Tomato season always brings up a lot of questions from people at farmers market. Words to describe different tomatoes get throw around that don't always mean what you want them to but are floating around in popular food culture. Words like, Heirloom, Hybrid, Field Grown, or Hot House. What I really want to talk to you about is heirlooms & F1 hybrids from a farmers perspective. Heirlooms have been grown forever they have huge genetic diversity and you can usually save their seeds with success. F1 hybrids are crosses where if you were to save the seeds you would get tomatoes that were more akin to the parent tomatoes than the tomato you grew. Hybrids got a bad rap because of the tomatoes you get a the grocery store they have been bred for shipping and not flavor. But if you were to grow a beef steak type Hybrid in your garden it would taste great. So that brings me to heirlooms. They got popularized by folks like Michael Pollan. And great! We need to hold on to our diversity. The problem with heirlooms is that their popularity out paced the science for farmers. So while hybrids have been bred for natural disease resistances heirlooms have only been mainly selected for flavor, size, or color. Meaning they don't have very good natural resistance to common tomato diseases. So while I really am hoping to give you all a Cherokee Purple tomato, the plants are saying other wise just from a little too much humidity. It's hard to depend on heirlooms, and for a farmer who's business depends on healthy crops, heirlooms can been boom or bust. Finally keep in mind not all red tomatoes are hybrids. There are just as many heirloom reds as there are hybrids. So don't be too quick to judge a tomato just because its not an heirloom. There are a multitude of great tomatoes out there are grown seasonally by Wisconsin farmers.
Elisabeth & Steven