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"Why Heirlooms?" - FAQ

"A Case for Heirlooms"

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Glossary of Terms

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All of our rare and heirloom seeds are public domain, open-pollinated, non-hybrid and chemically untreated. No chemicals, unstable hybrids, patented or genetically engineered seeds!

Why should you grow "heirloom" tomatoes?

If you love tomatoes, you probably already have a lot of good reasons for raising your own. If you don't like the taste of tomatoes, perhaps you have actually never tasted a good one!

Commercially grown tomatoes are both a blessing and a curse to the home gardener. The goals and objectives of commercial food producers and those of home gardeners are quite different.

Along with breeding for traits that are beneficial like disease resistance, commercial breeding programs focus on traits such as skin thickness, consistent maturity, delayed ripening, etc. If you notice a pattern here, these are traits that are important for growing large scale, harvesting at one time, and transporting long distances to processing plants and distribution houses. Taste and nutritional value are secondary traits in this scenario.

Small market growers (like the folks you should buy from locally or at Farmer's Markets) and home gardeners have a different agenda when raising tomatoes and other produce. We typically want the freshest, best tasting and most nutritious food we can muster. We also don't want it all coming fresh at the same moment but instead, spread out over the growing season.

The commercial seed industry caters to where the money is and that is in big scale agriculture. Most university and private seed company breeding programs are now focused on this market. And since they are the suppliers to the main stream seed industry, these are the same varieties that are available to the large packet seed companies.

Fortunately, small companies like the Victory Seed Company are working against this trend. They continue to work to maintain the quality and availability of old tried and true varieties. Some varieties originated as family heirlooms, while others are good old, classically bred, commercial releases.

Click here for a great selection of our tomato varieties at the Victory Seed Company.

A Pictorial of Commercial Tomato Harvesting
Images courtesy of Oregon State University

One trait that is important is that the fruit is all at the same stage of maturity at the same time.  Since mechanical harvesting involves removing the whole plant, selective picking is not an option.  Commercial breeds are also determinate or compact in growing habit.
Here is another tomato harvester.  Notice the stage of ripeness the fruit are at.  Is it any wonder why the fruits from your garden taste better?
Not everyone has the hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on mechanical harvesting equipment.  But even when the commercial operation involves hand picking, the fruit is still green harvested.
From bucket to bin.  Don't try this with heirloom tomatoes.  Now you know why it is important for commercial varieties to have thick hides!
Another view of the bins.  This time full.  Imagine the weight on the fruits at the bottom.  From here, the fruit is either shipped in these bins or totes to processing plants or they are packaged for shipment to the fresh market industry (your grocery store or local restaurant).
Here they are being packed into shipping boxes.
A shot of fruit in shipping boxes headed to your market.

Ripening up so they are presentable and so you will buy them.  This is not always left to biology and chance.  Ethylene gas is introduced into the storage area to promote ripening.

Examples of where the bulk ends up.

For additional information about gardening with heirlooms, refer to "A Case for Gardening with Heirlooms" and "Why Should You Grow 'Heirloom Seeds' and Save Seeds?"

Click here for Heirloom Tomato Seeds and Information.

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