Heirloom Tomatoes are no doubt the gourmand's summertime favorite. From Amy Goldman's famous book The Heirloom Tomato, filled with mouth-watering photos, detailed catalog of varieties, and delicious recipes, to Vanity Fair's borderline bizarre The Food Snob's Dictionary YouTube post, these fruits are the height of inspiration for gardeners, foodies, chefs, and vloggers across America. But what are they, really?
a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations.
"the violin was a family heirloom"
denoting a traditional variety of plant or breed of animal which is not associated with large-scale commercial agriculture.
"his garden is filled with heirloom vegetables"
Contrary to this North American definition above, most growers distinguish an heirloom tomato from your average storebought tomato not by who grows or sells it, how it's grown, or even the variety or quality of the tomato. You can buy heirlooms at some supermarkets, and they are likely picked as under-ripe as your standard grocery tomato. You can also grow heirlooms as a gardener and find that they are of a quality arguably worse than the tomatoes in the supermarket (Goldman's book lists plenty of "poor" and "fair" quality tomatoes in her catalog). What actually distinguishes an heirloom tomato from its counterparts is the evolution of its seed.