Food Gardening Network

Growing Good Food at Home

Types of Tomato Plants: Standard, Hybrid and Heirloom

Multiple tomato species

Tomatoes come in three main types: standard, hybrid, and heirloom. Standard tomatoes are exactly what the name implies—standard—they haven’t been cross-pollinated or altered and don’t have any heritage. Hybrid and heirloom tomato types are explained below:

Sweet Million Hybrid Cherry Tomatoes

Hybrid tomatoes are the result of cross-pollinating two different varieties of tomatoes to intentionally gain the best traits of both “parent” plants. Planning for disease-resistant tomatoes is one of the biggest benefits of hybrid tomatoes. Hybrids can also be consistent in shape and size, and have longer shelf life. But beware growing second-generation hybrids from seeds—you can’t really be sure the tomatoes will be exactly the same as the plant from which you harvested the seeds. Popular hybrids include Cherry, Early Girl, and Grape.

Red Zebra Heirloom Tomato

Heirloom tomatoes have been generationally passed down, without cross-pollinating, for 50+ years and were originally reproduced for select characteristics such as shape, size, color (red, green, purple, orange, and yellow, for example), or appropriateness for certain growing climates. Some say that heirlooms are more flavorful than hybrids, and they’ve become much more popular with home gardeners in recent years. Some heirloom tomatoes are perfect for canning because of the right acid content. Popular heirlooms include Black Beauty, Chocolate Stripes, and Red Zebra.

Caution: When it comes to heirlooms, it can be tricky to know when to harvest the tomatoes for optimal ripeness because of the varying colors. Always check what to look for with specific heirloom varieties, so you can harvest at the right time.

Have you tried growing heirloom tomatoes? What challenges have you faced with heirloom tomatoes? Do you think they taste better? Please share your opinion.


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