It’s a debate that can really tip emotional scales: heirloom vs hybrid tomatoes. Some gardeners staunchly favor one over the other, while others plant both. Bonnie Plants offers both hybrid and heirloom varieties. All our plants are non-GMO.
A hybrid vegetable is created when plant breeders intentionally cross-pollinate two different varieties or species, aiming to produce an offspring, or hybrid, containing the best traits of each of the parents.
One example is Juliet, a 1999 All America Selections winner. This Roma-style grape tomato offers great taste and productivity along with improved disease resistance to increase success in the garden. Another is Sun Gold, a prolific yellow cherry tomato that’s so sweet and delicious, it’s like candy from the garden.
In general, hybrids offer some combination of these favorable traits: dependability, less required care, early maturity, better yield, improved flavor, specific plant size, and/or disease resistance. Hybrid vegetables typically look like the veggies you’d find at a supermarket.
Some very strict gardeners will hint that a hybrid is taboo, inferring that it’s a genetically modified plant (GMO). That is incorrect. Cross-pollination is a natural process that occurs within members of the same plant species. In hybridization, pollination is carefully controlled to ensure that the right plants are crossed to achieve the desired combination of characteristics, like bigger size and better disease resistance, etc. The process of developing a hybrid typically requires many years.
GMOs, on the other hand, may mix genes from other species. None of our plants is a GMO.
Heirlooms come from seed that has been handed down for generations in a particular region or area, hand-selected by gardeners for a special trait. Heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated, which means they’re pollinated by insects or wind without human intervention. How experts define heirlooms can vary, but typically they are at least 50 years old, and are often are pre-WWII varieties. In addition, they tend to remain stable in their characteristics from one year to the next.
Many gardeners agree that most heirloom varieties boast greater flavor that that found in hybrids, especially among tomatoes. Bonnie’s heirloom tomato varieties are clearly marked on the plant tags and trays.
While hybrid plants typically yield a crop that is uniform in both appearance and timing, heirloom vegetables produce a “mixed bag” harvest. The harvest may come in less predictably, and fruit size can vary greatly even on the same plant.
Despite their sometimes odd looks and quirky ways, heirlooms bring lots to the table (literally!). The Amish heirloom tomato Pink Brandywine, for example, yields fruit with an unbeatable flavor in shades reminiscent of a glass of Cabernet. Arkansas Traveler, a Southern favorite, originated in Northwest Arkansas prior to 1900 and gradually found its way across the South to North Carolina. Resistant to cracking and disease, this beauty yields delicious tomatoes under typical Southern summer conditions–high heat, high humidity, and drought.
What Kind Is Right for Me?
Heirloom vs hybrid tomatoes: Which kind of tomato should you grow? We suggest growing both! Doing so will ensure you’ll have a reliable, flavorful harvest that offers a lot of variety and, truly, the best of both worlds.