Green Grape, Brandywine, Green Zebra, Mortgage Lifter Heirloom tomatoes are not only known for their unusual names, but also for their outstanding and distinct flavors. With their thin skin, subtle flavors and unusual colors, these tomatoes are the reward we receive after enduring a hot and humid summer.

Tomatoes have been cultivated around the world for centuries. The origin of tomatoes is considered the western coast of South America, in present day Peru, where eight species in the tomato genus still grow wild in the Andes Mountains.

During centuries of cultivation, tomato seeds were saved year after year for the following year’s crop, permitting the farmer to choose tomato seeds from plants with particular qualities that they favored. For example, seeds were saved from plants that produced an especially good aroma, texture, or flavor.

An heirloom is an open-pollinated variety that originated before 1940. All heirloom tomato seeds are open-pollinated, but not all open pollinated crops are heirlooms. They have to be grown outside and pollinated, and they cannot be hybrid tomatoes, as is the case with store bought varieties of red tomatoes, where seeds are cross-pollinated to toughen their susceptibility to parasites and lengthen their shelf life. Although they blemish and spoil much quicker than factory produced hybrid tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes are worth the effort — you will be rewarded as soon as you sink your teeth into this delicious fruit!

Generally speaking, the redder the tomato, the sweeter it is. Darker colored tomatoes are usually a nice mixture between sweet and tart, such as the purple and black varieties, and the green and white ones are more bitter. Moreover, they are prized for their organic origins, antioxidants, vitamins, and cancer preventing agents.

Handle your heirloom tomatoes with fragility and don’t refrigerate them. Cold temperatures will kill the flavor. When you buy an heirloom, use it within a few days. At the market, all heirloom tomatoes will be pricey, usually retailing between $2.99 and $4.99 per pound … but they’re worth every cent.