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Aug 21, 2013 05:49 PM

Disappointed by heirloom tomatoes

Every summer I get sucked in by the heirloom shtick, and always regret it. I live in a place that is made for wonderful seasonal produce, including tomatoes, but my experience with the heirlooms is that they are mealy, over-ripe, fruit-fly ridden and tasteless. Am I missing something? (I'm talking about buying from well established organic farms who otherwise have amazing produce.)

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  1. Don't blame the tomato for being over-ripe or fruit-fly ridden. Blame yourself for buying such a bad product. I buy (selectively) heirlooms during the months of July, August, and September. I occasionally get a dud, but blame myself for poor selection.

    1. I've found heirlooms to be a hit or miss where some varieties are flavorful while others are just bland. I'm starting to think heirlooms are just a food fad.

      4 Replies
      1. re: dave_c

        A fad that has lasted 100 years? San Marzano's are heirlooms.

        1. re: Jerseygirl111

          One cultivar out of 100's of heirloom varieties.

          1. re: dave_c

            Well, I just wanted to give an example of a very familiar tomato that many may not realize was an heirloom. But the point is I disagree with your statement. Heirlooms are not a fad.

        2. re: dave_c

          Without heirlooms we would be stuck with basic supermarket tomatoes which have been developed with an interest in shippability rather than taste. Like apples the varieties seem endless with different maturity times, different tastes and textures. I am all for variety in all fruits and veggies.

        3. I've been buying mine from a couple of vendors at the Pasadena Farmer's Market or at Whole Foods; though the FM tomatoes are about $1.50/lb less, there's usually a much better selection at WF. Our Ralphs has some at the same price ($3.99/lb), and once in a while they'll have a couple of good ones. The Cherokee Blacks and red Brandywines are my favorites, along with the big orange guys I don't know the names of. You have to remember these need special treatment to travel at all, and I frequently have to remove a part that got bumped and is sort of melting. They also need to be used immediately or at least very soon, and kept at room temperature, NEVER refrigerated.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Will Owen

            Right! Refrigeration = death of a good tomato.

          2. not sure where you live but I buY tomatoes that look and smell good regardless of whether they heirloom or not. The ratio of "duds" on heirloom vs non is undetectable.

            1. You've described my experience with heirlooms perfectly. Despite my best efforts at selection, they are often mealy and tasteless. Give me a good old Maryland 'mater anytime.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Christina D

                I've grown heirloom varietals in Maryland soil. What would one call those? I remember Brandywine's being a pretty standard tomato for Eastern Shore home growers in the 80s. In fact, although there are some "Jersey" tomato varietals (including the Ramapo which was a big commercial hybrid in the 70s), I don't know of any particular hybrids that carried a "Maryland" monicker.

                As to the OP, for those interested in growing heirlooms next summer, here's a decent site for seeds:

                As suggested below, the Summer climate and sandy soil of the Mid-Atlantic coast of the US helps produce some outstanding tomatoes of all kinds. I'm partial to planting a couple kinds that I've been happy with in the past and a single plant of a few different kinds to experiment. So far this year, the Pink Oxharts have been my favorite "new" tomatoes. Last year, it was the Paul Robesons.

                1. re: MGZ

                  I grow the Rutgers Heirloom in my dark, deep black Iowa topsoil with great success ...