Have you ever noticed that the tomatoes you buy from the grocery store are lacking in flavour? While they may look desirable due to their nearly perfect size, shape, and colour, tomatoes that are most commonly found in the produce aisle might not live up to their looks taste-wise. This is due to the fact that farmers and their supply chains tend to value quantity and uniformity over variety and taste when it comes to tomatoes. In order to make a profit by producing a large amount of tomatoes, modern tomato cultivars are selected based on yield, size, shape, and firmness, while taste is often overlooked. These watery tomatoes often result in disappointment and culinary fails.
What is the alternative to these tasteless tomatoes? Heritage tomatoes! A heritage tomato, sometimes called an heirloom tomato, is a cultivar of tomato which is non-hybrid and open-pollinated. Open-pollinated refers to the fact that they retain the characteristics from their parent plant and can be naturally pollinated by birds, bees, wind, and by hand. The tomato seeds are passed down from season to season by farmers who save the seeds of the tastiest and healthiest tomatoes. The collected seeds contain the genetic information of the parent plant, therefore ensuring that each generation of tomato is identical to the last. This genetic information is important, as it is responsible for creating the wonderful taste of heritage tomatoes! A study conducted at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences which sampled 160 tomato varieties for taste and likability identified that there are around 250 specific points on a chromosome that control the overall flavour of a tomato. Store-bought tomatoes proved to be lacking some of the flavour chemicals that heritage tomatoes have, resulting in a significantly reduced flavour.
Not only are heritage tomatoes tastier than their store-bought counterparts, but they come in unique shapes, sizes, and colours. While the Brandywine variety has the classic appearance of a large red tomato, other varieties such as the Black Krim, which can range from dark purple to green in colour, and the Andes which has a long pointed shape, challenge the traditional idea of what a tomato should and can look like. Liven up your recipes by showcasing heritage tomatoes with a wide range of colours, shapes, and sizes.
Farmer’s markets can be a great place to purchase heritage tomatoes. You can speak directly to the farmer about the variety of tomatoes, as well as gain some useful tips about planting, watering, and maintaining your tomato stocks if you were interested in growing your own! Additionally, seed swaps are another opportunity to gain access to true heritage tomato seeds, whether they are online or in person. It may be beneficial to read up on different heritage varieties in order to determine if they will thrive in your location and suit your culinary tastes!
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