin, from burgundy red to deep blackish-purple. They also have rich taste that often win top prizes in tomato taste tests.

 

Choosing between Heirloom or Hybrid Tomatoes for the Home Garden: Bonnie Plants recommends planting both heirlooms and hybrids in your garden. While heirlooms have unique flavor, color and interesting histories, many of them won’t match the high yield of fruit and disease resistance of hybrids and some may be susceptible to disease.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published on May 08, 2011

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