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They just arent all they're supposed to be. I planted well over 50 types this year, and accomplished one thing--I know what NOT to do next year. The heirloom tomatoes are touted for the excellent flavor, etc.I remember back to when most of the (well, some)hybreds came out. And now I know why they were such a breakthrough. Uniform size, full flavor, ripening about the same time, smaller vines on some--this all adds up to a canner as a convenience!
My vines are 10' tall, huge GREEN tomatoes (still)and ripen one here and there. Dont like the flavor, on most (Ananas Noir being exception) and I sure cant can them.One thing I will say, is the varmints love them-eat about 20 tomatoes a night.
I know, the advantage is saving seeds--I have plenty--and if the time ever comes I have to save hybred tomato seeds--well, I'll still get a tomato--not a cucumber!
 

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Ceresone, you are just now learning this? There was a good reason why many varieties were discontinued many years ago. They deserved extinction! A few people tried to make it sound like the gardening world would end if a single variety should ever become extinct. Kent Whealey became a rich man by promoting that idea. Then several seed collectors decided to save the tomato world even more by delving deep into the USDA holdings to also make some quick and easy bucks. Now we're stuck with them all, even if they are crap. Did anyone get any Green Cherry from me this year? I grew it last year and it was such crap that I wasn't about to foist it off on any sucker. Got at least one like that so far this year, Brown Berry. Brown fruit with green seeds and tastes even worse than that combination sounds. When all varieties are considered, the best use for 90% is simply dumping into a huge vat to be crushed and pressed to make juice, sauce, and catsup.

Martin
 

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Yes...but...wouldn't you think it's a good thing to keep their genetic bank around, just in case one of them might be used to improve a current variety with regard to resistance, flavor, or other desirable quality?

Grow what you like -- if hybrids give you the flavor and reliability you want, grow them! If you like to play around with heirlooms and experiment, and your livelihood doesn't depend on the result, do that. Personally I'd much rather have the option.

My garden has some of both! So far they're tied!
 

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The tomato police are going to get you for that one Martin! I could not agree more. I do like some heirlooms but I have to try a dozen to find one that will produce an edible tomato. Most of them are consumed by one of the various blights or wilts that I struggle with here, before they ever have a chance to fruit.
KB
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I thought of you, Martin, when I wrote this post. Yes, I guess I bought into some of the hype, of saving all the heirlooms! I think the problem is that "they" are trying to make it sound as if hybreds are somehow genetically modified (not that this is ever said, just hinted). So, for next year, I've learned 2 major things--plant CANNING tomatoes, and pay attention to maturity dates, if I'm going to can.
The other thing? I'll always keep the Ananas Noir heirloom growing, cause even hubby asks for "that green tomato". And--I dont have to worry about the "tomato police", that cant get thru that 10' tall tomatoe fence!
 

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I'm all for saving the heirlooms. They sell much better at farmer's markets and what one person hates another person loves. I do grow some hybrids because I like the way they grow, the way they produce, and the way they taste. Mostly I try to pick a variety that suits the purpose I intend, and enough varieties that I can try a few new ones each year, even if it's only one or two plants. That way I learn as I go.

While my respect always goes to the canner, not all varieties are suitable for canning due to size or consistency. And as far letting some varieties go extinct ... what a horrible world it will be when anything is lost. Some people really enjoy a hot cup of milk thistle tea while I try like the devil to eradicate every ounce of it from my farm.
 

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Sadly I have to agree with you- have a few good heritage producers but this year my best producers are the bought hybrid pepper plants while all the lovely tomato plants I grew from heritage seed are vigorous growers but sparse fruiters. And for me a bunch of toms at once would be much better than, with two dozen plants, only a handful of fruit at any one time. Here's hoping fall weather will bring more fruit, and I'm planting a hybrid now.
 

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edayna said:
Yes...but...wouldn't you think it's a good thing to keep their genetic bank around, just in case one of them might be used to improve a current variety with regard to resistance, flavor, or other desirable quality?
Were that the case, then every single volunteer produced from F2 hybrid seed should be equally worth saving since each may contain a unique combination of chromosomes. It's not a case where the origin of the tomato has been lost. For many years, it was thought that there were 7 wild varieties alive and well. Then an 8th and 9th were discovered with possibility of yet more. The interesting thing about them is that although they are all separate species, they contain the exact same number of chromosomes, 24. It's that fact that allows us to have a virtually unlimited number of varieties.

And as mentioned before, many sub-standard varieties had been safely tucked away in genetic seed banks where they were supposed to be available primarily for breeding programs. A few people or organizations managed to mine them over fairly good for monetary gain under the guise of saving the "heirlooms". Not really mined, exhumed is a better word! The 2007 SSE Yearbook contains at least 143 varieties from a certain seed bank. No name, no history, just a number and country of origin.

Martin
 

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While I agree that heirloom tomatoes vary widely in desirability, I have planted a few that I really liked. One of them, whose name I have forgotten, I LOVED. I hope I will recognize that name when I see it again... It was a big beefy yellow tomato with a wonderful sweet taste. Anyone have any ideas?

I'm sure that if I plant for canning tomatoes (and now that I got a pressure canner I might next year) I'll get a good canning variety - hybrid or heirloom doesn't matter, I'll do some research into what is well liked and grows in my area.

Edit: Also, for eating tomatoes, I like them to ripen over time, a couple at a time, because there are only two of us now and we can't eat them that fast!
 

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kbshorts said:
The tomato police are going to get you for that one Martin!
They can come and get me any time they wish! Here's the foolish part of the whole affair. If you make a list of 15 average or fair varieties and ask that it be critiqued by those tomato police, they will quickly come up with another list of 15 which are better and that you should be growing instead. Even they seem to admit that only a fool would want to grow some of them! Some are hyped simply because that person or a friend has the seeds for sale. The bottom line remains that many of them are suitable for nothing but bulk processing or fattening the wallets of whoever is selling the seeds.

Martin
 

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i grew "beefsteak" and "German strawberry" o.p. varieties last year. Both tasted GREAT,but the beefsteaks did a little better in my garden. Planted "big boy" hybrids this year (yuck), next year its going to be beefsteaks and Rutgers o.p....:)
 

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I guess I just like the variety! I have neighbors that grow just one kind of toms, and it seems, well, boring :) I really like making a sauce or salsa or panzanella and having lots of colors and textures, and I like how they get ripe at different times (just two of us here too).

This year I grew wayaheads (yes, free seeds from Jung's) and they're fine, but they just look like grocery store tomatoes to me ('course they taste better). I can see your point about canning, but I guess I generally freeze or can them chopped or sauced anyway, so it doesn't make a big difference.

One you might like is Silvery fir. They're a determinate heirloom (from russia) that makes a nice compact plant and uniform, medium sized round fruit. And the leaves are really attractive too. I grew one in a container and am hoping to bring it inside the house this fall!
 

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I hate Big Boy, Better Boy, all the various hybrid "boys" from Burpee. Don't even get me starte on "Patio" tomatoes, either. Bleck.

I do wish my heirloom tomatoes would mature more evenly for canning, but I adore my Homestead heirlooms; perfect mix of meat and juice, work well in anything. DH eats them like candy, they have such great flavor. The Golden jubilees, not so much... mushy and off tasting.
There'll always be room in my garden for a couple hybrid Sweet 100s, though. :D
 

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i have volunteers from sweet 100's popping up all over the place. several i have encouraged. i wonder how true they are to their hybrid form? didn't realize from the look of them that they were hybrids.
 

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I was surprised to see once the word "Heirloom Variety" on a Sweet 100 package... the ones I had years ago did breed true and tried to take over my whole yard, until, after a few years, the kids refused to even look at them again. They were awfully messy, making bazillions of fruits that fell all over the yard from the flowerbed they were growing in. Made a great hedge until my other plants started to grow up! I happen to like them a lot, plan to share some with the ducks this year, they love tomatoes. :) Anyway, does anyone know if they are truly a Heirloom variety, or a Hybrid? I sure got tons of sweet cherry tomatoes from the seedlings.
 

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the only thing i don't like about them is are the 10 foot long + vines.
 

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GrannyCarol said:
I was surprised to see once the word "Heirloom Variety" on a Sweet 100 package... the ones I had years ago did breed true and tried to take over my whole yard, until, after a few years, the kids refused to even look at them again. They were awfully messy, making bazillions of fruits that fell all over the yard from the flowerbed they were growing in. Made a great hedge until my other plants started to grow up! I happen to like them a lot, plan to share some with the ducks this year, they love tomatoes. :) Anyway, does anyone know if they are truly a Heirloom variety, or a Hybrid? I sure got tons of sweet cherry tomatoes from the seedlings.
Since no single board or group can agree on what constitutes an "heirloom", nobody can honestly answer that question. 3 or 4 SSE members have listed Sweet Million as a non-hybrid for a number of years. But as an example of misinformation, look at what Sweet 100 is claimed to be in Wikipedia. A unique hybrid with sterile seeds!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tomato_cultivars

Martin
 

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Many of the heirlooms come from a time when there was no canning, so they were not selected for that trait. I don't know if Rutgers or Wisconsin 55 are considered heirlooms, but they are good multi-purpose tomatoes to grow with very good flavor.

Every year I like to try different tomato varieties, both heirloom and modern hybrids. The heirlooms that I will always have are amish paste and rose de berne. Last year, orange banana did well for me, but don't ask me about them this year. I have yet to harvest any without BER, despite my tomato plants being treated like royalty in the garden -- appropriate moisture level, organic tomato fertilizer, etc. Orange banana are off my list of varieties for next year.
 

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I've only tried a handful (maybe 5-10) of hybrids compared to dozens of heirloom tomatoes. I haven't been impressed by the hybrids. Early Girl, for example: why does anyone grow this? Kootenai is far superior, earlier, hardier, better tasting. Which brings me directly to my point: my experience has been that my favorite, best tasting tomatoes are heirlooms- Nova, Brandywine, Yellow Plum, Silvery Fir Tree, Angora.... If I wanted a tomato that tasted like it came from the store, I would go to the store.

However, I have encountered duds among the heirlooms that I wouldn't recommend to anyone, San Marzano, for one. Interesting, some of the varieties that I had absolutely no use at all for performed wonderfully for my uncle in Missouri, while the ones I really like didn't impress him that much. Climate and regional differences can do that.

And see, that's another thing. These heirloom varieties are often tailor made to a specific region, passed down for generations in one small area. This can't be had from a hybrid in a catalog, but conversely, it also means that you have to experiment a bit to find out what does well for you and where you live.

Mine don't have 10 foot vines. Kootenai grows only about 18-24" tall, doesn't even need a cage.
 

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vicki in NW OH said:
Many of the heirlooms come from a time when there was no canning, so they were not selected for that trait.
Actually, Vicki, that's not quite true. The Mason jar with zinc screw cap came out in 1858. The Mason jar with glass top and rubber gasket was 1869. Already in 1863, there were seed catalogs with as many as 23 different varieties of tomatoes. The oldest canning variety still available today is Trophy which was already around in 1870.

I don't know if Rutgers or Wisconsin 55 are considered heirlooms, but they are good multi-purpose tomatoes to grow with very good flavor.
The original cross to produce Rutgers was made in 1928 and seed released 5 or 6 years later. The Rutgers as most people know it now was was 1943. Rutgers is considered an "heirloom" in all tomato circles.

The first cross to produce Wisconsin 55 was made in 1936 and first seeds released in 1942. As long as a few certain people are alive, it will never be an "heirloom". Instead, it will always be given a special status as the last and best major commercial variety developed before hybrids took over. "The Famous Wisconsin 55."

Martin
 
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