What Exactly is an Heirloom Tomato?

By Brianna Bowlan, Seacoast Eat Local intern

To understand what an heirloom tomato is, first we have to understand what an heirloom product is. Many people are confused about what the word heirloom means and to be honest, I am not quite sure what it means either. I have heard many different definitions for heirloom and don’t know what to think. After a little research, I found a few terms that might be helpful to know:

  1. Commercial Heirlooms: Any tomato that has been openly pollinated since before 1940, or tomato varieties that have been in circulation for more than 50 years.

  2. Family Heirlooms: Tomato seeds that families have passed down through generations

  3. Created Heirlooms: Crossing two varieties of tomatoes for years to eliminate undesirable traits/characteristics.

  4. Mystery Heirlooms: Tomatoes that result from natural cross-pollination with other heirloom varieties.

Now that you are armed with the knowledge about what an heirloom tomato is, test out some recipes with them. Heirloom tomatoes can be used in many different ways. They can be roasted, broiled, made into a sauce, or chopped up in salsa. They are a unique product that helps to support the local farmers; so head down to your local farmer’s market and see what interesting kind of heirloom tomato you can find!



Ibsen, Gary. “What Is An Heirloom Tomato?” Gary Ibsen’s Tomato Fest. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2015.

Photo: Recipe Geek, Lindsey Evans

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