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Heirloom tomato question [moved from Home Cooking board]


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Heirloom tomato question [moved from Home Cooking board]

k_d | Sep 25, 2007 07:22 AM

I have a question to throw out there. It's pretty obvious that "heirloom" is the new buzzword for tomatoes. Seems you're not able to serve just-regular tomatoes anymore - j/k. My understanding is that the term "heirloom," strictly speaking, refers to tomatoes grown from seed that is "saved" from past generations. The varieties are usually not commonly available in commercial catalogs, and may not have the typical red color or "beefsteak" shape. Good enough. But I'm starting to wonder if people are selling (and buying) tomatoes that are naturally green -- I grew a green striped variety this year called Zebra -- and then calling them heirloom, when in fact, they are simply a new hybrid with a new color.

For one thing, I have some doubts that all the photos and recipes for heirloom tomatoes that I've seen this summer could have come from true heirloom seed. Unless someone is now commercially selling "heirloom" seed ... which seems like a contradiction in terms .. but I suppose that is possible. Then, this morning, on Tastespotting, I noticed that someone had posted a photo of a very pretty dish and captioned it "heirloom tomatillos"!! Well, heck. Tomatillos are always green, and I wasn't aware that someone had found a store of old seed not recently grown!

Is it just me? Or are we overusing and perhaps misusing the term "heirloom tomatoes"? And are some of us being taken for a ride when we're told we're buying (usually at a premium) "heirloom" tomatoes? Maybe someone who knows more about the topic can chime in with words of wisdom.

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