An heirloom plant refers to any plant that was cultivated by humans and passed during early the earlier periods of our history. Most heirloom plants are no longer cultivated commercially on a large scale because most use open pollination to make their fruit and commercial farming has become less and less diverse. However heirloom seeds continue to survive generations through efforts of thoughtful seed savers, local gardeners and farmers alike.
Heirlooms tomatoes are just gaining back popularity within the mor mainstream organic food movement but have a vast history. There are many different varieties of heirloom tomatoes in existence today; Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra and the Mortgage Lifter to name only a few, all have their own unique tales of origin. Because heirlooms are non-hybrid a gardener has the chance to cross pollinate the plants with others to make unique and delicious types of heirloom tomatoes. Because the seeds can be collected with each years yield, they are a sustainable addition to any garden. The seeds can also be collected and sold as there will be much more seeds produced than needed for a small scale backyard garden.
Some people are put off by the appearance of an heirloom tomato at first because some types are quite misshapen when compared to a commercially grown tomato. However the health benefits of an organic heirloom make trying them very much worth it. Not to mention their superior flavor. Heirloom tomatoes are known to reduce stress and strengthen bones. Their wild variety of colours show their richness in antioxidants which can help slow down the aging process within our very own cells. When picked at maturity these tomatoes can have the sweetness and juiciness of a cherry or grape which makes the commercial grown tomato pale in comparison.
Heirlooms are high in vitamin-C, rich in potassium and are a good source of vitamin K. Not only do they help build immunity and lower blood pressure, they can strengthen bones and help prevent osteoporosis if eaten regularly as part of a balanced diet. They are so flavourful they can enhance almost any recipe.
As with all foods, some people are sensitive to tomatoes. Take care when trying tomatoes for the first time and don’t overindulge. If any swelling or inflammation occurs seek medical attention. Also, people restricting their potassium intake should only consume in moderation with a doctors approval.
But experienced tomato lovers will be grateful to know that their favourite fruit is helping to keep them feeling younger and healthier. When planning a vegetable garden, heirloom tomatoes definitely deserve a bed of their own. They do well with asparagus, spinach, carrots, onions, garlic, arugula and chives.