I harvested the first tomato from my garden last Saturday, July 1. It came in 60 days after I planted its mother-plant, under the waxing moon early in May. (Here is the sliced version, just before we ate it.)
Here it is on the mother-plant, just before I picked it:
All of my tomato plants are “heirloom”varieties. The First Tomato variety is called “Gary O’Sena,” and it is an open pollinated cross between a Brandywine and a Cherokee Purple. This is the first year I’ve grown it and I must say I’m really impressed. Not only does it produce early, but its fruits are dark and rich with a sweet-acidic flavor.
What is an “heirloom” variety? First and foremost, all heirloom tomatoes are open pollinated. This means that seed saved from this year’s fruit will produce the same variety next year, unless natural or intended cross-pollination occurs. A hybrid tomato variety, such as the “Better Boy,” will NOT plant true in the next generation.
Beyond that baseline, the definition of heirloom depends upon whom you ask. Carolyn Male, in her wonderful book entitled “100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden” says that “an heirloom tomato isn’t a true heirloom unless it has been passed down from generation to generation within the same family or extended family.” She gives the Eva Purple Ball, Kellogg’s Breakfast and Cherokee Purple varieties, which I have growing in my garden even as I write, as examples of family heirloom varieties.
Craig LeHoullier, my heirloom tomato mentor and principal plant supplier, is described in Ms. Male’s book as taking a broader approach to defining an heirloom tomato. According to Ms. Male, Craig has suggested that heirloom tomatoes may be classified into three groups: family heirlooms, commercial heirlooms, and deliberately created heirlooms. An example of a deliberately created heirloom is this year’s First Tomato: the Gary O’Sena.
I think now I’ll go and slice up the Second and Third tomatoes for dinner.
-posted by B Barron