Heirloom or Hybrid?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Hybrid tomatoes like ‘Better Boy’ and ‘Celebrity’ have the best breeding in the world behind their strong plants and big harvests. They have just about all the disease resistance science can offer. With close attention and prompt removal of blighted leaves if they appear, you can grow both even when other tomatoes fall to early or southern blight. BB is the most-planted tomato in the US while Celebrity is a favorite of container gardeners because it tops out at about 4 feet. I grow 2 hybrids regularly: ‘Sunsugar’ for its sweet orange cherry tomatoes and ‘Goliath’, a big plant with big fruit that are surprisingly acid if I hold back on nitrogen fertilizer once the fruit are set. Heirlooms are the treasured, open-pollinated tomatoes that gardeners appreciate because their tastes vary widely and their seed will grow the same plant as the parent, unlike most hybrid varieties. When you save an heirloom’s seeds, they just get better. Because the seed were grown locally, they are better adapted to the growing conditions with each generation. Heirlooms seldom ship well so are usually found in Farmer’s Markets. ‘Brandywine’, ‘Cherokee Purple’, and ‘Black Krim’ are popular in the Southeast US. Brandywine is a big, pinkish red tomato advertised in the Midwest as long ago as 1889, probably acquired from a family. Thought to be from the Black Sea area, Black Krim has deeply colored flesh and skin with lots of tucks around its stem end. Deep pink with darker shoulders, Cherokee Purple hails from Tennessee and has been grown in these parts for more than 100 years. I have grown all 3, with great success. Whatever kind of tomatoes you grow this year, add WormWise to the soil before planting. Visit www.wormwise.com for products and amounts to use for containers, beds, and traditional row gardens.
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