Tomato Terms: What Does it Mean When I Say . . .Heirloom

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Tomatoes in picture: Black Prince, White Queen, Aussie, Gold Medal, Black Truffle, Costoluto Fiorentino and others.

Whether you call them “Heritage” or “Heirloom”, these are still the varieites you will want to grow for taste. Heirlooms come from seed that has been handed down for generations in a particular region or area, and 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. How experts define heirlooms can vary, but typically they are at least 50 years old, and often are pre-WWII varieties. 

In addition, they tend to remain stable in their characteristics from one year to the next. What that means to you is that you can can save the seeds and if they don’t cross pollinate they will come true. Your “Aunt Ruby’s German Green” tomato seed will produce an “Aunt Ruby’s German Green” next year. Tomatoes are self pollinating and if you want to be relatively sure they haven’t “crossed the road” bag the flowers after you hand pollinate them or plant them away from other tomatoes. Remember that wind, bees and other things can pollinate the flowers. too

Many gardeners …to be continued

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