Why We Grow Heirlooms

At TomatoCulture, nearly every tomato we grow is an open pollinated heirloom variety. We love heirloom tomatoes because they offer a superior choice of sizes, shapes, colors and flavors over the modern hybrids. In our experience, the right selection of properly grown heirloom tomatoes can produce just as well as hybrids and offer significantly more beauty, versatility and flavor for food lovers.

Here are a few of the many reasons we have built our business around the superlative heirloom tomato:

FLAVORS TO DIE FOR

When grown in the right soil, under the right conditions, heirlooms possess a superior flavor differential that is very real and supported by science. According to a 2013 Scientific America article, scientists have learned that a tomato’s flavor depends not only on a balance of sugars and acids, but also on 28 subtle and overlooked volatile aromatic compounds—many of which are lacking in modern supermarket tomatoes.

VERSATILITY

The tomato is a highly versatile product, loved by home gardeners and chef’s alike. It is consumed in diverse ways, including raw, and as an essential flavor ingredient in many dishes, sauces, and condiments. Bringing heirloom varieties into the mix takes this versatility to a whole new level. Heirlooms come in all shapes, sizes, colors and textures; some are sweet, some more tart, others perfectly balanced. We offer tastings of many different heirlooms to satisfy each individual palette.

INDIVIDUALITY

There are many parallels between wine grape varieties and heirloom tomatoes; their flavors and qualities are influenced by the soil – what the French call “terroir” – climatic conditions, and especially genetic heritage. Modern day hybridization has led to the commoditization of the tomato and has obscured its vast genetic diversity. Have you seen, let alone eaten a “black” tomato?  They’re really dark shades of purple and some of the most intensely delicious tomatoes you’ll ever experience.

Black Cherry: Our favorite cherry tomato.

KNOWLEDGE & EXPERIENCE

Focusing solely on heirlooms does come at a cost. Bringing an heirloom tomato from field to table requires more knowledge, time, labor and capital, than the ubiquitous grocery store tomato that has been bred for mechanical harvesting and shipping. Our singular focus on tomatoes allows us to direct our experience and capital towards building up our soil to produce unique, hard-to-find varieties that yield abundantly, resist disease and, most importantly, provide our customers with maximum eating enjoyment.

EDUCATION

Often you will find multiple varieties of heirloom tomatoes lumped together under one “Heirloom Tomatoes” label. This practice dumbs down our understanding of heirloom tomatoes, treating over 3,000 unique cultivars as a single type. It also undercuts the tomato’s beauty and genetic diversity.  We accompany each of our varieties with a brief description of its origin, history and flavor profile. You deserve to know what you are purchasing. And by purchasing and enjoying our heirlooms, you are helping to preserve genetic diversity and self-reliance.

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