According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tomatoes are the most popular home-grown vegetable in the country.
Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated varieties that have been around for a long time. They are popular for their historical interest and their amazing flavor. However, they are more prone to cracking and tend to have a lower disease resistance than the new hybrid varieties.
Tomatoes are considered either Early, Mid or Late season, depending on how long it takes the fruits to be ready for harvest once planted. Here is the breakdown of the Homegrown Gourmet Tomatoes:
Early (65 days or less) - Celebrity, Early Girl, Grape Red, Lizzano, Sugary
Mid (66 to 79 days) - Amish Paste, Better Boy, Best Bush, Big Beef, Big Boy, Black Krim, Health Kick, Lemon Boy, Patio, Pink Girl, Roma, Roma Golden, Rutgers, Sun Gold, Sweet 100, White Cherry, Whopper
Late (80 or more days) - Arkansas Traveler, Beefmaster, Beefsteak, Brandywine Pink, Brandywine Red, Cherokee Purple, Country Taste, German Johnson, Golden Jubilee, Green Zebra, Mortgage Lifter, Mr. Stripey, Pineapple, San Marzano
Determinate / Indeterminate -
Determinate - Bush-type plant that will produce all fruits at one time and then stop producing. Some varieties require staking.
Indeterminate - These tomatoes require staking due to their vigorous growth. They produce fruits continually throughout the season.
All tomatoes will grow well in containers as long as a large enough container is used for the larger fruit.
Native to Central and South America, from Mexico to Peru, the tomato was brought back to Europe by Spanish explorers after the conquest of South America. Easily grown in Mediterranean climates, the tomato was being cultivated in Spain in the 1540s and was a popular food source by the early 1600s. Other European cultures, however, believed the tomato, a member of the Solanum family that included the deadly nightshade plant, to be as poisonous as its botanical cousins. This misconception lasted well into the 1700s and was even carried over to the British American colonies. By the end of the 1700s however, tomatoes were regularly used as food and were even regarded as having medicinal properties, a theory that has resurfaced in recent years as tomatoes have been found to be beneficial to the heart. In addition, tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, a natural anti-oxidant that has been found to benefit the prevention of certain types of cancer.
While, botanically, tomatoes are considered a fruit, they are generally thought of and used as a vegetable since they are more likely to be part of a sauce or salad than eaten whole as a snack or dessert.
The heaviest tomato on record was of the Delicious variety and weighed in at 7 lbs. 12oz. (3.51kg), grown by Gordon Graham of Edmond, Oklahoma in 1986.