Heirloom or Hybrid?

so lucky

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Do most of you seasoned gardeners plant hybrid tomatoes, like Celebrity, Big Beef and Better Boy, or do you plant the heirloom varieties? I'm trying to love the heirloom varieties, but they don't produce well for me, if they even live through the season. What are your favorite heirlooms? Best producers?
 

ninnymary

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Well so lucky, I'm in a completely different area than you. I plant 2 early girls, to ensure that I get a good crop and 6 heirlooms. Choosing heirlooms is a matter of taste and what you like. I personally love japanese black triefle, hillbilly, black krim, thessolaniki, roma, and sungold. These seem to do well for me and I love the color and taste.

Mary
 

vfem

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Oh this is a BIG conversation every year... and I think the answers change every year with the seasons.

Every zone is different and every tomato is different, good qualities and bad.

I love hearing what moves people to make their choices. Its the why that's so important to hear when so many of us have different soils, and are in different zones.

I enjoy both these days... I add a few hybrids so if my heirloom succumb to some disease (we've had fungus issues and blight in seasons past) I have my hardy hybrids as a back up. Will I stop planting heirloom because we've had so many issues? No! I have to side with the flavor of the heirloom as some of the best I've ever had. After last year, I canned a bunch of both heirloom and hybrid, but separated which was which by jar. I find the jars with the heirloom mixes taste fresher to me now when I use them in stews and sauces.

Don't get me wrong, I think I got 'more' tomato in size to can from the hybrids. Next year I will just mix the batches so I have a mix of good flavor and fill more jar space.

Those heirlooms took more work over the season, but I've come up with a good organic mix to feed them and get them started. I end up with some pretty nice hardy plants through our hot summers. :D
 

digitS'

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Want a BIG conversation? Read on . . .

Many heirlooms are very location-specific, as V suggests. Many hybrids are broadly adaptable.

Mary, Sungold is a hybrid. It is just a hybrid that many of those who just about refuse to grow hybrids - can't bear to not have in their gardens!

So Lucky, hybrids began to show up a long time ago. Of course, prehistoric farmers knew about the advantages of maintaining stable inbred lines of livestock and then crossing their animals with a new bull, or whatever, in the village on the other side of the mountain.

Some plant breeding is the simplest process. If you plant 2 lines of corn together, then remove all of the tassels from the plants of 1 line, the ears that develop on those plants will be the results of crosses with the other line. The seed from hybrid corn varieties is cheap and carries valued characteristics from the 2 lines while exhibiting what is called "hybrid vigor."

Let's say the male line has no real qualities other than quick-maturity. However, the offspring (the seed) has all the disease resistance, large ear size, and wonderful sweetness of the mother line. The offspring does, however, mature sweet corn in 70 days whereas the mother plants take 85 days to mature. Now, we have a variety that I am interested in growing! Am I afraid of it? Of course not!

Some plants are much more difficult to cross than corn. My understanding is that peas and beans are in this group. There's no real "monkey wrenching" under electronic microscopes that is necessary to develop new varieties, probably. They just don't have the flower structure that lends itself to easy manipulation.

And manipulating is what farmers were doing in prehistory and what goes on today.

I'm not prehistoric but do go back to a time before soopermarket. I can easily remember the first one! I actually think that new produce varieties were necessary because of the improved lighting in those stores! The interstate highway system was put together and farms consolidated and became parts of a nationwide food industry! Some of the old varieties fell by the wayside. Some of them, because of the new industry. Some of them, were only around because nothing better had shown up to displace them.

Plant breeders are behind every variety that I grow in my garden - heirloom & hybrid. Probably, I wouldn't be able to grow sweet corn here if the only varieties that were available are the ones that were in existence in the 19th century. Would I like to go back to the Golden Bantam that was the big step forward or even to Golden Cross Bantam? No, I've moved on.

I resent the consolidation of the seed industry. Yet, it does reflect everything else that is going on in modern society. I hate to be dependent on the industry for the varieties that I grow. A hybrid broccoli variety that could produce a crop in a climate that quickly turns from too much cold in the spring, to arid summer heat dropped completely off the lists several years ago. That left me scrambling to come up with an alternative. The companies usually own the parent lines and they ain't sharing!

I know this isn't what you were asking, So Lucky. I grow hybrids in many cases. Heirlooms are a continuing interest and I save a little seed from some of the better ones. Makes me feel a little more in control. I don't find it very difficult to save seed from tomatoes and some of the brassicas and recommend doing that for everyone. It's fun, too!

Steve
 

skeeter9

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In my little microclimate, we get frost into May, then we have very long, hot summers. For the first time last year, I planted quite a few heirlooms and found that I had to really baby them. I did quite a bit of research before choosing the varieties that are apppropriate for our growing conditions, but still had struggles with them. All of the vines appeared stressed throughout the season and the tomatoes were very small, but at least the flavor was incredible! I'm not going to give up on the heirlooms, but I will definitely plant more hybrids this year.
 

Ridgerunner

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I think Vfem said it very well. I mix my hybrids and heritage when I can and think I get better overall flavor. But some of the hybrids taste better than some of the heritage to me. As far as I am concerned, a lot of it is personal preference. I don't like the yellow pear, yet I have a friend that prefers them above all others.

I grow a couple of Burpee hybrids. The 4th of July because my wife wants me to. She likes the size (fairly small) and taste for her to eat one a day with her luch. They are productive here. I also grow the Big Mama. Those are the only paste tomato I can find that does not have a big problem with blossom end rot here. There have just been to many years when the other paste varieties I've tried have been the only tomato in the garden with blossom end rot problems. When I get hit over the head hard enough with something heavy enough, I finally pay attention. Sometimes it takes longer than others.

I get different results with different heritage in different years. Last year, the Mr. Stripey and Black Krim were horrible. Other years they have been tremendous. Park's Whopper and Box Car Willie are often productive. I'd suggest you consider Jubilie. I've never had really good productivity with Japanese Black, but I think the flavor is the best. But what works for me here or what meets my criteria might not work for you at all. I suggest trying a few different ones and see what works for you.
 

catjac1975

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I grow a large collection of tomatoes. If you start your own seedlings you can save the extra seed and tomato will stay viable for many years without any special storing. Three years ago a blight spread throughout Ma. It was supposedly spread by tomatoes from a big box store. Most tomato plants shriveled and died except a few roma type plum tomatoes. The heirlooms did not fair well but neither did most hybrids. I like to plant many varieties for the pleasure of it, but, in this case it saved me from having a tomatoless summer.

Some companies are selling grafted tomato plants now. It gives more vigor to selected plants. Interesting idea.
 

digitS'

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How did I miss that we were only talking about tomatoes?? LOL !

Okay, to avoid a "page 2" here are the varieties that I have grown for a number of years and trust for my location:

Hybrids
Big Beef
Early Girl
Goliath
SunSugar
SunGold
Sweet 100

Heirlooms
Rainy's Maltese
Thessaloniki
Bloody Butcher
Buisson
Porter

These were new Heirlooms in my 2011 garden that did well:

Dagma's Perfection
Kellogg's Breakfast
Woodle's Orange

Steve
 

so lucky

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Big Beef does well here, too, most seasons. I often plant that, and Celebrity. I have noticed that Rutgers and Marglobe are a couple of old OP tomatoes that are still available from plant wholesalers. I guess if I want a dependable stand-by for table and canning, either one of these would be something I can save seed from and grow my own, in a SHTF situation. I have managed to create my own hybrid, I guess, by allowing a cherry tomato to reseed year after year in my flower bed. It is often the most dependable producer, and the fruit keeps getting bigger each year. Not exactly cherry sized anymore, but not as big as, say, Early Girl yet. Thanks for the comments and suggestions, y'all.
 

cwhit590

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I'm not wild about tomatoes...I mainly grow them for family and friends. I tend to plant more hybrid tomatoes, but I like a mix, and I like trying heirlooms too.

Hybrids: I really like Early Girl...the plants are full and leafy and it always takes off well for me each year. Big Boy and Better Boy are good too. Then I usually try to buy a roma type, a cherry type and a grape type...grape tomatoes are amazing producers! I really liked the SunSugar cherry I tried this past year...I've heard great things about SunGold and that's what I want to try this coming year!

Heirlooms: I tried Pineapple this summer and liked it....huge tomatoes!!! Taste was mild / sweet.
 
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